How are you? I ask with sincerity because I pray for you each morning. I know God knows who reads this blog and I seek blessings and peace on your behalf. I know I need as much peace and blessings in my life as God’s willing to give me so I figure you do, too!
Today’s post is about the practice of journaling and the creative uses and benefits of the practice. Yes, I know you don’t need one more “thing” to do but you might be surprised at how simple it is to journal. And, the benefits truly out-weigh the cost of your time and effort. It’s a great form of stress management. Journaling can help rewire your brain toward optimism and hope. It’s a fun, creative way to address problems, find solutions, and connect with our inner most self. You benefit physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Whether it’s prayers, praise or anything else you want to share with God—it’s what we’re invited to do. God wants you and I to pour out our hearts to him, bringing hopes and dreams, anxieties and worries, and requests and gratitude (Philippians 4:6, Psalm 62:8, Psalm 66:19-20, 1 Peter 3:12). Journaling is a great format for doing so. Let’s dive into the purpose of journals, the benefits of journaling, and the various types of journals you can create.
- Journaling is a practice of self-care. You can be authentic and free to express in a safe manner all the feelings and thoughts that you can’t express in other ways.
- Journaling is an activity where you move the thoughts and emotions held within your heart and mind and place these in an alternative format. The format is determined by you to utilize the best expression of those thoughts and emotions. It can take any form such as a map, a list, as art, as narrative, or freeform streaming of thoughts and emotions.
- Your journal is a mirror to your mind and soul. You express what is within and this helps you to view your authentic self. Healing, growth, creativity, passion, dreams and more can be experienced and/or revealed.
- Journaling is a process that frees up your mind. As thoughts and feelings are realized in an alternative format, the process opens pathways that were blocked or clogged with the concern, issue, or emotional turmoil. Your mind is free to take a rest.
- Your journal is a memoir. As you place your inner most self in a tangible format (released from your heart and mind), you have an opportunity to take the position like that of a third party or observer. Observing yourself, as if from a distance, may help you understand with increased clarity and perspective. New insights may be revealed.
- Journaling helps you to track habitual thoughts and emotions that may be unproductive or unhealthy. It brings the subconscious to your awareness so you can take charge of what and why of thoughts and feelings.
Benefits of Journaling
- Did you know that studies on journaling revealed we benefit physically from the practice of journaling? Physical benefits include enhanced immune system, improved memory function, reduced anxiety and stress, decreased blood pressure, increased capacity to cope with distressing issues and concerns, better sleep, increased healing of the body particularly the skin.
- There are spiritual benefits when you engage in journaling. Spiritual benefits include peace of mind, peace of heart, enhanced awareness of God’s active presence, a deepened belief and trust in the promises of God, and it helps you track God’s faithfulness in your life.
- Journaling promotes a mindfulness of what we are thinking and feeling. Bringing awareness to your thoughts, thought patterns, emotional responses is one of the ways you can manage stress and your response to the events that happen to you and around you.
- Journaling brings your focus to the positive aspects of your day and your life.
Types of Journals
Below are descriptions of a few types of journals you can create. You can have one journal that has two or three focus sections or two or more separate journals. There are many different templates for journaling available on the internet. Some examples include: Penzu.com/diary-template, Microsoft Word Diary Templates, or Evernote. You can have a writing journal or an art journal like me. The journal is to support you not to burden you. The journal should be part of your of practice of self-care and not an obligation. The purpose of your journal will be unique to what you need and want. I don’t write or draw in my journals every day. My journals are a creative outlet and it helps me connect with God. I have an art journal, a notebook where I write prayers to God, and I have a “word from God” journal. I encourage you to try the practice of journaling by using one of the ideas below.
I love the gratitude journal! There is so much for me to be grateful for. But too often I fail to be in a mode of gratitude. For example, it’s not until I’m sick with a virus or other malaise that I recognize how grateful I am for my overall good physical health. When I write down what I’m grateful for this act keeps me in a mode of thankfulness. It moves me away from a heart and mind that dwells only on what isn’t right, what isn’t happening, and getting stuck in a cycle of criticism and negativity.
