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3 Reasons to Start a Journal

Do you journal? I've kept a journal more or less faithfully since I was in the first grade. Sometimes I'll go back and read what my 8-year-old self considered High Drama and worthy of recording.

Nowadays my journal is mostly for processing how I'm feeling, getting ideas down so they don't escape into the ether, and keeping a record of the things I accomplish. (In case you're curious, that means I'm writing a lot about baking gluten-free sourdough.)

Even though I've taken weeks, and even months, off from journaling regularly, I always come back to it no matter what. And it's not out of diligence, trust me. Routine is not something I've ever been very good at. So why do I always feel drawn to “write it out”? And are there any proven benefits to journaling regularly?

Dear Reader, I'm about to tell you.

I've always preferred to write things by hand, especially when I'm brainstorming. And our language has some really great phrases about writing being a good thing:

“Turn the page”

“Clean slate”

“New chapter”

Why? It turns out, writing by hand (as opposed to typing or making an audio recording) is actually better for your brain. Here are 3 fascinating reasons why:

1. When writing by hand, you are better able to process information and reframe it than if you type it. This means that if you're taking notes on something you want to learn and remember, you'll ingrain the info better if you hand write your notes. It also means that if you're trying to figure something out (like when I'm writing a new yoga sequence or creating a meal plan), you'll have an easier time fleshing out your idea if you do it by hand.

2. Writing by hand calms your nervous system. You can think about this like a mantra: instead of speaking “I am able to find the blessing in every difficulty” over and over, you can write it out over and over and the soothing effects on your mind and body may be even stronger. But you don't have to stick with a mantra, the act of writing itself is beneficial. Journaling in particular can help you take jumbled up or stressful thoughts out of your head and onto paper where you're better able to size them up. I always feel like after I write out what's troubling me, I realise that it's not as huge a deal as I was making it when it was running through my brain.

3. Writing counts as exercise! Writing by hand is an exercise in fine motor skills, something that can deteriorate as we age and something that has been shown to have a connection with learning disabilities; i.e. children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD have demonstrably weaker fine motor skills than children without these diagnoses. So writing by hand regularly can improve fine motor skills or keep them sharp. Writing is also a cognitive exercise, and has been shown to improve memory.

These are just three of the many science-supported benefits of writing, but honestly you shouldn't need science to tell you that journaling is good for you. It feels good. It feels great to get something frustrating or confusing out of your head and onto paper where you can see it clearly. It feels great to record your accomplishments or detail a really great experience you had during the day. And it's fun to look back on old journals to see the ways in which you've grown.

So dust off that old journal, or get a new one and start with a clean slate. You'll feel the effects of this simple but powerful habit almost immediately, and soon you won't be able to keep that pen out of your hand.

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