One of the lesser-known facts about me is that throughout my teen years, I was an avid Diary writer.
Dear diary, why my life is so messed up, why my parents don’t understand me…the usual. Everything that happened, anything of consequence that is, went right into my journal.
Sometimes, when I was low, I’d read back to some pages and immediately realise I’ve probably dealt with worst. On the days I was feeling lighter, I would read a few excerpts and laugh away to glory.
Right about the time when I was in my third-year engineering, i.e., entry of boys into my life, I stopped. There were letters to write (Yes, I am a dinosaur who lived before mobiles), boyfriends to meet, where was the time? Then engineering morphed into MBA and then job and then started the mad race called life. The small act of writing a diary took a back seat.
In the last few years, I picked a diary many times, thinking of penning down something but stopped short. Isn’t writing a Diary a very teenagish thing to do? Or probably if you are a super scientist and have to record each idea/thought. But since I was neither, I didn’t. Then I became a mom, and the thing about being a mom is along with your time, your brain space gets filled instantly. There were days I survived in autopilot. Completely feeling stuck in life, I thought I wanted but didn’t know how to enjoy. I had managed to create an experience that I had wanted all along, but the feeling of euphoria, smiles, contentment that I thought I would feel wasn’t there. As a part of coaching, we need to get coached ourselves as well; each time in a session, I would bring this up and figure out with my coach to get through this feeling of existing and not living, each time I would come back with a shiny action item for myself. Each time it would work for a few days, weeks, months, and eventually, it would always go back to the same feeling. Until one fine day, I picked up a diary to do the math to analyse why? What ended up were pages and pages of all unrelated thoughts, which made perfect sense to me, helped me sort my head, and, surprisingly, I felt lighter. It was as if someone had tidied up my brain. And that was not the only thing, journaling also helps in
1. Improves Immune Function – Research has shown that journaling can impact your physical well-being positively. James Pennebaker, a psychologist at Austin, University of Texas, contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. (Source, thepsychcentral.com)
2. Helps Organise your thought - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle/ Sherlock Holmes said - ‘I’ve always believed the human brain is like an attic: storage space, facts, but because that space is finite, it must be filled only with things one needs to be the best version of oneself.’ But does social media let you stop filling your brains? Stories, posts, DMs a hundred things to remember. Journaling helps in putting everything that your mind has on paper and then filling it back up with only needed.
3. Reduces Stress – Anyone who works in any form in or around the mental health industry swears by journaling. Journaling is a great stress management tool. Scientists say journaling helps the brain get away from the flight or fight response to stress (the red zone) towards the green zone, where a person feels calm and content.
A 2005 study conducted at Cambridge University found that individuals who write for 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times a week experienced fewer stress-related visits to the doctor, improved immune system functionality, a feeling of greater psychological well-being, and reduced blood pressure. (source, Theheartfoundation.org)
4. Boost Creativity: Journaling helps you to act on situations rather than react. When you write your thoughts down, you can get to ideas before they vanish like the next twitter feed. Expressive writing takes away the feeling of being on autopilot and lets you reflect on your day; it gives you a new perspective. And lets you enter the elusive blue zone (creative, innovative) of your brain because it is not caught up trying to pick the sift through trash to find gold.
5. Increases your emotional Quotient - The top four pillars of Emotional Intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman (the founder of EQ), are Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Internal motivation, and Empathy - Journaling ranks high on all four, e.g., A client of mine through journaling realised that there is a correlation between her foul mood and her eating habits (Self Awareness). That caused her to stock some healthy options in her drawer so that she doesn’t go hungry for long (Self-Regulation). Eating healthy and regularly helped her lose weight and improve relationships (she used to get Hangry) motivated her to do better in other areas of her life. Having made the discovery herself, she also learnt to recognise it in others (Empathy).