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Dear diary

How I journaled my way to better wellbeing

Other than teen diaries of parental injustice and school crushes I had never really kept a journal. I have bought heaps of gorgeous stationary over the years always with the best of intentions, but my enthusiasm would wane by week two. There was always something to distract me or keep me stuck in the cycle of busy-ness. Always something more ‘constructive’ I felt I should be doing.  There is saying from the zen Buddhist tradition that you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy. Then you should sit for an hour. I think journaling is like meditation in this way. The more excuses you have not to, the more valuable it can be for your wellbeing.  

It was only when it became a compulsory part of my yoga teacher training that I realised the full value of bearing your soul to a sheet of paper.

Here are the benefits I have found over the last few years of writing a journal, backed up by research in case you need some extra convincing.  
 
1. Get to know yourself better
Journaling provides you with your own safe haven in which you can say what you think and how you feel uncensored. This in itself can be very cathartic, but reviewing your unfiltered writing once the ink is dry can also help you to see situations with a clearer, more rational head.

Journaling can be a way to heal raw emotions and can provide a path towards self-exploration, enabling you to explore what makes you tick.

2. Improve your relationships with others 
A US study has discovered that ‘self-knowledge’ is positively associated with people’s perceptions of relationship quality and I do find that writing about relationship problems helps me to stop stewing and to understand better the other’s point of view.

Having decompressed and reflected I am better able to communicate what’s really going on with me, to listen to the other person’s side and to find middle ground.  

3. Develop mindfulness 
Journaling has helped to strengthen my ability to appreciate the here and now and research has found a correlation between journaling and mindfulness. As past frustrations and future anxieties lose their power, relaxation, peace of mind and increased positivity take their place.

4. Reduce stress 
I got so used to living with anxiety that it became par for the course to be carrying round a ball of fizzy stress in my chest every day. The mindful practice of journaling cultivates gratitude for what you have. It has made me a calmer person to be around because I’m able to be more at ease in my own skin. And unsurprisingly it’s not just me. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that the emotional release from journaling lowers anxiety, stress, and induces better sleep.

And for an added bonus, research shows that keeping a journal can improve your IQ, comprehension and memory. I can’t claim these benefits from my own experience, but I’m happy to believe they’re true.

This creative form of language learning has a positive correlation with intelligence, according to a report by the University of
Victoria. According to the Journal of Psychological Science, using pen and paper to write boosts memory and the ability to retain and understand concepts. The formation of words also causes the mind to compose or re-compose ideas while you write. This strengthens previously covered information and strengthens cognitive recall.