Journaling means keeping a record of your thoughts and activities. However, while journal keepers may focus on the present and record daily events, journaling moves beyond just a list of activities, like you might record in a diary or calendar. Journaling calls for more self-expression and reflection.
A journal is a private endeavor, and you’ll find that you are more honest when you know it’s for your eyes only. But you can use the information you collect to write memoirs, recollections, or an oral history for your family and heirs. Researchers have been studying the effects of journaling since the 1970s, and they’ve found that the practice has many benefits for seniors and can help anyone live a fuller, more present life. Here are some of the most important reasons you should be journaling.
- To Record Your Life Experiences
Revisiting journal entries is a good way to gather information for memoirs or family histories. While your journal can stay private, you can gather information from it to pass information about your life on to future generations.
- To Keep Your Mind Active
Several studies in the 1990s and 2000s showed that journaling helps older adults keep their mind active and their communication skills sharp. Journaling may be able to help slow down memory loss, and it can also compensate for memory loss by allowing you to document and revisit past decisions and actions.
- To Manage Stress
Journaling can help you manage stress by prioritizing your fears and tracking your anxieties. Writing down your thoughts can help clear your head. According to psychology instructor Laurie Anderson, who teaches at the College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota, positive journaling – where you focus on gratitude and positive self-task – can guide you through times of anxiety and grief. She also reminds us that, if you’re working through grief, journals provide a place to look back and see how far you’ve come.
- To Help with Rehabilitation
People who are undergoing medical treatment or recovering from an illness can use a journal to help them share your feelings and experiences with nurses or caregivers, which can help with rehabilitation and therapy. Expressing yourself in a journal can help you focus on what you need to work on in your recovery or what’s going well.
- To Fight Depression
Journaling has been shown to help with symptoms of depression, help older adults come to terms with aging and lifestyle changes, and help people enjoy the present.
Other research has shown that people who are going through medical issues are more enthusiastic about tackling daily activities if they write for 20 minutes a day in a journal.
- To Sleep Better
In 2003, researchers at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that patients who kept a journal about their experiences with cancer slept better and longer than those who didn’t.
Remember that journaling doesn’t have to be paper based. Technology like blogs, Word and other word processing applications, and specialized journaling apps help you keep up the habit of writing daily and let you incorporate photos and other graphics into your journal. If you’re interested in taking your journal high tech, check out some of the most popular journaling applications like Day One (good for quick entries), Diarium (good for dictation), and Glimpses (which is available for free).