The practice of journaling has received significant attention as one of the most affordable and helpful wellness activities. While we know many of our greatest minds, both artists and scientists, kept journals, the activity has only recently been subject to rigorous study. The results of these studies have been surprising: journaling, it turns out, is an activity that is tremendously, wildly helpful. While some benefits to journaling may seem more obvious, like boosting memory, clarifying thinking, and boosting mindfulness, other benefits are little more surprising like improved sleep, a stronger immune system, and a higher IQ.

Processing Trauma

One of the most powerful uses of journaling is that it provides a safe, self-regulated space to acknowledge and process traumatic events. It organizes events in the mind, keeping the subconscious from chronically processing traumatic (even minimally traumatic) events as we sleep. Better sleep leads to better immunity and, pretty much everything.

Self-Confidence and Self-Love

Journaling can also improve our communication skills and help our self-confidence. As we clarify our thinking, voice (and hopefully let-go of) our silly or unhelpful thoughts we can embrace our better ideas, our more mature and nuanced ideas. Writing is also inherently an activity of both emotion and cognition, thus it helps unify the mind and emotions. Bringing heart to our thoughts, and logic and clear thinking to our hurts.

Many Ways to Journal, Pick What Works for You

There are many ways to journal. By writing first thing in the morning, before you are fully awake, the subconscious may be more alive. Stream-of-conscious writing can help reveal ourselves to ourselves. The ensuing creativity and unguarded release can be a cathartic unloading of the subconscious. It can help us to be more honest with ourselves and and assist in our creative and self-exploration.

However, more controlled journaling can help as well, in fact, writing about traumatic events may be one of the most helpful forms of journaling and has a lot of scientific support. As long as the journaling doesn’t devolving into persistent rumination, it can help process and release trauma. Combine trauma writing with a gratitude and idea journal to help ensure your journaling helps process emotion AND is a supportive practice in finding helpful and skillful solutions to life’s problems.

But Where to Start?

So, what should you write about? Only your subconscious mind and the inner workings of your heart know the answer to this. It’s best to not overthink it. Once you get started, usually ideas flow so fast it’s hard to keep up. While typing is temping to keep pace with the ideas, hand-writing has the best support, especially if you want to retain what you’ve written.

Gratitude is Key

If you are really stuck, start with one thing you are grateful for and one thing that was challenging about the day. Try to describe these events, reliving them and giving them life. This helps your brain work through what occurred, so that that, hopefully, you spend less time in the middle of the night working on it. End the session by thanking your journal, your pen, and location for “holding space” for you. Why not? Gratitude is a helpful ritual to make sure we come back the next day for more and move forward in our day (or sleep) with grace.

This is one of the many self-love and self-care methods we recommend at SpiritQuest. Check out our Healing Retreats which contain sessions such as: Insights into Self and Being in Acceptance and Grace.