Brainstorm Journal (or Mind Map)
The brainstorm journal is great when you have a project or a passion that you are trying to bring to reality. The reason I love this journal is because it can be completely disorganized. I’m organized in every aspect of my life but this allows me to be the opposite. This journal has you place at the center of your Word doc or piece of paper an idea, a passion, a project, or even a problem. With the main concept in the center, you move from the center outward and place the words and/or images that come to mind around the center focus. For example, I brainstormed (mind mapped) my blog. At the center of my Word doc was the word BLOG and a stick figure of me. Then I pasted cloud images all around the word BLOG and filled each cloud with those ideas that would help me realize my project. For another example, go to the navigation bar on the blog site and find “I Get To…” This is an example of a Mind Map but is similar to a Brainstorm Journal.
The Scripture Journal is a wonderful way to imbed impactful verses of the Bible into your heart and mind. I’m such a visual person and there are times when I read a particular verse I get an image in my mind. One day I was reading Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling, and was on day January 19. The writing said, “I am like a supersaturated cloud, showering Peace into the pool of your mind.” Well, immediately I imagined a cloud over my body gently raining drops of peace on my head and body. That image brought such a peace into my heart that I decided I needed to draw it. I didn’t want to lose that image. My scripture journal is an art journal of those verses that evoke an image in my mind that I want to remember because I believe it deepens my unique way of being in relationship with God. (I use high quality stick figures—you don’t have to be an artist is what I’m implying.)
Mindful Awareness Journal (Mindful Journal)
A Mindful Awareness Journal can have several purposes. For the journal to be effective you need to engage in the act of being mindful--being present and experiencing the present with full awareness. Here’s an example of being mindfully aware: I find a place to sit in quiet indoors or outdoors. I am purposefully aware and very present in the moment. I deliberately quiet my mind and body allowing my senses to become fully active. I let my senses have precedence over the movement of mind and body. I slow down to take in the details—sound, sight, smell, touch, taste. I focus on sounds and images present before me. I breathe in deeply the air making note of any scents. This very present awareness places me in a state of being able to receive. Receive what? The rhythm of nature, the peace of God, the presence of those with me. I use the Mindful journal to track whatever I experience or receive during my time in quiet awareness. Later, even weeks or months, I’m able to go back to what I perceived or experienced. Another use for the Mindful Journal is monitoring and document the ebb and flow of your emotions. Acknowledging what you’re feeling and allowing those feelings to surface has important health benefits. Yet another use for the Mindful Journal is related to food and diet. It can help you identify triggers for specific eating habits as you document what you eat, when you eat it, and what you’re thinking about before and during food intake.
A Well Done Journal is a fantastic way to capture your best self. In this journal, you congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished, goals achieved or achieving, mountains climbed figuratively or literally, or any small or big hurdle you have successfully conquered. You do so much good in your life and it often gets unacknowledged by you. Why do we need to congratulate our self? It’s great for us! Acknowledging what you do well keeps you motivated and encouraged. It’s promotes your confidence and feeds your soul. You are of such great worth to God and you are gifted by Him! When you recognize your unique contributions, it chases away self-condemning thoughts, internal criticism of self, and discouragement.
Faithfulness Journal or Prayer Tracker Journal
A Faithfulness Journal is where you capture God’s history of faithfulness, goodness, or presence in your life. This journal can double as a Prayer Tracker Journal as well. I started a journal documenting all the ways God had provided for me, sustained me in the past. I went all the way back to my birth. It was enlightening to go back through events hand in hand with God asking to be shown how He was there with me. At the time of those events I couldn’t see or understand God’s purpose and presence, but in reflection I saw with incredible clarity what I couldn’t see then—His nearness and His presence with me. I live in greater faith and trust because I invested the time to delve into God’s history of faithfulness to me. It’s that history that enables me to refuse to play with worst case scenario thinking and other non-productive thoughts. The Prayer Tracker also tracks God’s involvement in our lives. This journal involves documenting your prayers and then following up on these prayers with the status, response, or result. Regardless of the status of the prayers, answered or yet to be answered, it is good to track what we have brought before God because it can help to increase your focus on the active presence of God in your life.
If you have a type of journal that you find impactful and helps you live well, please share in Comments. I’d love to hear to from you. As always you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading! Terri
Barbara Montgomery Dossey and Lynn Keegan, Holistic Journal of Nursing, Sixth Edition (Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013), 254.
Brian Luke Seward, Managing Stress: principles and strategies for health and well-being (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2006), 215.
Cyndie Koopsen and Caroline Young, Spirituality, Health, and Healing and Integrative Health: A Holistic Approach for Health Professionals (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2011).
Kate Thompson, Therapeutic Journal Writing: an introduction for professionals (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011).