Write On!

Journaling for Adults

By Jessica Herrington

Photo by Erin Kohlenberg
Photo by Erin Kohlenberg

You might think that writing in a journal is something only 10-year-olds do. I, for one, had several diaries when I was a child: a Minnie Mouse one with a tiny lock; a dark green one that said “Capricorn” across the top, with a picture of the goat in the middle; a light blue one with a picture of a wolf on the cover; and one speckled black and pink with faeries dancing across the front and back.

I recently started writing in a journal for the first time since I was 14. I’m not sure why, because a lot of significant events took place during the past decade, things that I think should have definitely been written about, if not simply for the sake of recording than as a means of working through and making sense of them.

The quality of my journal entries has naturally matured from such thoughts as “my brother is a big fat tattletale who steals my toys,” “my mom is mean because she made me eat broccoli,” and “I have a crush on Angel from Buffy,” to more “grown-up” issues that are far too personal to give specific examples here. My journaling now deals with school, debt, relationships, family, and employment. In other words: dealing with life, becoming an adult.

I returned to journaling with the help of a boyfriend who bought me a pale green journal with the words “Believe in yourself” inscribed across the top and inspirational quotes on every few pages. I was going through a particularly hard time and needless to say, writing it all down helped. I would angrily scribble incoherent drivel across the pages: this was my therapy.

Keeping a journal can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, manage stress, build self-esteem, solve problems more effectively, let go of the past, and resolve conflicts with others. Or, as has been my case, can simply be an outlet for venting. Writing out your anger, sadness, or pain can help reduce the intensity of these feelings; you’ll feel calmer afterwards.

There are probably times when you aren’t sure of what to think or feel, and your emotions can be confusing. Taking the time to scribble them out—even on a scrap piece of paper—can help you get in touch with your inner self. Writing can also help you understand yourself. You’ll learn what makes you happy, what you want, and you’ll have a clearer perspective on situations and people, all of which are essential to your emotional well-being.

We typically use the left side of our brain to solve problems analytically. Writing occupies this part of the brain, freeing up our right-side, the more creative and intuitive half. By engaging this side, unexpected solutions to problems may arise. Also, writing about misunderstandings you’ve had with others—rather than keeping them bottled up—can help you gain perspective and understand another’s point of view.

Research has also shown that writing can also have a positive effect on your physical health. It can lower blood pressure, reduce depression, improve cognitive function, strengthen the immune system and decrease symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions.

Photo by 30dagarmedanalhus
Photo by 30dagarmedanalhus

And of course, keeping a journal doesn’t have to be only for letting out those negative emotions; it can be for recording happy and significant events as well. This is just as beneficial because you can record every detail in the now, so that when you’re old and gray and quite possibly can’t recall every last detail of a particular story, there it all is for you, by you. It allows you to relive those wonderful moments and experience the joyous emotions you felt at the time all over again.

Sounds pretty great, eh? So whenever you’re feeling all jumbled inside, or whenever you have a great story to tell, take a few minutes to jot things down. And, as if there weren’t already enough advantages, you don’t have to worry about grammar, typos or penmanship. There are no critics and there are no editors. You don’t have to censor yourself because no one (hopefully) is going to see it. Write on!

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