My Journaling Journey

Journaling

As an aspiring author, journaling has always been near and dear to my heart. But I haven’t been able to consistently stick to journaling in the past. I would have a bunch of starts but would never follow through. As 2019 came about, I resolved to give journaling another go. One way that incentivized me was discovering that journaling in a certain way could also produce many benefits for health and wellness. My article, The key to Journaling for Health, discussing the fascinating science behind this, if you’re curious to learn more.  

One thing I found fascinating about this article was that just by writing down our feelings, particularly negative of stressed feelings that make us feel overwhelmed at certain times, the intensity of those feelings is decreased, and we can again achieve clarity. I am a rather energetic, high-wired person who lives in a fast-paced big city, so learning to take a step back and get perspective at key moments is both practically important and good for my overall well-being.

But how does writing help us to slow down? There is a writing-brain link (particularly the amygdala part of the brain). The amygdala is also known as the lizard brain, where our most primitive fight-or-flight responses come from. Basically, when we write, the activity of this part of our brain is reduced. “If the amygdala is like an alarm clock alerting us to potential threats, putting feelings into words is like hitting the snooze button.” [1] Author Rosemary Clement- Moore understands this link. “When I write long-hand, there’s something magical in the process. Maybe it’s because I’m adding another part of my brain to the process. But I think it’s also because I slow down. Instead of freaking out because I can’t think of any words, I have time to think of it while my pen moves across the paper. There are more enjoyable things to think about than my fear and frustration. The curve of the letters, the scratch of the nib, the stroke of the ink. One word at a time, I get past the block.” [2]

To maximize this linkage, journaling by hand, not through typing, is critical. Now, anyone who knows me knows that my handwriting is horrible. But I realized that this has only been a result of my rushed demeanor in general. I will write horribly when I’m trying to just finish a paragraph in record time to jot it off my do-to list and move on to the next item. I find that shifting my mindset, making time and space to journal in a physical notebook, will naturally slow me down and allow me to focus on the words as I’m writing them, just as Moore experiences. Journaling thus serves as a form of relaxation or meditation for me.

I rediscovered why I enjoyed writing as a child, when computers weren’t as widespread. And why I had lost some of my spark over the years. Typing, even about things I want to write about, allows me to speed up and stress out, the very things I need a respite from. The solution for me, then, is writing everything out by hand first, then transferring the things that need to be typed to a computer afterwards.

What are your takeaways from these articles? If you journal already, is there a process that works for you that’s different or similar than the ones described here? If you don’t journal, do you find other outlets to express yourself and your feelings? Let me know in the comments below.

References

[1] M Lieberman, Diaries: A Healthy Choice , New York Times, December 2012, located at http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/11/25/will-diaries-be-published-in-2050/diaries-a-healthy-choice

[2] https://www.pens.co.uk/pen2paper/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/The-Power-of-Journaling.pdf