by Lana Turnbull
Did you ever have a diary as a child? I did, and I remember how good it felt to pour out the highlights or low points of the day and then carefully turn the key and lock away my innermost thoughts so they were for my eyes only. Many of us keep journals as adults. For some of us our scribblings are just daily notations of weather and activities, for others they are the parables of our deepest secrets. Either way, we are now learning that the simple act of writing down our thoughts is not only good for the soul, but for the body as well. It turns out that researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found that people who write about their deepest thoughts and feelings, especially those thoughts about upsetting events, have stronger immunity and visit their doctors half as often as non-writers. More recently at the State University of New York at Stoneybrook, a study indicated that writing about stressful experiences may reduce physical symptoms in patients with chronic illnesses.
It appears that writing helps the brain regulate emotions unintentionally. It really doesn’t matter if we keep a diary or journal, or if we write poetry or songs, as long as we are writing about our feelings, the results seem to be the same.
In addition to improving physical symptoms, writing can help relieve stress. Once we have written about what has been weighing on our minds, it seems to lift our mood because we are no longer carrying the disturbing thoughts around with us. Many people feel calmer and more spiritually at ease after chronicling their problems on the pages of a diary or journal.
Writing about the people in our lives can also help build stronger relationships. When we put our feelings about someone into words on paper or keyboard, it often puts us in touch with our own feelings about them and helps us understand them better.
For those of us who often feel scattered and find it difficult to get organized, writing can help with that too. The practice of structuring the day to write regularly seems to make us automatically develop stronger organization skills, such as list making and time management. Writing about our goals and what we hope to accomplish in our lives, also is an excellent tool to help us actually get those things done.
Best of all, keeping a diary can help us get to know ourselves. By allotting the time each day to express our feelings on paper or on the computer, we are acknowledging that our own thoughts and feelings are important and deserve the time and attention we would give to someone else for whom we care.
Journaling is an act of self-expression that can lead to self-discovery. It is a way to capture the events and emotions of the day and save them to think about another time. When we keep a diary or journal we are cataloging our memories. Over time, they become an irreplaceable treasure and a key to better understanding ourselves, and others.