I must admit, I hated journaling. Maybe you do too. Because I hated it, I kept giving myself reasons to not do it. But when I finally started journaling regularly, I noticed that it had profound lasting effects on my mind, body, and mood. So in this blog post, I will share some positive things that I noticed since I started journaling. So if you're like me, and hate journaling, hopefully, you'll find this useful. And if you are someone who loves journaling, hopefully, this blog post can offer new insights on why you love it, and offer new ways to reap its benefits.
1. My journaling time became an experience
Prior to journaling, my mornings were always rushed. I wake up with just enough time to get myself ready for work. At first, journaling was just another task I had to do before work. But as time passed, I really began to enjoy the quiet time of slowing down and reflecting. And over time, journaling became an event. As I sat down to journal, I would have my fruit smoothie breakfast along with my coffee, to enhance my enjoyment of the calm and quiet. And when I felt like being a little extra, I would play some chill music in the background.
Journaling became more than just putting a pen on paper. It became an event. And because I enjoy it so much, I always made sure I slept early enough, so I can wake up a bit earlier to have an abundance of time to enjoy the experience. It is also incredible to start my day off with quietness. It brings focus and calmness to the rest of my day.
2. Writing things on paper is not the same as thinking about it
I used to be annoyed with writing, because it took too long. Heck, why can’t I just reflect about things in my head? It’s so much faster! But as it turns out, we are constantly having new thoughts and feelings. Because our brains are so busy, it makes it very difficult to focus and reflect on one single idea/thought. Writing helps slow our brains down. It forces me to focus on one idea, one feeling, at a time. It also helps me reflect on which feeling/idea I want to discuss at each moment. As a result, journaling has my reflection process much more intentional.
Slowing my thoughts down also helps me attain a deeper introspection. I stick with a feeling/idea longer, which leads to deeper insights. And because I have to translate my thoughts into coherent sentences onto paper, it made me express myself much clearer. This is especially helpful with understanding my emotions and mood. As a result, journaling has made me much more precise when expressing my internal state.
3. Journaling made me more reflective throughout the entire day
My brain actually works differently since I started journaling, because journaling and introspection exercise is kind of like weightlifting for my brain. Since I’m already in it, let me continue with the analogy of physical training. Since having reached 30 years of age, I started to have backpain. After seeing a few specialists, I started doing back exercises. And over the course of two weeks of training, I noticed that I was standing straighter, and my posture was better.
Same with journaling, which is a training regimen for my reflective and introspective abilities. Since I started journaling, I began to notice that I was better at recognizing when my mood and feelings were elevated. I recognized the signs in my body (e.g. tight shoulders, faster heart rate, breathing faster), and also recognized the state of my mind (e.g. racing thoughts, difficulty focusing). Once I recognized it, I was able to use strategies to get my mind and body back to the baseline. And for added bonus, I flag these moments for my next journal entry. It’s now part of my habit to notice how I’m feeling from moment-to-moment, and journaling it the next day.
4. More reflection can lead to less avoidance
It’s really easy (and effective!) to avoid or distract ourselves from engaging in unpleasant experiences. However, the more we avoid or distract ourselves from things that scare us or make us anxious, the more power we give it. And because avoidance and distraction are such effective strategies to avoid unpleasant feelings, we learn to use it more and more. These strategies can be helpful, but when used too often, it can increase our fears and make us further paralyzed with anxiety.
Journaling is a way to practice facing my fears, anxiety, and unpleasant feelings. Instead of focusing on the fear, I channel my curiosity. What am I scared of? Why am I anxious? Why does this experience make me uncomfortable? When I am curious with myself, it moves my brain away from being judgmental of myself, and towards self-compassion. As I use journaling as practice for facing my unpleasant feelings, I am better able to manage the moments of elevated emotions throughout the day. I am able to recognize these moments, remind myself to use strategies to get myself back to my baseline, and remind myself to engage in self-compassion.
5. I stopped journaling for a while. Then I had to find fresh ways to restart it. And it was fun.
As with any habit, I ended up breaking the daily journaling habit. The best way to figure out why you stopped journaling? Journal about it. Write about why you stopped journaling. Reflect on whether you want to continue journaling. And if you do, how can you make sure you do it. Currently, I am trying something new. I recently got a set of tarot cards. So, to get myself excited for journaling, I decided to pull a tarot card to use as the theme for my journal entry. What’s great is that I get to interpret the theme however I want. And once this gets me started, I will gradually flow into introspection. I may follow the theme loosely, or scrap it altogether.
Finding fresh ways to do things keeps me from feeling stale and stagnant. It also gives me a level of excitement and fun. Perhaps that will help you as well, in any habit or activity that you are engaged in.
As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, get my free Asian Survival Guide.
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Therapy for Asians
MSW, RSW | he/him
I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.