As you Naturopathic Earthlings know, I am a firm proponent of avoiding toxins, being as informed as possible on all topics regarding your health, and practicing discernment any time you hear knowledge, either from mainstream or not-so-mainstream sources. Wisdom is the one gift that Solomon asked for in the Bible, not riches and a harem; for that, God rewarded him with the most wisdom in the world AND the harem. (Well, if you read 1 Kings you will see he f*cked up quite a bit at the end of his life in regards to his succession, but that is another story.)
Part of acquiring wisdom and implementing discernment is inhaling as much information as possible and arming yourself with the truth. That is the exogenous or outside or extrinsic way to improvement. But just as important is the intrinsic. “Know Thyself” as Socrates exhorted us to do.
Introspection (looking within) and retrospection (looking back) is absolutely crucial. I feel that most of the time we are in a state of denial and rationalization. We rationalize all of our actions or lack thereof as well as our beliefs. A murderer can rationalize killing people in cold blood. We call that psychopathy, but in his/her mind he/she can rationalize to justify the heinous act.
Now I’m not saying that you are going to commit such a nefarious act, but my point is that we all are in a constant state of denial and not being true to ourselves. One way to stymie this natural propensity is to be in a constant state of introspection. Questions asked when in this state may be “Why did I do this act?” “Why did I say that hurtful thing?” I have talked about “Doing the Deep Work” in my various Confessions of an Obese Child podcast episodes and in the NPE Radio Valentine’s Special on Break-ups.
“Doing the deep work” means understanding why we do the things that we do, identify its source, and stoping that thought process if it is a destructive one. I have mentioned, incidentally, that 78% of 2nd divorces end in divorce. Why? Partly because we never did the “deep work” to figure out what pernicious baggage we brought into the new relationship that is sabotaging it. It is the same baggage that likely destroyed the first marriage. We like to blame the other person for the dissolution but in many cases it was we who contributed on one level or another.
One way to introspect, retrospect and to do the “deep work” is to journal. Now most of you will think of a teenager writing in her diary. Perhaps this is slightly accurate, but it behooves all sentient creatures to journal. Let’s talk about 5 ways in which journalling enriches your life?
Akin to going to confession with a priest or hitting a pillow really hard, writing what resides in the deepest recess of your mind is cathartic. Journalling allows for the release of emotions, good or bad. As they say “get it off your chest.” Write what you are feeling.
The opposite is deleterious to your health. Keeping feelings bottled up, especially negative ones, leads to these thoughts to fester and infect your psyche. This is why it is so common for people who have experienced trauma to develop addictions or impulse control disorders later in their life. They never dealt with the trauma so they turn to hair pulling, nail biting, sex, excessive shopping, drinking, and alike.
Writing Gets Things Out of Your Mind
Writing helps get things out of our subconscious mind into the conscious mind. It facilitates in unlocking ideas and feelings that we might not normally think about. Putting thoughts to paper does this better than anything else…aside from perhaps podcasting. LOL
If you were that high school girl writing in your diary and had the luxury of going back and reading those early tomes, you could track your personal growth. It is simply fascinating to look back at your life 5,10, or even 20 years ago. Our memory might be pretty good, but a lot of the minutiae we forget. Reading your old journals reminds you of these things as well as documenting your thought processes, feelings, behaviors, and actions from your youth to today. Journaling in this regard is indispensable.
Improves Your Writing/Reading Skills
No need for explanation here. Myriad studies show that the more you read (whether it be magazines, novel, or the antiquated newspaper) the sharper the cognitive skills are. The same may be applied to writing. Why do you think we, teachers, are always pushing our students to write, write, write?! Writing makes your write better as well as the aforementioned benefits.
Helps in Therapy
I’m fortunate in that I get 8 free sessions of therapy a year from my school district. I know many are not so fortunate. Therapy is another form of catharsis, just the ability to get things off your chest. Journalling assists in effective therapy in that you are able to read excerpts of your journal to your therapist during your session.
It is impossible to remember everything that occurs to us in a given week (or two weeks or a month depending on the frequency of your sessions). Journaling is a snapshot into a certain moment in our life. Having these snapshots optimizes therapy sessions.
I love journalling. I do it daily and sometimes more than daily. I bring my ancient map-covered journal everywhere I go. If I am bored instead of hoping on the phone, sometimes I write. It keeps me even-keeled and balanced. It allows me to process my negativistic thinking so I won’t devolve into self-destructive behavior. (If you listened to the Confessions podcast or read the eBook, you will know that emotional eating was my weakness.) It allows me to “verbalize” the super important question “Why are you wanting to do this?”
I have my journals from the mid-90s back when I was in college and grad school. They are a fascinating read to see where I was to juxtapose to where I am know. There is certainly some growth, but at times some regression on certain aspects of my life. But journaling is a conduit …a vehicle to retrospect that makes it easier to do so since it is written documentation.
My tips to you are “Write!”
- Don’t worry about the grammar or punctuation or legibility. (You literally need the Rosetta Stone to read my handwriting in my journal. Perhaps that is on purpose to thwart snoopers. LOL)
- Don’t worry about the journaling book. If you can’t afford an adorned, well-bound journal, then just buy a 0.99 cent Spalding that kids use in school. No offense to you, but the Smithsonian isn’t going to be looking at it in a 100 years so the quality shouldn’t matter too much. Pen to paper is all that matters!
- Don’t make excuses about the time. We all have time to jot down some thoughts. Cut into your TV watching time, journal in the bath or while waiting at a traffic light. Writing doesn’t have to be Tolstoy in nature. I wrote this blog article in 30 minutes. Your journaling doesn’t have to be perfect in writing or thought. I should be prodigious to maximize its efficacy.
Here are some beautiful, well-priced journals on Amazon:
Dusky Meadow Journal
Leather Bound Journal
These are just a few ways that journalling enriches your life. Truly, there are not drawback to it. You owe it to your mental health to give it a shot.