“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
The latest research by psychologist and researcher Professor James Pennebaker at the University of Texas finds that journaling, and especially writing about our emotional experiences, is an excellent method to help us appraise and understand traumatic events in our lives and organise our ideas.
Without it our minds can become stuck in a loop of non-constructive thought patterns that replay repeatedly throughout our lives and cause unnecessary emotional upset. Writing about our grief and personal trauma let’s our mind work through the trauma, find closure and allow us to move forward again in our lives.
“Writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”
~ Professor James Pennebaker
Findings from other researchers supports how beneficial journaling and expressive writing can be for your health. Participants writing about traumas showed improvements in physical health and fewer symptoms.
Participants who wrote about their relationship were significantly more likely to still be dating their romantic partners three months later. Writing about worries related to an exam before it takes place significantly improves test scores, especially for those who normally suffer from exam anxiety. And further research by Pennebaker and many others shows that daily journaling can:
- Strengthen immune cells
- Decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
- Clarify your thoughts and emotions
- Help you know yourself better
- Reduce stress
- Help you solve problems more effectively
- Help you resolve disagreements with others
It can also help of course with weight loss. A study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine asked 1,685 overweight or obese adults aged 25 and older to keep a food diary and meet weekly in groups to share their progress. After six months, the group had lost an average of 13 pounds each and those that entered the most information into their diary on a daily basis lost the most weight.
“Keeping a food diary instantly increases your awareness of what, how much, and why you are eating. This helps you cut down on mindless munching.”
~ Megrette Fletcher, Executive Director of The Center for Mindful Eating.
Sometimes the simplest solutions can have a profound influence on your health and life.
This exercise will help clarify your thoughts and feelings by bringing to the surface those deep down hidden emotions that are waiting to be addressed and resolved. It’s also a very useful way to keep track of your life and in conjunction with your daily question scores begin to recognise the triggers that cause you emotional upset and take you off of your path towards weight loss success. A well kept journal can help you increase the Value of you habits and goals and reduce both real and perceived Delay.
You can record your journal and expressive/emotional thoughts and feelings in the same Google Form that you store your Active Questions answers. This will make it easy to correlate the data with your questions when you want to analyse the results. If you don’t want to write a journal or type one out you can use the voice to text option on your phone and dictate your responses instead.
Although there might not be any instructions needed on how to write your journal, it may be that you need some inspiration so as to not sit staring blankly wondering what to write. So, to get you started, you will find 8 simple questions below. However, the most important question you can ask yourself is directly related to expressive writing and Dr James Pennebaker’s research:
For twenty minutes per day and for the next three consecutive days, write about your very deepest thoughts and feelings about an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life.
In your writing, try to really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts. You might like to write about your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, or friends; to your past, your present, or your future; or to who you have been, who you would like to be, or who you are now.
You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or on different topics each day.
Don’t worry about spelling, sentence structure, or grammar. The only rule is that once you begin writing, continue to do so until your time is up
Here are a few journal question suggestions to help you should you experience writers block:
- Don’t edit or censor your thoughts or feelings and don’t bother to correct your grammar
- Start by writing about your life and current situation, like social life, your work, and your relationships
- Write about what you are thankful for and a list of everything that you appreciate in your life
- Write about everything good that has happened to you in your life, including events from your childhood
- If there’s something you are struggling with, or an event that’s disturbing you, write about it as if it is someone else describing it
- Create a list of questions to answer each day and fill in the blanks, such as “Right now I feel …”, “Today I felt like…”, “When… happened, I felt…”
- Write about what is good and bad about the key areas of your life, such as your health, relationships, your home, work life, your spiritual/religious well-being, finances, and emotional well-being
- Imagine and describe how you would want your life to be and who you would like to be in a year’s time or five years time
“Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.”
~ Robin Sharma