Keeping A Journal Can Improve Mental Health
Journaling has long been considered an effective method of self-improvement. It is also good for psychological and mental well being. Writing a regular journal is particularly useful for migrant workers. Here is a look at some of the ways in which journaling can help us better our lives.
A daily practice of jotting down thoughts is simple, easy, and does not take much time. Yet, it has surprising benefits. More than 1 medical study has concluded that writing a journal is a way to beat stress. Dr. Elizabeth Broadbent, the co-author of a study on Psychosomatic Medicine, stated that “writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce stress”. The British Journal of Health Psychology corroborated these findings with a study of its own. This study found that writing about a difficult subject reduces cortisol levels in individuals. Cortisol is the hormone released in response to stress. Lower cortisol levels indicate lower stress.
Articulating goals is the first step to achieving them. Writing about our experiences makes us mindful of our quality of life. Putting our thoughts and feelings down on paper is introspective. It creates self-awareness and helps us connect with our inner selves. Introspection is effective in reducing symptoms of depressions and homesickness. A research paper published by the National Institute of Health studied the benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with depression. It found promising results. Researchers documented that simply by writing down their thoughts and feelings, participants demonstrated a reduction in their depression scores. They exhibited a positive change in the condition of their mental health.
Knowing what we want builds confidence and strengthens self-esteem. Doing something regularly cultivates habits and discipline. These are valuable and positive personality traits.
A recent study conducted by Scientific American magazine concluded that the benefits of journaling extend to physical health too. In the experiment, a group of adults who had undergone medical biopsy were instructed to write about their thoughts and daily activities for 20 minutes every day. Within 11 days 76% of the group had fully recovered.
Journaling as an ex-pat
Writing a daily journal is more valuable when living abroad. There are numerous examples to prove this. Acclaimed Australian actor Hugh Jackman maintains a personal diary for himself as well as diaries for his children. Bestselling author Robin Sharma, an Indian ex-pat living in Canada, has often written about how journaling has helped him navigate through tumultuous times. Meghan Markle, an American actress who married into the British Royalty, has reportedly maintained a diary chronicling her days in the UK. Freddie Mercury, a Zanzibar-born British singer used to pen his thoughts, feelings, and song lyrics in his diaries.
Journaling is not just for the famous and successful. Common, everyday ex-pats can enjoy the many benefits of journaling and improve their daily lives. We can write the old-fashioned way – using a pen and paper, although nowadays most of us prefer to use tablets and laptops.
Writing something down on paper is one of the most effective ways of memorizing it. The priority for most migrant workers is to transfer money back to their families as remittances. However, life as a new migrant can take some getting used to. Migrants acclimatizing to a new culture can benefit from a language journal. It can help learn the new language quicker and with better recall. Keep a small, portable phrasebook with oft-used words. Write down the new vocabulary you come across. Shannon Kennedy, head of the popular 'Fluent In 3 Months' program, is a strong proponent of phrasebooks for learning new languages. Such journaling can help migrants integrate into the new society faster and better.
This involves writing down all the things one is grateful for in life. It also includes all the good things that happen during the day. In recent years gratitude journaling is being widely recommended by psychologists. The conclusions of a study in Clinical Psychology Review are evidence. Keeping a gratitude journal helps an individual focus on the positive aspects of life. It also reinforces them in the deep subconscious. Many migrants feel overwhelmed by their new settings. A simple gratitude journal can help focus on the positives. Observe and document all the good aspects in a journal to keep negative thoughts at bay.
Acclaimed author Julia Cameron put forward an excellent journaling method in her breakthrough self-improvement book The Artist’s Way. It involves writing down 3 pages first thing in the morning after waking up. It encourages a ‘stream of consciousness’ type of thinking. Individuals who maintain such journals become better equipped to face their fears and come to terms with their situations. For ex-pats grappling with difficult situations overseas, keeping a morning journal can really help. This kind of journaling can help think through problems and arrive at workable solutions. Writing about whatever is bothering you can also help get it out of the way. Bothersome thoughts dealt with, you move on with your day. Practitioners of morning journaling swear by how well this works.
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