Written by: Dale Darley, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise
Saving your life with journaling all sounds a bit dramatic, doesn’t it? And had I not experienced the power of journaling, I’d probably be right there with you scoffing at the very idea.
Of course, you may be a long term journaler and sagely nodding your head, wishing others knew about this incredible secret club. A club where we hoard boxes of colored pens and an equal number of beautiful journals waiting to receive our deepest secrets and genius ideas.
I was asked recently when I started journaling. I shocked myself when I realized that it was well over 30 years ago. This is discounting the years of silk-covered diaries held together with tiny locks that silently kept my scribbled and fearful teenage angst within the narrow lined pages.
30 years of pouring my heart out is a long time to be practicing anything, isn’t it? But that is a testament to the learning and personal growth that I have gained. Naturally, over the years, the way I journal has changed. Years ago it was all emotional pain, which in the dead of night was turned into strange, strangled prose or odd short stories where everyone who had ever wronged me saw a sticky end.
My journal has supported me through redundancy, relationship endings, going into business, changing direction and the most life-changing thing to date healing a fractured spine. Having a fractured spine effectively put an end to normal life for over a year. It wasn’t just a case of healing my spine; there were other complications. All of which meant I was unable to work, and for many months I couldn’t even walk properly without being in excruciating pain. At the time, I consulted my journal and my heart and decided that my savings needed to be spent on supporting and healing me. Writing about it gave me clarity and a sense of purpose.
When there were nights when I did not want to be here, my journal held me and soaked up my tears and pain. In the light of a new day, it never seemed quite so bad as it had the night before. My journal held all of the research needed to heal myself. I studied practically every system of the human body, looking at how everything interacted and what I needed to deal with first. I drew endless pathways, which were eventually turned into patterns of healing. I astounded myself in front of medical experts talking about this stuff and suggesting to them what needed to be done. Journaling also gave me the confidence to express my ideas. I set goals such as I have a healed, healthy spine in six months. It actually took longer; however, there were many successes along the way.
When I eventually returned to running my business, I was able to brainstorm ideas, set goals and work out where to focus my energy. All of this has evolved into something I call journaling magic, where there are no rules other than I make it work for me. Journaling magic covers freewriting, using prompts, oracle cards, mandalas, affirmations, and gratitude, all done when intuitively they each feel right. I have a routine where I greet a new journal with writing and reviewing my bucket list for my soul (what I want), where I am, who I want to be, my big life goal, smaller goals and envisioning the future. This forces me (gently) back on track with what I want in my life. All of this ensures I have clarity, meaning and purpose.
So what could you expect from journaling?
There are many many benefits to journaling, but as I said earlier, journaling could save your life and where best to start than with the physical and emotional benefits.
Your health is your wealth. This has been the driving force for my life. Journaling has proven time and again to help fight stress (and anxiety). Stress is one of the worst things for our health. It affects all aspects of our life, including our diet, sleep and mood.
On top of that, it releases damaging hormones into our bodies. Reducing stress is often the trigger to a whole host of health benefits. As a stress relief tool, journaling can actually boost your physical health and well being. People who journal:
Have a better immune system
Tend to want to explore natural treatments and are big fans of self care
Often heal quicker
This is because it all goes back to the stress component. The very act of writing about things you are connected to emotionally activates certain areas in your brain. When these areas are activated, you can more efficiently process what life throws at you. However, I like to believe that life happens for me and not to me and that there are lessons in everything.
Journaling supports your mood and enables you to function cognitively at a higher level. All of which helps you come up with creative solutions to any potential problems or stressors in your life. In short, journaling gives some of the benefits you’d get if you were ranting to your best friend – not that you would do that (too often) – would you?
As I said earlier, people who journal are less stressed, have better immune systems, heal faster, and tend to enjoy a better quality of life. Nowhere is this more evident than in people who are going through serious medical issues such as, in my case, healing fractures from Osteoporosis. Not all the benefit is from mere stress reduction, though. Journaling has been proven to raise the quality of life – it did mine and continues to do so. Those who journal while dealing with a severe medical condition do better in accepting their diagnosis, processing everything going along with it and looking for ways to support their healing. In my experience, I have seen people with illness fare far better in treatment (natural or otherwise) than those who never journal.
