Journaling is enjoying a bit of a renaissance lately, right up there with meditation and mindfulness. Back in the ’70s, Julia Cameron popularized journaling as a way to get rid of all the petty, whiny stuff that muddies our days in her bestseller, “The Artist’s Way.” But journaling is more than a way to clear your mind. Keeping a journal can help you get in touch with what’s truly important, while boosting your mood, memory, and even your immune system. If nothing else, it will make you a better writer. Here are five more benefits of journaling for you to consider:
- Preserve memories. Keeping a journal is a great way to record your life experiences. The act of writing will help refresh your memory, whether it’s something that happened yesterday on a walk or 20 years ago when you took that amazing trip to the Amalfi Coast. If you’re recording your memories for future generations, your thoughts and feelings will paint a richer picture than any photo can express.
- Maintain brain function. The process of writing involves several parts of your brain working together. Regions of the brain that involve visualization, speech, memory, learning and coordination are all activated by writing. This helps maintain neural connections between different parts of your brain, which may help you solve problems more effectively. Einstein, da Vinci and Marie Curie all kept a journal. Perhaps it helped them come up with unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems by using both sides of their brain — the analytical and the creative.
- Manage stress. Sometimes negative thoughts and emotions can run on a loop in our heads. Writing about them helps you process these emotions. Instead of bottling them up inside, you can identify what’s bothering you, understand it and consider different solutions to the problem. Keeping troubling thoughts buried within can lead to increased stress and lower your immune system’s ability to fight infection and disease. The benefits of journaling about your problems can help you cope with stress and give your physical health a boost.
- Gain a broader perspective. Journaling gives you an opportunity to better understand yourself and the world around you. If you’ve had a misunderstanding with someone, writing about it helps you see it from their point of view. You might think about how other people felt or why they behaved the way they did. Maybe it was something you hadn’t considered in the moment because you were too busy thinking about your feelings. Try journaling from someone else’s perspective and see how that changes your view of the world.
- Enjoy a creative outlet. A journal doesn’t have to be about your daily life. And it doesn’t have to be a form of therapy. Use your journal for creative writing, new recipes you’ve developed, or any number of topics you’re interested in, such as gardening, health or sports. Any subject you enjoy or want to explore further is fair game for journaling.
Explore the Many Different Types of Journaling
If you’re not sure what to write about, here are some journal prompts for seniors to get you started:
- Stream of consciousness: Write down your thoughts as they happen. The words and thoughts don’t need to make sense; you’re simply capturing your thoughts in action. If something comes up that’s scary or raw, don’t stop. Let your thoughts carry you away.
- Day’s events: Keep track of your experiences throughout the day. It could be s making note of a funny conversation, a current event you feel strongly about, or describing a new recipe you enjoyed.
- Food journal: Make a note of what you’ve eaten each day. This will help you be more mindful about the foods you choose to eat. Documenting what you ate can offer insight into areas you may need to change.
- Fitness journal: Keep track of your workouts so you can stay committed to an active lifestyle. The best part of keeping this type of journal is seeing the progress you made over time.
- Gratitude journal: Before going to sleep, make a list of everything you were thankful for that day, week, or month
- Memories and wisdom: Think about what made you happy years ago and what makes you happy now. Write down memories you have from childhood or young adulthood to keep them fresh in your mind.
- Just for fun: List things that make you laugh. Note your dreams each night as a way of getting in touch with your subconscious. Or pick something and make note of it every day, such as the names of flowers you’ve come across.
No matter which type of journal you decide to keep, there’s no right or wrong approach. You can share your writing if you wish or keep your journal private. Either way, the simple act of putting your thoughts down on paper can have a positive impact on your well-being.
Opportunities for journaling and writing are part of the wellness program at Brandon Wilde. Our intergenerational pen pal program, for example, helps connect residents with students. To learn more about the many ways we support residents’ well-being, visit our Wellness page.