What if you decided to take a little time for yourself, starting today? What about journaling? Writing a journal is to exist in the simple flow of ink across a page. It’s an age-old activity with scientifically proven benefits.
Journaling: a history
While it has roots in antiquity, journaling took shape in the Middle Ages mostly in the form of domestic records kept by a head of family. It would go on to become the hobby of many men and women from the 18th century onwards.
Journaling was then popularized under the form we know today: the simple act of putting your activities, observations and deepest feelings to paper.
It has made quite the comeback during the pandemic. It’s an activity that costs very little and has helped many face the uncertainties of these times.
The benefits of journaling
Writing down your most secret thoughts, without judgment or taboo, has many advantages. The act of revelation is a route to self-discovery and a better understanding of yourself.
The flow of ink can help you make sense of your thoughts and feelings, take a step back, channel your stress, manage your mental and emotional overload and last but not least, remember happy moments.
Writing is healthy
“Writing is good for you,” says Matthew Lieberman, a UCLA psychology researcher who has studied the subject extensively.
In a 2007 article, Lieberman found that writing your feelings down reduces activity in the amygdala, where fear, sadness and anger are formed.
Renowned Texas University researcher and psychologist James Pennabaker would agree. His research found that writing about intense or difficult events or emotions for twenty minutes a day over a few days strengthens the immune system.
A pioneer in the field, Pennabaker created expressive writing in the ’80s. It’s a therapy tool that involves writing your feelings in a journal. He demonstrated through studies that writing about your feelings helps you manage them. The practice has a positive impact on many aspects of holistic health, from how well you sleep, to strengthening your immune system and even improving your relationships.
Combining body and mind
Even if journaling can be done through several apps, good old pen and paper are still the best. Why? Simply because writing coordinates the body and mind in a singular purpose, not unlike meditation.
I’d like to try, how do I start?
1. Some simple ground rules:
- Let the words come. Write as sincerely as possible and don’t worry about mistakes or crossing anything out;
- Write quickly, to avoid censoring yourself;
- Put your emotions and your feelings of despair, anxiety and gratitude to paper;
- Don’t hesitate to scribble in your journal if need be.
2. Subject suggestions
You can broach any subject that crosses your mind, from the events of your day to your deepest existential questions. Feeling intimidated by the blank page? Here are some writing prompts:
- Imagine where you’ll be in five years. What will you have become?
- Write a letter to someone who makes you angry.
- Talk about your feelings. What makes you sad?
- Draw up a list of things that make you happy.
- Describe yourself at five years old.
- What do you absolutely want to do before you die?
- What would you have liked to tell a loved one before they died?
- Write a poem.
- Write a few lines on what it was like the first time you met your beloved.
- Reminisce about the happiest—or saddest—moment of your life.
- Write a daily note about a happy moment from your day.
3. Taking full advantage of a journal
- For the first few weeks, you will surely write about a multitude of subjects, some important, and some less so. After a while, reread your entries to clean out the useless bits.
- You can now self-analyze your journal. What did you retain? What thoughts were sparked by your reading? Do certain truths jump out at you?
- The wellness you get from journaling makes space for self-discovery and creativity.
You’re ready to get started with a practice that is so widespread, there is an entire festival dedicated to it in France. To your pens!
A snapshot of history
In similar spirit to a journal, the Annals of the Augustinian Sisters are a chronicle of events related to the community. The annals were originally written for the community, but today they help us better understand the life of those sisters, and their exceptional contribution to Quebec society.