Why This Simple Daily Habit Will Improve Your Life
Journaling has many unexpected benefits, one of which is improved mental and emotional wellbeing.
Making Sense Of Your Memories
“Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.”—Robin Sharma
Yes, this simple daily habit will improve your life, because the simplest habits are ones that produce the greatest results. It is the compound effect that journaling offers which often goes unnoticed. Journaling has many unexpected benefits, one of which is improved mental and emotional wellbeing. Many people ruminate on problems that gnaw at them, sometimes for decades. Brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor suggests that the average lifespan of emotion to move through the nervous system is one and a half minutes. This releases the burden of clinging to our emotional attachments longer than required. This daily habit helps us to make peace with toxic emotions and transform them into healthy ones. Otherwise, they remain ‘stuck’ in our nervous system instead of moving through us. Do you keep a journal? What do you mainly use it for? Has it been helpful to you?
The simple act of writing in a journal daily helps us to be mindful of the present moment, instead of being caught up in the past or future. Mindfulness is a way to attain clarity on what really matters. We become attuned to our emotions instead of allowing them to control us. I recall listening to the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle state that anytime we are emotionally agitated for no reason, we are recalling unresolved memories and creating a Pain body experience. Journaling is the act of making sense of those memories by transferring them onto paper, otherwise, they lead to conditions such as T.M.S. (Tension Myositis Syndrome), according to Dr. John Sarno. Repressed emotions resulting from psychological stress are stored in the body and may inhibit muscle and/or organ function if left untreated.
The Act Of Coming Home To Yourself
“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.”—Susan Sontag
Writing our thoughts on paper is a form of emotional freedom. For example, there are moments in our lives where we must bite our tongue with family, friends and co-workers for obvious reasons. We cannot express our feelings, so we stow them away hoping they don’t resurface down the road. This is the psychological pain point many people experience later in life. The key is to allow our emotions to move through us using a method Dr. Daniel Siegel outlines in his book Mindsight. He suggests we name and tame the emotions we experience rather than be overwhelmed by them. Journaling helps identify the troubling emotions by writing them as “I feel angry” instead of “I am angry.” The latter is a limited self-definition since, “I feel angry” implies the ability to acknowledge a feeling, without being overwhelmed by it.
I suggest exploring your thoughts via journaling as the last thing you do at night after a complete day. In Zen teaching, meditation is thought to help wipe away the day’s stressors by witnessing our thoughts through the eyes of equanimity. Journaling purges us of mental stressors. It is becoming intimate with our thoughts instead of allowing them to occupy space in our minds. We become attentive to our mental landscape instead of letting runaway thoughts impose on our freedom. This simple daily habit will improve your life because you learn to notice your thoughts without being overcome by them.
Committing your thoughts to paper invites you to calmly witness them with a clear awareness rather than an agitated mind. Journaling is the act of coming home to yourself and loving the person whose thoughts appear on the page. What we see and perceive in our waking life results from the mind adding judgment and commentary, like morning fog. With this in mind, begin writing in a journal if you don’t already have one. Try it for two weeks. The journal needn’t be an elaborate one and abound writing book or notepad is a good start. Write down what you’re feeling and how you react to situations, instead of describing what you’ve done. For example, I recently journaled how part of me wanted to respond in anger to two people talking through an entire class I was taking part in. I could feel myself getting angry but noticed the anger in my body and in the next instance, I felt compassion for them. This was a breakthrough for me. I invite you to journal your mental or emotional breakthroughs and notice yourself in your day-to-day life. After all, writing your thoughts downloads them onto paper and liberates you of the need to process them any more than you need to.