Dear Sparkly Unicorns:
Seriously. That idiom about nothing being certain except death and taxes? That needs to be revised. I’m thinking: “Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and stress.” Amirite? Although, maybe it’s not true for everyone. After all, according to Gallup, 4% of the American population say they never feel stressed.Then again, perhaps 4% of the American population is engaged in a little bahooey. Ya think?
Stress is a sad fact of life but there are all kinds of things that you can do to manage it. Popular suggestions include increasing your physical activity (hello yoga!), eating healthier stuff (blech, kale), and getting appropriate amounts of shut-eye (give me call when you figure out how to do that - I need tips!). But, because I’m here on behalf of SohoSpark I’m gonna pitch journaling.
And I’m not even engaging in bahooey. Honest. Writing in a personal journal is a proven and effective method of managing stress.
How Journaling Helps to Manage Stress
No one knows for sure why journaling is an effective stress-buster. But there are several theories that make a lot of sense.
As an added bonus, journaling is highly accessible. While you should always seek professional care for mental health concerns, a journal is a terrific auxiliary tool. And it’s a tool that’s available to virtually everyone. If geography, income, or disability limits your access to professional health care, keep your journal on standby. And, if you have difficulty expressing yourself through the written word, turn to an art journal for the same benefits.
How to Max Out the Stress-Busting Benefits of Journaling
Just the act of unplugging, sifting through your thoughts, and brainstorming solutions provides immediate stress relief. But, there are a few things that you can do in your writing journal for extra benefit.
Whether you keep a journal specifically for gratitude or you incorporate gratitude entries into a personal diary, focusing on gratefulness is a great way to lighten the load of stress. As Yoni Cohen points out over at Happify Daily, studies show that “focusing on feelings of contentment and satisfaction naturally counters stress, and leaves you feeling much more grounded and able to deal with whatever life throws at you.”
As you practic gratitude, you’ll find yourself seeking the bright side of things. As well, you’ll be recording positive thoughts that you can look back at later. Both of these things set you up to increase happiness and decrease stress.
For tips and inspo on gratitude journaling, check out my blog, “The Joyful Benefits of a Gratitude Journal.”
Stream of Consciousness Writing
Tamara Rahoumi makes a great point over at Rise and Shine: stream of consciousness writing is quite similar to meditation. She explains: “when you journal this way, you give your mind a total break from thinking, let alone stressing, as it instead focuses all of its (literal) brain power on keeping the words flowing. In a sense, this kind of journaling allows you to get lost in the words.” Meditation alone is a proven stress reliever. The act of releasing your thoughts to the page offers stress release as well. Kind of a two-for-one deal. #TotallyWorthIt
Sometimes writing prompts can help you dig a little deeper or look at things from a new perspective. This can lead to the discovery of more effective solutions. If this sounds appealing, go ahead a google up “stress relief journal prompts.” There are lots of great suggestions out there; some of the ones that speak to me are:
Stress can get overwhelming at times, but journaling can help, especially if you use certain methods to max out the benefits.
If you already journal specifically for stress relief, what tips and tricks work best for you? Drop me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
This blog post was written in recognition of Stress Awareness Day, which is celebrated annually on the first Wednesday each November.
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If you’re thinking that idea journals are for fully-formed, brilliant, world-changing ideas, stop right there. Idea journals are for all kinds of ideas, including those that need to be incubated for awhile. These journals can include all kinds of things, such as daily goals, achievements, observations, quotes, artwork, and ephemera. They're not so much about fully fledged ideas as they are about inspiration.
As I’ve watched my journals fill up over the past yeat, I’ve had some revelations. I've been on a journey towards self-improvement without even realizing it. Self-improvement through journaling can be focussed and goal-oriented. For example, you could write down your goals and brainstorm ways to achieve them. But self-improvement can also happen serendipitously, as you work through issues and review your journal entries for patterns and revelations.
There is no wrong way to journal. Well, actually, there IS one wrong way--being too negative. But other than that, your journal can be whatever you want it to be. Since there are no rules to follow, you can't be horrible at it. But, finding your personal journaling niche can take some trial and error. You may be feeling overwhelmed by all the options. Or, you may have chosen the wrong option and have gotten stuck because it doesn't work for you. If you're currently not journaling but you want to, here's a little push to get you back on track.