I don’t know of another way to more immediately enrich your life than through journaling.
I didn’t start journaling because I dreamed of being a writer. It was more out of desperation and necessity than anything else. That seems to be the way I roll. I discovered meditation out of desperation too. But then, I’ve learned that that’s the way a lot of major decisions in our lives are made, out of desperation to find an answer or change.
I started journaling as a teenager, initially to work out my teenage angst! The journal was the only friend I could talk to. I swear that being a teenage girl felt like being possessed by an alien! It was a trying and confusing time.
It was also a way to cope with the domestic violence happening at home. No one talked about it and I certainly wasn’t going to share what was happening with others.
Throughout the decades I’ve continued journaling. For me it’s been indispensable for five major reasons. These are the five ways I believe journaling can immediately enrich your life.
1. Journaling Can Immediately Relieve Stress
Studies have proven that journaling relieves stress. One such study became a book called Opening Up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others by Professor James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. He is the author or editor of 10 books and 300 scientific articles and ranks among the most cited researchers in psychology, psychiatry, and the social sciences.
The book is based on an ongoing study from 1977-1990 with his graduate students at Stanford University and Southern Methodist University in the area of mind/body relationships and health. Among the strong indications of the research were:
- Personal disclosure, opening up, is beneficial to health and recovery from illness
- Suppressing deep guilt/turmoil requires arduous physical effort and is devastating to health
- Confiding in a journal, spouse, or friend profoundly and physically relieves stress
- It’s not the size of the trauma but our level of self-disclosure that determines our well-being
When I am feeling particularly stressed, anxious, or angry, I immediately turn to my journal. I write out all my feelings.
Once you get your feelings out and onto paper, you can look at the page and observe them without judgment. I feel immediate peace after getting it out. With the disclosure can also come answers to what caused the feelings.
I have had some people send emails sharing some horrific events they are going through in their lives. For one, I’m humbled that they trust me enough and are vulnerable enough to share with me. But what I find most interesting is that almost always, after writing such an email filled with despair, I will receive a second email telling me how much better they feel. The simple act of writing has set themselves free.
2. Journaling Allows You to Cast Your Cares On God
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT) Journaling will lighten your burdens. This journaling is a form of prayer.
3. Journaling Helps You to Remember
Sometimes I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago! While I don’t record every aspect of my life, I record a lot of it. It’s one of my meditation practices in the morning.
Since leaving the corporate world in 2008, I no longer have a commute. This allows me time to be still and reflect in the morning. This time of quiet and stillness grounds me.
On the inside cover of each journal I mark the dates, so if I want to look up a particular year, I can go back and do that.
Our brains were never meant to store every detail. With as much information that is thrust at us each day, it’s easy to forget. Plus, if a dream or goal is not happening fast enough, it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come as opposed to how far we still need to go.
Asking God to guide my steps, I can look back and see all the people and situations that happened. If I hadn’t captured them in my journal, I would have forgotten. I can see how and when prayers were answered.
When Robert and I first met, one of our key desires we shared was to travel. We’ve been blessed to travel to many countries. I usually take a special journal to record those trips. There are people and moments that I would otherwise have forgotten if I hadn’t captured them in my journal. What’s been fun is that one of our traveling companions journals too. You’ll find us catching up on trains or buses, recording our experiences.
4. Journaling Helps Find Answers Within You
Journaling allows you to go deep within. You can retreat from the outside world of demands and noise and all the voices that tell you what to be, do, and have.
My Myers Briggs profile will say I’m an Extrovert, but I’m really leaning towards thinking I’m an Introvert many days!
While it’s good to seek counsel from a trusted friend, mentor, spiritual director, licensed therapist, or clergy, the ultimate answers for what you want and how to respond to life are always within you.
I constantly talk about the still small voice that is within you. It is your guidance system. It’s your own personal GPS. It is the voice of Truth. It is the voice of God’s Spirit talking to our spirit.
This inner voice goes much deeper than the mind’s intellectual knowledge-based thinking. This voice gets to the heart of the matter.
Tapping into this voice allows you to live with peace, power, purpose, intention, meaning, and personal freedom.
Journals also show us how much we’ve grown. I will sometimes go back several years to the same date to see what was going on. I’m usually shocked to see how far I’ve come. I’m surprised and a little bit saddened that I was anxious or worrying about an outcome. Looking back, there was no reason to worry.
5. Journaling Helps You Build Spiritual Muscles
Journaling is a spiritual practice. I like to say that journaling builds your spiritual muscles of faith, love, compassion, inner strength, and courage.
You build physical muscles by doing exercises to make them stronger. Investing small amounts of time each week builds muscles over time.
Physical muscles are put to the test when you need to accomplish a physical task. Because you’ve invested the time to build those muscles, you will be able to accomplish the task with less effort and more stamina.
The spiritual muscles I mentioned are put to the test when you are faced with a life challenge: health issues, a crisis with your child, a change or loss of employment.
Because you’ve put in the work of journaling, connecting to your spirit and God’s Spirit within you, you can face those challenges with peace, courage, and strength.
Processing what happens within and around you allows you to respond to life in a positive way instead of reacting. You’re able to go back and see the progress you’ve made and where prayers were answered.
Seeing how life unfolded gives me confidence to trust God, trust myself, and trust others even more. I know that I make good choices as I seek God’s guidance by listening to my own still, small voice, and the voice of God.
I hope that this post will encourage you to discover the immediate ways how journaling can enrich your life.
I’ve graduated from legal pads to notebooks to beautifully bound journals. So, do you journal? I’d love for you to leave a comment below to share your journaling process and experience.
If you want to go even deeper in listening to your still, small voice and the voice of God, these meditations were created to do just that: Be Still, Let it Go, and Trust. Listen to samples and read what others have experienced to decide if these meditations can enrich your life too.