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Spring: an introduction to journaling

Journaling is an ancient tradition, stemming back to at least 10th century Japan. We take a look at some of the techniques – and benefits...
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04.30.19
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Journaling is an ancient tradition, stemming back to at least 10th century Japan.

As a tool and a practice, it’s different for each person – but it almost always has positive benefits, and is a great way of helping meet your goals, improve your quality of life and can have a marked improvement on your mental health.

The simple act of journaling can help you to:

  • Clear your head
  • Rationalise fears and weigh up pros and cons
  • Make connections between thoughts, feelings, behaviour and strengths
  • Give you valuable time to yourself
  • Create a tool to look back and see how far you’ve come

Numerous studies talk about the importance of journaling. Baikie & Wilhelm (2005) show how it helps us process difficult events and compose a coherent narrative about our experiences, which can be especially helpful for people with a history of trauma or PTSD. Robinson (2017), says it can help us shift from a negative mindset to a more positive one, especially about ourselves; University of Texas at Austin psychologist researcher James Pennebaker even says that journaling has a positive impact on physical wellbeing.

But journaling is more than just getting words down on the page… it helps you to apply both sides of your brain – the analytical, rational left side, while you’re busy writing and drawing, giving the the right side – which is responsible for creativity and intuition – freedom to freewheel and play (Grothaus, 2015).

Research on the ‘Happiness Advantage’ also shows the power of combining gratitude with journaling. In the Spring section on fear, we talk about Shawn Achor’s ‘Happiness Advantage’. People who practice gratitude – making a point of noticing the good stuff – every day will release dopamine in the brain. It’s one of the best ways to create a long-term positive mindset and develop strong social connections, which is key to your long-term happiness.

Try keeping a gratitude journal and if you’re struggling to know where to start, take note of three good things that you see/ hear/ happen, every day.

Even if you’re just thinking about the things you’re grateful for, it’s impossible to feel anger and gratitude at the same time – try it! While one’s pretty harmful, the other’s fuel. Just see the difference that looking at things from a different perspective makes.

Journaling – and reflection – is all about developing a habit. It can take anything from 18 days to develop a habit, depending how easy you find it. That’s why we included a 28-day journal in Spring with a page of questions at the end of each theme to help as prompts.

Find a time of day that suits you best in building a habit – it’s much easier to stick to if you know where it fits in during the day. Andrew prefers to journal in the mornings, whereas I prefer to get up and out of the house for a walk with my dog. Bear in mind that your willpower will wain the longer the day goes on. But experiment, and see what you feel most comfortable with.

And if you’re looking for more ideas and hints, you’ll find plenty of other tools, tips and things to read in the ‘tools’ section at the end of Spring.

Remember too that reflection is a practice, not a specific technique. We’ve included the idea of a 28 day journal to give you a starting point for reflection – and structure if you want it. But find the way to reflect that works best for you. The key is to just get started…

Article taken from Spring: A journal for life, work and wellbeing. Buy your copy of Spring here.

Cover photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.