Clear Your Mind by Journaling
When the swirling cloud of thoughts gets to be too much, journaling is one of the best ways to calm the storm. It’s also essential for reducing the “monkey mind” that often plagues people by providing an outlet for ideas, notions, plans, and random musings. Here’s how it might work for you.
The Benefits of Journaling
Every one of us has struggled with a sleepless night or two, when our mind jumps at random from one topic to another, seemingly without a point. But what if this happens to you more frequently? Or you need to find a better way to express gratitude? Or you’re struggling with a stressful situation? Or you don’t want to share certain feelings out loud? What are the benefits of journaling? This is an area of study researchers are endlessly fascinated with, and for good reasons. Here are just a few:
- According to psychologists at Michigan State University, expressive writing “cools the brain” for people who tend to worry, because that rumination “takes up cognitive resources.”
- The National Library of Medicine references the results of positive affect journaling, which is an emotion-based self-regulation exercise that helps improve quality of life for people working through issues related to mental and physical health.
- The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, states that participants in studies about journaling during hard times “saw the biggest reduction in symptoms like depression, anxiety, and hostility, particularly if they were very distressed to begin with. This was true even though 80 percent had seldom journaled about their feelings and only 61 percent were comfortable doing so.”
The physical act of writing things down is incredibly therapeutic as well. Scientists believe there’s an essential connection between spatial and tactile motor skill engagement and improved memory, and writing–especially by hand–enhances the ability to actually think about what’s being learned or reviewed. Writing also provides more of a free association method to release emotions.
How to Journal
The most important thing to remember about journaling is there really are no rules. Really! However, some experts in the practice believe certain guidelines are helpful to make the most of your experience. Here are some things to consider:
- As mentioned, handwriting in a regular notebook or special journal is most effective for some of the cognitive benefits. However, many people prefer using the “notes” function on their phones or tablets, capturing thoughts in a special file on their computer. Others use one of the dozens of digital options such as 5-Minute Journal, Reflection, My Journalate, Penzu, or the email program Dabble Me.
- Should you review or edit what you’ve written? It really depends on the circumstances. For example, your recovery therapist might suggest that you spend 15 minutes each day for a week writing whatever you’re feeling in the moment in a stream-of-consciousness way. Then, you could be instructed to do one of two things: rip out and shred those pages without reading them, or review your entries and take notes on what three things seem to repeatedly rise to the surface. Both exercises have merit. You might also need to review what’s written if you want to capture certain goals or action plans and track your progress.
- Consider drawing, adding mementos, and other things to “live” in your journal. This form of expression can be just as valuable as writing.
- Should you share your journal? Again, up to you. Most people prefer using their journal to release thoughts and emotions they don’t want to share with others. But you may choose to use your entries as a way to communicate more clearly how you feel.
No matter what method you choose, remember the most important thing is that by using language to capture your inner life, you’re better suited to process and understand who you really are.
If you’d like to learn more about journaling, or want guided prompts, check out these books:
- Opening Up by Writing It Down by James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth
- Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise Desalvo
- Soul Therapy: A 365 Day Journal for Self Exploration, Healing, and Reflection by Positive Soul and Jacqueline Kademian
- Celebrate Recovery Journal by John Baker
- The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal by Julia Cameron
- Depression Journal: A Daily Check-in by Missy Beck
- Addiction Recovery Journal: In the Morning by Zen Mirrors
- Let That Sh*t Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullsh*t Behind and Creating a Happy Life by Monica Sweeney
More Holistic Solutions From Seabrook
All too often, people think of drug and alcohol rehabilitation as a place they have to go because they’ve hit rock bottom. Instead, what if the mindset is to experience new ideas and solutions, such as journaling, for better living? That’s what Seabrook’s four locations in New Jersey hope to inspire: a combined medical and holistic approach that helps you become a better version of yourself. Ask us how.