Managing your emotions
Emotions are fundamental to human life; they keep us safe and help us experience life. However, they are often poorly understood. A lot of research has gone into defining emotions, what they mean, how we experience the intensity of them and what they mean to us. The fascinating thing about emotions is that what we experience will differ from others. So, my experience of anger will be different from yours. You may fly into a rage, where I will only feel annoyance – yet we both describe it as anger.
One issue with emotions is the ability to really feel each part of the emotion, understanding what that emotion means to you, the sensations you have inside your body and the thoughts that run through your mind. The more you can observe these and understand them, the more you can use these emotions for your benefit. A great way to notice your emotions is to stop regularly enter the space within and note what you are feeling. In this way, you can truly feel them in full. Don’t judge them as bad or good. Just note them. Writing these in your journal will help you to process them. Also, noticing how other people behave can be very illuminating and improve your understanding of self. Your journal can help you work through emotions in a healthy way. You will be able to reframe them and refocus in a more productive way. When you stop during the day, ask yourself:
What your current state of mind is
Ask yourself what your most dominant emotion is
Note the intensity, e.g. Fear – fearful to terrified
Make a note of anything else that seems relevant, like the trigger, who you were with, the environment and what was happening at the time
Reframing is the way that you choose to see something from another perspective. In your journal, you can go on an adventure and explore the root of any triggers, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. When you find the memory, make a conscious choice to see the past in a new way. I look at the past with gratitude and appreciation, which enables me to see the lessons, gifts and benefits. A simple way to reframe is to change; I can’t into I can.
The you now perspective
Your journal enables you to ask questions, be curious and explore your past from the you now perspective. The emotions that you once experienced will now feel different. This will help you to understand yourself and others better. In this way, you can use your journal to scramble the script and tell a new story. When you do this, you can give them a better meaning and learn more about how to manage them in the present. This provides wonderful opportunities for growth and the future you.
When you see your stories in black and white, please be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Your journal is not a place for judgments. Take the stand of this has happened for me (to learn and grow) and not to me. By being responsible for your emotions and embracing what you learn over time, you will see your transformation.
Being emotionally intelligent
Emotional intelligence is about better understanding yourself and your emotions while understanding others and their feelings. Daniel Goleman, from his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, suggests the following model for managing your emotions.
Knowing your emotions
Managing your own emotions
Recognizing and understanding other people’s emotions
Managing relationships, i.e., managing the emotions of others
Journaling enables you to see patterns and pictures in managing your emotions and how you interact with others. You can also practice reframing your emotions and holding assertive conversations in your journal before having to face anyone in the flesh. All of which will improve your emotional intelligence.
Goals, dreams and desires
Journaling can help you achieve your goals, dreams and desires because it will force you to think about them, consider the why and how, and delve deeper into the situation so that you can examine all sides of it.
It encourages you to write down your goals, dreams and desires – When I start a journal, I reframe and review my goals, dreams and desires. Whether you write them down on paper or you use technology to get it all down doesn’t matter. However, I am biased and believe that journaling is more effective because of the powerful connection between the paper and our brain. Once they’re written, they are ready to tackle. I start with what I call a bucket list for my soul. This lets me get everything out that I want. My big life dream gets turned into a goal, and other smaller goals fall out of this.
It makes you consider why and how – As you write in your journal, you’ll be forced to face the why and how of your goals. This is especially true if you write them down and use your journal to create a focus. I sort my bucket list and goals into focus areas and use these to create daily aligned and inspired actions.
It enables you to examine the blocks and resistance – When you are focused on goals, in your journal, you’ll also be able to (and want to) explore blocks and resistance coming your way. It helps you avoid roadblocks in advance and creates a space for opportunities.
It makes you develop steps for success based on your goals – When you see it written down, you’ll become very aware of what to put into in a plan and what task go into your calendar (to-do list) for scheduling.
