Why Journalling Enhances Your Health, Creativity And Well-Being
Today I came across a quote by Henry Dobson which will qualify as one of those I’d like to tuck beneath my arm and ponder about as I go. Actually Henry (if he were still around) might be one of those guys you might deliberately avoid for being so utterly and brutally honest, having told one of those flabbergasting ‘in-your-face’ absolute truths in life. I’m afraid Henry was right. He even managed to make it sound like poetic lyrics to a slow ballad: ‘Time goes, you say? Alas. Time stays. We go’.
I know. It’s sobering and painful to be aware of how short our days are but the most confronting of all is perhaps our personal reflection on how wisely we’re each consuming our time-poor days.
Take my life for example. I’ve been burning the candle on both ends these days. It’s a lot of work getting ready for my soon to be launched online store in 2018 and I’m still buried under the process of my second edit for the manuscript of my first book, alongside other freelance writing projects. Sorry if this blogging space has been on the back burner. I’ll be the first to admit to not being ‘more present’ on busy stretches on my calendar where not an inch isn’t inked with rainbow strokes of neon highlights.
As a parent I long to be ‘more present’ but yet I find my kids raising their voices to get my attention. Of late, I’ve really only paid them any when they went to extremes. My six-year-old son would hop onto my back, then cover my eyes with his palms. It’s his ambush to stop me from reading and pencilling on my manuscripts. My poor little man had also resorted to pressing his face onto my nose as he groans, “Ma-meeee”… (look…at…me…please…)
So there you go, I’m sure I’m not alone in this guilt-ridden Groundhog Day as a parent or as just another time-poor citizen of the modern world we dwell in. This is why I’m thankful that I’ve always kept a journal since my middle school years. I’ll confess to dropping off a little with my journal habit in my full-time working years right up to when we moved to Australia in 2000. In 2003 (the year I battled cancer) I must’ve done the most journalling I ever did in my life…for obvious reason—therapy.
You guessed it. The same reason I made the decision to write to publish and started going freelance professionally only a few years ago. Writing is healing in a deeply intrinsic way and on top of my paid writing work I keep different journals to archive life each day and whenever possible, treasured moments. Journalling is writing letters to yourself and being your personal confidante. It helps me to hear myself think.
Recently I’ve been enjoying the journaling process far more than I ever have with the discovery of visual journalling. Think of it as decorating your page spreads. It allows me to combine two of my most favourite things; my love for visual art with writing. The Traveler’s Notebook leather cover journal has been one of life’s most wondrous finds for me as a creative person. Its flexibility as a visual sketching tool, journal, note-taker, planner and scrapbook throws open a whole possibility of artistic and creative expression that’s limited only by my imagination. All I need would be the TN’s various booklet refills (with or without printed calendar dates). These various refill booklets or inserts can be fastened to the leather cover with specially crafted elastic bands (they rather resemble my elastic band hair ties).
Whether we use a Traveler’s Notebook system or not, the point is to make time to capture time. For a writer, writing is satisfying because when we are long gone, our words will still remain. My journalling habit helps me to be more introspective; a therapeutic regular habit which I look forward to on a daily or weekly basis.
While it may also be one of my excuses to indulge in my stationery and crafting addiction, it’s also ‘serious fun’ that provides a much needed pause and a time slot designated to creating mindfulness.
By visual journalling, I’m no longer hindered by my writer’s block which can sometimes happen. Doodling, sketching, or decorating my journal or planner pages with washi tape, stickers, stamping and pasting memorabilia and papers is an active creative exercise that uses the right hemisphere of my brain while my journal writing utilises my left to access my intuitive, thoughtful and subjective awareness. I’d say I tend to write about how I feel in my journals rather than use it as a diary to record events, though I still do at times but only to remember the significant days.
Health and Mental Benefits Of Journalling
Many sources you’ll find online or in print greatly recommend journalling as a good habit to keep. ‘One begins journalling to begin experiencing the benefits of being able to clarify thoughts and feelings. Journalling removes mental blocks and allows us to use all of our brainpower to better understand ourselves, others and the world around us’ (Psyche Central).
Keeping a journal is about enhancing your well-being on many fronts. It isn’t just for people with ample time, like most would think. Neither is it for simply wanting to remember what you’ve eaten for lunch on 16 March, a decade ago (though please do go crazy with watercolours, airbrush or the like; if you if wish to artistically document your gourmet meal on your journal spreads). I’ve learned that to make time to journal is to make time to reflect on where and how I’m going before I go again to begin another day.
Top Influential Personalities Who Kept Journals
It’s fascinating how many well-known and influential personalities (writers, artists, musicians, inventors, politicians) in the past have kept volumes of personal journals. Amongst this great company were prolific icons such as Mark Twain, Issac Newton, Thomas Edison, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Ernest Hemingway, Ludwig van Beethoven, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin (source: art of manliness).
Franklin had reportedly devoted himself to a personal improvement program recorded in his journals that consisted of living 13 virtues daily. Hemingway’s journal notebooks were a staple he brought everywhere with him at the cafes he sat at with his drink, writing his new story ideas and on every of his travel adventures. Jefferson was a meticulous scientific documenter of botanicals, animal life, geography and climate all recorded in his seven large journals.
Surely there must be such joy to be found and greatness to be harnessed in the powerful habit of journalling regardless of our vocation, interests, faiths or age. Yet I wonder why so few I know journal these days!
It’s hard not to agree more that journalling ‘stretches your IQ, evokes mindfulness, helps you focus on achieving goals, increases emotional intelligence, helps boost your memory and comprehension, strengthens your self-discipline, helps improve your communication skills, is healing emotionally and physically, and sparks creativity and self-confidence.’ (source: Huffington Post).
What are you waiting for? Begin today. Start with one sentence and trust that the rest will take care of itself.