We believe there are many reasons why keeping a creative journal is good for the mind, body and spirit and part of our mission is to get everyone to keep one. No matter who you are, we strongly believe that creative journalling will be of benefit to you, particularly in the situation we have all found ourselves in since this time last year. With this in mind, we have put together five positive mental health benefits of keeping a creative journal.
Hopefully, one of these (at least), will prompt you to start your adventure in creative journalling.
1. DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognise and manage your emotions, how to label these emotions and acknowledging how and when to use them as appropriate. It also enables you to look at you deal with others and recognise their emotions. It has been in use as a phrase for over 50 years, but was made popular in the mid-90s by then science journalist, Daniel Goleman. His book, Emotional Intelligence has sold millions of copies worldwide.
As an outlet for processing emotions and increasing self-awareness, keeping a creative journal is great. Emotional Intelligence is developed through empathy and the combination of conscious writing and reflection on what you have written relate strongly to the four key areas of self-awareness; awareness of self and others; social skills and self-management as identified by Goleman.
2. ACHIEVING GOALS
Creative journalling often includes your dreams, ambitions and goals, particularly if you include vision pages. You may be forgiven for thinking that by merely writing or drawing a series of goals for the future is not going to make a jot of difference to what happens in the future, but you could be wrong.
By commiting your future goals to paper in some way, your brain recognizes them as important and your reticular activating system (RAS) will be looking subconsciously for people, opportunities and tools to achieve what you have in mind, much like the ideology behind the Law of Attraction. You can enhance your RAS in three simple steps:
· Think of the goal you want to achieve
· Think of the end result when the goal is achieved (feeling/experience)
· Visualise how the goal turns out (favourably) as if you were creating a mental film of it. Imagine the sounds, conversations, feelings and visual aspects and replay it in your head as often as you can.
The more detail you put in to each goal, the more likelihood you have of achieving it.
3. EMOTIONALLY HEALING
Not only does keeping a creative journal help with emotional healing, it can help with physical and psychological issues too. Stress often comes from emotional blockages and overthinking hypotheticals and in his book, Writing to Heal Dr James Pennebaker explains how some participants in his research saw improved immune function purely from expressive writing exercises. He explained that when experience is translated into language it makes it more ‘graspable’ and by doing so you are freed from being tangled in traumas.
Other studies have shown that the emotional release derived from creative journalling lowers anxiety, stress, and induces better sleep. One such study found that by setting 15 minutes aside each night for creative journalling about a recent positive experience, what happened and how it felt, gave participants a much better night’s sleep. Another research project discovered that a similar effect was achieved by describing how the next day will play out in a positive way. A few short lines or bullet points such as ‘Tomorrow I will wake up full of energy’ or ‘I will achieve at least three things on my to do list’ have similar positive effects.
4. BOOSTING COMPREHENSION & MEMORY
Words and images are representations of ideas, situations and events in creative journalling. Writing in particular is said to have specific comprehension and memory boosting properties. It’s long been known that there is a unique relationship between the hand and the brain and writing by hand has been found to improve the chances of the information being stored for later. The brain is forced to process the information in detail and store in your memory. In her book, The Art of Memory Dame Frances Yates tells how ancient Greeks created an elaborate memory system (which was inherited by the Romans) based on a technique of ‘engraving’ places and images on the mind, much in the same vein as the act of writing.
Not only does creative journalling boost memory and comprehension, it also increases working memory (the memory which helps us learn and perform even basic tasks) capacity. This, in turn, has been reflected in improved cognitive processing, the ability to take in information and transform it, store it, recover it, and use it.
5. IMPROVING SELF-CONFIDENCE
Using prompts that will help you improve your self-esteem is a terrific way to look after your mental health. Use simple prompts like these:
· What unique talent do I have?
· What was the last compliment you were given? Who was it given by?
· List three things that you did right today.
· Have you made a mistake in the last week? If so, how can you prevent that from happening again?
· List five things you are grateful for.
· How would your best friend describe you?
Creative journalling in this way allows your brain to relive a positive experience when you write or represent it in images. The release of endorphins and dopamine that happens will boost your self-esteem and overall mood, eradicating those feelings of self-doubt that everyone is prone to once in a while. Writing in this way can become a record of personal achievements and successes that you can go back to again and again.
So there you have it. Five excellent reasons why keeping a creative journal is beneficial to mental health. Just a few minutes, whenever you have the time, to write or create images that express how you feel can have long-term benefits. What are you waiting for? Start your creative journalling adventure today!