It helps you improve goal and intention setting – Each time you set intentions (present moment) and intentionally set goals (future-focussed) or write about your dreams and desires, you can define the steps you need to achieve them (a plan with daily aligned and inspired actions). When you actually do them, you are setting yourself up to improving your life and the direction you want to go in.
It provides accountability – Even if no one else is reading your journal, a private journal can help you become accountable to yourself and your goals. By writing down your daily actions, you will start to become accountable, and you will enjoy being able to write your success in the back of your journal. That is, of course, if you have actually carried out your action list.
It provides a permanent record – Having a permanent record of the things you’ve done in your life, whether it’s personal or work, is a beautiful thing. Hardly anyone has a perfect memory, so the wisdom you get from reflecting on how far you have traveled is priceless.
It may be inspirational – Depending on the journal, you might even be able to take the information and insights gained and turn them into something like a book, blog or course to inspire others.
Journaling is an excellent way to work toward achieving all your goals, dreams and desires. It will even help you make better goals and set clearer intentions because the process of writing in your journal and reflecting will enable you to see the patterns and pictures of your life. This may help to ‘save’ your life, career or business as you will be able to see what works and what doesn’t from the feedback and reflections in your journal. You’ll know when to change direction and where to place your focus.
You can express yourself freely
Being able to put into words how you perceive and experience the world is a feeling like no other. The very act of doing so provides you with a sense of satisfaction. After all, these are your impressions that your unique voice wants to express. Expressing yourself through writing is also healing. This is where you can begin to find your voice, step into your personal power, reclaim your confidence and become more assertive.
Your creativity is ignited
The more you write, the more you’ll see how things fit together. You will start to see patterns and pictures and get wonderful aha moments. When you start your exploration with a “what if…” or ‘I wonder’ you will make big creative leaps, leading you into fresh, new territory waiting to be explored. Encouraging your creativity to come out to play is invaluable in life and in business. Some of my best ideas have shown up when I am more relaxed with my pen poised.
You make sense of the order of things
Writing things down helps you to easily see what you need to do and how to go about doing it. Again this is slowing yourself down to check that all of the steps make sense. Of course, it can be a little frustrating when you have scribbled all of the steps down to find that you have missed some vital parts. My journal is full of ideas and scribbles that just get more and more clarity as I write and reflect.
Your learning is cemented
I love the way that writing things down cements your learning. There is a connection between your hand, brain and the paper that differs to how you might write on a computer. I have personally found that I remember more when I handwrite, and I have a deeper emotional connection. Handwriting will slow you down so that you take the time to learn rather than speeding along at a rate of knots just to get the information down. Even though it can seem longer than typing, you really will retain more for longer.
Your writing improves
The daily act of writing improves your connection with words and language. I’ve noticed that the way that I express myself in my journal has changed over time. I have been able to explore how to use new words. The exploration of different words in my journal means that I have a safe space away from judgment to take risks with my writing. Daily journaling trains the writing muscle and keeps it fit. Much needed when you are required to use words in all aspects of your life.
Your personal stories are captured
If you want to write your story, this is a great place to start. Your journal becomes a record of your life. No one else is experiencing the world in the same way you are. Your impressions, the way that you live your life have importance. In your journal, you preserve what it means to be you, here in this moment for your future self—and even generations to come. When you have been able to express your voice and discover how to create a life of meaning and purpose, you will potentially want to inspire others to do the same. Journaling is a stepping stone to becoming a writer, ready to stretch your wings and fly into the world of stories, blogs and books if you so desire.
So there we have it the many benefits that come from journaling that could save your life, career or business. With so many reasons to journal, the only question remaining is when will you get started.
For more information, please visit my website!
Dale Darley, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dale works with her clients to help them to discover the magic in their story, through the power of writing, journaling and energy work. Dale is an expert at getting your story out and finding the essence of who you are, what you want to become and supporting you to get what you want, through coaching and programs. She believes that writing heals, and her vision and mission is to create a community of people who find clarity, purpose and meaning through their writing. That these people go on to inspire others to know what is possible in the world. Dale holds an MBA from The University of Glamorgan and an ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching certificate. She served in senior marketing management roles in the IT and manufacturing sectors before working for herself.