You may know journaling has mental health benefits, but did you know the practice can also improve your physical well-being?
“Anything that keeps you from expressing and developing your whole self can negatively impact your mind, body and spirit,” says Nancy Morales, MFA, ATR, a counseling intern at Cancer Wellness. “When you are not freely expressing your emotions, you can experience a lot of stress, which has been linked to numerous health conditions, such as heart attack, stroke and cancer.”
Researchers have found that expressive and reflective writing can help you:
Create goals for your life
Cope with stress
Develop a habit of positive self-talk
Experience fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
Express yourself authentically without fear of judgment
Identify triggers or negative behaviors that impact your mood and well-being
Problem-solve and develop plans to improve challenging areas of your life
Reflect on lessons from both positive and negative experiences
Expressive writing is when you write about your feelings and emotions related to an event, circumstance or season of life. Reflective writing gives you an opportunity to learn from your life experiences.
You can also journal with images.
“Thumb through magazines and cut out images that express how you are feeling,” suggests Morales. “You can glue these images in your journal to enhance what you have written or they can stand alone to represent your emotions.”
Journal your way to “flow”
Journaling freely can create a sense of “flow.”
“The phenomenon of flow is when you lose perception of time and space because you are so focused on an activity,” explains Morales. “You allow yourself to be yourself and aren’t concerned about anything else.”
Athletes talk about flow as a sense of being “in the zone” or at peak performance.
“It’s a place where your creativity and emotional well-being is highest, which can influence your physical health,” she adds.
Release and embrace your emotions
When you are talking too much or too little, you may not be fully processing your emotions. Journaling gives you a place to release your emotions, both positive and negative.
“When you release positive emotions, you have a chance to reflect on them, giving you a sense of wellness and joy,” says Morales. “When you release negative emotions, you are taking negative energy out of your body so you don’t have to hold onto it anymore, which can be beneficial to your physical health.”
Journaling is a habit to develop, not something that comes naturally to everyone. At the end of the day, sit down and write a few lines in a journal. You can set a limit of 15 minutes or five sentences so you don’t get overwhelmed. Try to write a little bit daily, but don’t put pressure on yourself if you miss a day or two.
“Be in the moment and don’t beat yourself up for what was, which can create unwanted stress,” says Morales.
Learn more ways to cultivate creativity in your life.