Writing a journal can actually lead to more than just insight. It can improve mindfulness, self-acceptance and improve relaxation.
New research shows that writing about feelings is key to handling difficult emotions – like regret — and leads toward self-compassion and self-acceptance.
“Being kind to oneself is an excellent way of letting go of past disappointments, embarrassments and failures.”
It often seems best to be self-critical when we’ve done something shameful and then move on past that “icky” feeling quickly. This research confirms that actually living with it — or writing about it — and then accepting our faults actually leads to healing.
I have journaled for many years, diving deeply into emotions, thoughts, and relationship issues. It has been a form of self-therapy that has been incredibly helpful. I would find it very powerful to journal immediately after a therapy session to record and deepen the experience and emotions. Journaling helped me sort through difficult relationship problems, make decisions, and get to know myself after a lifetime of disowning my thoughts and feelings.
According to the Center for Journal Therapy, journaling is the “the purposeful and intentional use of reflective writing to further mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and, wellness .”
A gratitudejournal can be especially helpful at building self-compassion skills.
It is fascinating that other recentresearch is even showing that handwriting is similar to meditation in that it calms our brain and balances the right and left sides of the brain. Computer use strengthens the left side of the brain, while handwriting strengthens the right.
Handwriting also slows us down and keeps us in the present moment, a more relaxed state than over-thinking and worrying.
Because I am a very fast keyboarder, I often wanted to write my journal on the computer. But I intuitively knew that this would not lead to the most evocative experience. Handwriting forces us to slow down our mind and body, so that we can access our feelings. It was amazing how often insights would spring up even as I journaled about a dream, experience or feeling. I would be writing about what I thought was the real meaning, when a second, deeper meaning might pop into my brain. I’m not sure that would have happened if I had been keyboarding furiously.
I think for me one aspect that is key to the value of journaling as a healing tool is being non-judgmental. Many people avoid writing a journal because they fear sitting with pen hovered over paper and having “nothing to say.” This is often related to fear of not writing something that isn’t “perfect” and feeling self-judgment about that. Yet learning to write without self-criticism can be a valuable exercise in learning to be less self-critical in our thoughts.
So just let it flow out, with no filter or worry about what others will think — because no one will read the journal, anyway! You’ll gain the benefits of self-acceptance, emotional regulation and mindfulness.