Skip to main content

The Real Reason Why Even You Should Keep a Journal

The more we write, the healthier we are. And I'll explain why.

I've always been an avid journaler. Sometimes I just jot notes down for months at a time, other times I play "catch-up" and write for a few hours at a time. It's been a consistent, reliable way to express myself, even if I'm just expressing myself to myself. Wait, was that confusing?

But, here's the thing: I don't always catalogue my life in my journal. I use other tools like social media, photos, and a blog for that. No, my purpose in journaling is more for introspection and self-understanding.

If ever I'm struggling to fully grasp an issue I'm facing, I pick up a pen and paper or I go to my laptop. By the end of a few journal entries, I've gained a wider perspective on the issue. (Side-note: more often than not, I come to the conclusion that the issue is actually a "non-issue." Meaning, my view of the situation was the problem, and the problem wasn't the problem itself. Oh, the irony. But, back to the topic.)

I had never fully understood why writing worked so well for me. At least, not until I read the book: "Parenting From the Inside-Out." In this book, Dr. Siegel explains how the mind physically works. He connects the dots between brain chemistry and its correlating functions. He also teaches the structure of the brain. 

Hang on, I'll explain why this is relevant to writing.

Evidently, the right side of the mind processes emotion, feelings, abstract concepts, wandering thoughts. When we're struggling with a concept, it's hanging out in the right side of our brain (for the most part, at least.)

The left side of the brain, however, is in charge of language, logic, and critical thinking, among other things, of course.

So, here's what happens when you write:

All the emotions, feelings, and concepts you wonder about, living in the right-side of your mind, get translated and physically copied from the right side over to the left side of your brain, because you are now using language, a left-side function, to write or type out your right-side thoughts. (Phew, that was a long sentence. It's okay if you need to read that one again. I'll wait.)

You now have two working copies of the problem or the issue. Because this problem is now inhabiting your entire brain, you can use your entire brain functioning and begin to problem-solve. 

Tada! You are now engaging the full use of your noggin. Because you wrote out your right-side thoughts, you can use left-side logic and critical thinking to generate solutions, ideas, and come to helpful conclusions. In a way, you're much smarter when you write.

Of course, because speech is language too, that's why so many people benefit from talking about their feelings regarding scenarios, situations, or circumstances they come across day to day. By moving our thoughts over to the left-side of our mind when we use language, we're able to think more clearly, and see the situation with a wider perspective.

I prefer writing in a journal, only because it's always available to me, day or night. My journal is anywhere and everywhere, so long as I have pen and paper, my phone, or my laptop. Don't misunderstand me, talking to others is vital, too. I'm literally doing it "write now." **wink wink**

This would probably be a good time to issue a warning. If you don't ever write or talk about your problem, it will stay on the right-side of your brain and over time create a negative feedback loop. It will swirl, grow larger, form it's own false perspectives and ideas, and your reality and view of the world around you will change, too. And not for the better. Cue: mental illness. I could continue on about the damaging effects of not using language to express yourself, but I think you get the point. Let's get back to the benefits.

"But what if I'm just not a good writer" you may ask?

I'll let you in on a secret. The terrific thing about a journal: it doesn't give you a grade at the end of your entry. Not once has my journal glared back at me with indignation and reprimanded me for my spelling or grammatical errors. So long as you understand what you've written, that's what counts. The benefits of journaling will still work for you. All you really need is bravery. It's difficult to be vulnerable, even to yourself! And if you struggle with vulnerability, well, that's an entirely different topic altogether.

Here's a pro-tip: If you're struggling with vocabulary, phrasing, or any other aspect of writing, then read! Already read a lot? Read more! 

And, like most skills in life, the more you do it: the better you get.

I often attribute my skills in writing, conversation, and grammar not to all my language writing classes in school or college, but to the fact that I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember. And I wrote in it, a lot!

Now a large portion of my career is surrounded by my ability to communicate, convey concepts to clients, and generate strategic language that actually converts a reader into a customer for my clients. Pretty cool, aye?

And to think it all started with a journal. Who knew?