A Quick Guide to Journaling and Why You Should Do It

Did you know that the human brain is most impressionable within the first 20 minutes of waking up in the morning? According to research on neurological frequencies within the human brain, there are 5 major brain wave frequencies that correspond with people’s levels of consciousness.  When people sleep, their unconscious minds submerge into a lower frequency of brain activity known as theta waves. Theta waves enable people to feel well-rested, creative, and more connected to their emotions and intuition (often referred to as their subconscious) when well-regulated. So, as a person wakes up in the morning, their brain wave frequencies begin to adjust to their new state of consciousness, making the brain particularly impressionable. However, more often than not, people launch into their days or check their phones first thing, activities that could have negative impacts on the brain’s subconscious while in this phase of transition from sleep to wakefulness. The solution to this problem, however, is easier than one might expect. Journaling presents the perfect activity for people to start their days off right, as it promotes mindfulness, allows people to set clear goals and action statements for their day, and can even serve as a creative outlet for sorting through emotions. 

First, just what exactly is journaling? One person might tell you that it’s about decking out a little bullet notebook with colors, drawings, decorative stickers, and more. Another person might say that it’s more about making a to-do list for your day and establishing structure. Others might just say it’s about penning all of your emotions or weird dreams on paper to get them out of your head. While opinions may vary about how one should approach journaling, it doesn’t really matter how you choose to journal as long as it suits your needs and has a positive impact on you. I prefer to think of journaling less in terms of how and more in terms of why. “Why” one is journaling is the important question. After all, it is a form of written meditation, so it should be a means of reducing stress, not creating more, over getting caught up in the details. Understanding the reasons for journaling can better help you to determine what approach you might take to journaling.

If you are looking to manage stress and sort through complicated emotions, then look no further. Journaling is one of the best ways to do this. By quickly writing out how one feels in the morning, a person can get any unwanted emotions off their chest and onto the page. This can be especially helpful for people struggling with overthinking or even understanding what their emotions are (a phenomenon clinically known as alexithymia). Once the emotions are put into words, a person can return to their journal and reflect on how they were feeling to try to sort through possible causes of negative emotions and even begin to find solutions. It’s a lot like therapy in that you’re sharing your feelings with a neutral spectator (the journal), and when you’re ready, you can refer to your writings for answers and emotional growth. 

Of course, journaling doesn’t just have to be for coping with negative emotions. It can also present an opportunity to reflect on the good emotions and things one is grateful for. One way to do this is by making a list or writing about as many things you can think of that you are grateful for. This is a good practice for increasing gratitude, mood, and overall life satisfaction. Just be careful not to get hung up on what you don’t have, and try not to compare what you have to what others have. It is about staying in the moment and finding satisfaction with one’s current state of being. 

If you’re less interested in sorting feelings and more interested in taking action, then journaling is still a viable option for you. Before jumping up to start your day, try taking a moment to write down your intentions for the day. Not only what you want to accomplish that day but how you want to feel, what positive changes you’d like to make, and even who lives you’d like to impact. Adding context to your to-do list, it can keep you focused on why you’re doing what you’re doing, and if you notice that your actions don’t align with your emotional goals for the day, then you can adjust them accordingly. 

Finally, journaling is also another opportunity to express one’s creativity. Journaling is about putting one’s thoughts and feelings on paper, and there are no rules for how you go about this. It might mean an opportunity to write poetry or draw. Or it could be something as simple as decorating the margins of the pages of the journal. Whatever helps get the emotions flowing onto the page. This is why journaling can be incredibly cathartic. Because in addition to writing out one’s emotions, one can get as creative in how they spell it out as they so choose. 

Journaling is a great way to start the day. It allows people to clear their mind, express their emotions, and set their intentions for the day while their mind is most susceptible to their affirmations and suggestions. The next time you roll out of bed- consider reaching for a journal rather than your phone- you won’t regret it.

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