Why Journal?

 
A time for journaling each day is a healthy practice. Photo by  Thought Catalog  on  Unsplash

A time for journaling each day is a healthy practice. Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I’ve often said it’s the obvious stuff that eludes me.

I say this as if joking, but in fact it amazes me how often my own answers surface out of ideas I’ve “known” for a while. It was just too obvious to occur to me.

For example, I’ll be in a quandary about something, and then one day, in the spark of a moment, I stumble onto the solution I’ve been seeking—even though it’s been in my mental index for some time.

I figure this has to do with that “divine spark” within each of us, that inner wisdom we all possess that is there just waiting for the clouds of murky thinking to part. Once the circumstances are correctly aligned, the answer we have always realized becomes the epiphany we need at the perfect time.

I’ve been on the hunt for just such a moment in expanding the messaging of Storied Gifts and the value of curating and crafting life stories. Of course, people do get this value, but for some they are more interested in the immediate life story unfolding rather than digging into their past. I understand instant gratification, and thus Storied Gifts Shop was born to infuse positive thoughts and mantras into “business as usual” to help enrich the present.

But there is so much value in the reflection that comes with life storytelling that I pondered what other ways Storied Gifts could provide services and information to help. About the time I cracked open my journal and wrote that question down, the answer came to me in the next unwritten thought. Journaling!!!   

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

I’ve journaled all my life in various forms and have the sundry notebooks to prove it. I believe in and have experienced the benefits of writing down thoughts, dreams, lists and goals. There is solace, there is catharsis and there is productivity in writing stuff down on paper.

Kasee Bailey over at Intermountain Healthcare summarizes health benefits in her article “5 Powerful Health Benefits of Journaling.” Consistent writing for only 15 minutes a day can reduce stress, improve immune function, sharpen memory, boost mood and strengthen emotional function. Bailey sites an impressive number of articles that back up her claims, including one that asserts journaling can lower blood pressure and improve liver function.

It makes sense that journaling with intention can yield positive results for the mind, which in turn supports the body. Just sitting in a quiet space and taking time to organize thoughts and write them out is a form of meditation. I can attest to many times I’ve felt the weight of many thoughts cycling and how the simple act of writing those concerns onto paper was enough to release them so I could get a good night’s sleep and handle the issues the next day.

WHERE TO JOURNAL

I tend to think of my Facebook page as a personal log of my comments and images as well as a place to connect. Mostly, I place things there to chronicle or announce something, even if it is only for my gratification. However, what I place there isn’t exactly intimate. All social media platforms are interactive and public by nature, and aren’t the best spaces for delving deeply into thoughts and feelings. (At least, not the “real deal” just what we want people to see.) 

More recently, after an interview with Brand Photographer Julia Mae Hunt, I considered the journaling we do by way of photos. Like most people with a phone in their hand, I take more photos than ever before. I swipe through my image gallery and am instantly transported back to recent moments with my beautiful grandchildren, the fender bender picture I sent to the insurance agent, and the selfie I took with my book group. The photos do a great job of jarring memories and documenting life moments.

And then there is old-fashioned, pen-in-hand journaling where we take time to write our thoughts out. In the article “Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life” by Benjamin Hardy, PhD, he describes several in-depth and compelling ideas for how and why to keep a journal.

Hardy states that most of us spend our time living “lives on other people’s terms,” and I positively cringed at the thought. How often is my mind relegated to simply responding to the mind-numbing distractions I allow each day?  A lot! I check my email and social media and get caught up in reacting to the thoughts and comments of others. Even when I start the day with coffee, I usually settle for maybe 30 minutes of news before doing other things.

But to journal, beginning with the simple meditative act of writing thoughts at the beginning of each day as a keystone habit can flip thinking from reactionary mode to a personal and focused process.

It turns out that the act of writing by hand is a critical component of journaling. I’ve often felt my slow and poor penmanship are roadblocks to journaling. However, by releasing judgement I can enjoy the creative process and let my mind find a reasonable pace. Handwriting versus the peck of a keyboard allows the cognitive pistons to fire at a different speed and open the mind to possibilities.

 JOURNAL AND PURPOSE

A quick search for journaling on the internet offers an almost overwhelming assortment of methods, and along with all the ideas is the caveat that it can always be whatever the person writing wants it to be.

I write a great deal in my work, so I like the idea of Bullet Journaling created by Ryder Carroll, and I’ve done a sloppy variation of this for years. I can see how the structure he has created can help people turn ideas into actionable results, and as he states, “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” But I want to incorporate more intentional free-flow journaling as well.

In the article over at Doist by Becky Kane, she describes something called “The Curiosity Journal” which is simply the action of writing about one thing you experience each day that gave you pause. Why does it make you feel curious? What questions do you have about it? “It’s the act of noticing novelty and questioning every day that is important.” I love this suggestion, because it permits me not to get trapped into any one form of writing which can lead to burnout and boredom such as simply reporting on days events or listing reasons why I’m grateful.

I recently mentioned journaling to a friend who said she knows someone who has kept every journal she has ever written and refers to them when she wonders about certain times in her life. I can’t fathom being so organized, and shudder at the notion of reading things I wrote when I was in my early 20s. On the other hand, perhaps journaling and doing so regularly will help me see more broadly to give myself and others more of a break.

All this thinking and writing about journaling has stoked me to do more of it and expand my journaling style. I’ll be sharing ideas and insights about journaling and look forward to encouraging you to join in the adventure of reflecting in your thoughts and experiencing the health benefits of regular journaling!

Alexandra and Sherry, 2016

Alexandra and Sherry, 2016

Sherry is the founder of Storied Gifts a personal publishing service of family and company histories. She and her team help clients curate and craft their stories into books. When not writing or interviewing, Sherry spends loads of time with her grandchildren and lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

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The shop is a mother and daughter venture for Sherry and Alexandra Borzo of Content In Motion. They both work to help their client's stories sing. The shop is there effort to inspire a focus on healthy minds for everyone through positive thought.

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