In our electronic age, how often do we pick up a pen and write? I mean really WRITE. I am not talking about jotting down a grocery list or a to-do list. I mean thoughtful writing.
Chances are, it’s not very frequently. Recent studies, however, show that the tactile process of journaling improves health. As noted by William R. Klemm, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, the physical process of holding a pen and shaping letters exercises the brain and increases cognitive development. It has also been found to improve the immune system.
These are benefits you do not experience if you use an electronic device like a phone or tablet app to journal or track information.
Here are top ways that keeping a journal can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health:
1. WRITE IT DOWN AND REMEMBER. Have you ever had to sit in front of the doctor, trying really hard to remember what you did when? When was it that your fatigue hit? When was it that your joints or head hurt? Conversely, when was it exactly that you felt well rested and totally awesome? For women, do you have to sit looking through your day planner to determine when your last menstrual cycle was?
Keeping a journal allows us to keep a written record of the details. Memory alone can only maintain an accuracy of a limited number of details for a short duration. A written record can be referred back to for weeks, months, and years. This documentation can be vital to determining how we are feeling, how we are improving our health, and all that we have accomplished.
2. MAKE CONNECTIONS. Writing information down allows us to see patterns we would not otherwise notice. We can determine relationships between what we eat and how we feel; how our activity and daylight exposure affects our sleep quantity and quality.
We can make connections in how we are interacting with those around us and how we are emotionally connected (or disconnected) throughout our day. The variety of connections helps to get a greater overall picture of health. It also can guide habits by showing the benefits received with those subtle changes. It is the best way to track treatment and lifestyle change effectiveness.
3. GRATITUDE AND APPRECIATION. Freeing our minds from the busy-ness of life to appreciate those things for which we are grateful helps to reduce cortisol and increase satisfaction. Excess cortisol causes fat gain, feelings of anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
The process of mindfulness and focusing on those things we enjoy reduces cortisol. Gratitude also boosts your immune system: when we focus on gratitude, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This reduces cortisol and calms the body and mind.
4. GAIN PERSPECTIVE. Taking the time to write thoughts down allows the brain to process information. Forming the sentences on the page helps clarify thoughts and feelings. This can help a person through stress, emotional challenges, and fitness changes.
If you are one of those people always raising the bar on yourself, having a journal helps you keep perspective of just how far you have come.
5. GIVE YOUR BODY A VOICE. Perhaps most important–our bodies are amazingly complex; we can honor that by listening to the messages. It is easy to feel like symptoms are merely a sign of betrayal– your body’s rebellion against every goal you have set for it. Insomnia, anxiety, depression, sore joints, weight gain—they can all be debilitating.
Experiencing one or more of these can cause one to feel angry with their body at its betrayal. When you feel like you are exercising, eating right, and making good choices, it is hard to understand how some of these symptoms can occur. It leaves you feeling lost and frustrated. However, consider that instead of betrayal, your body is speaking to you. The symptoms you experience are how your body communicates with you. It has no other way of telling you your hormones are out of balance, you need to spend more time relaxing, moving, exploring other options. All those things that added up to the totality of true health. Keeping a journal helps you honor the messages your body is giving you.
Journaling can be done nearly anywhere, at any time. Small moments that lead to big revelations and a healthier life overall. If you aren’t sure where to start with your wellness journal, check out The Ultimate Wellness Journal for Women: a holistic approach to health. Spanning eight full weeks, it provides wellness tracking prompts. It is also available in paperback from Amazon.com (affiliate link).