It’s one of the simplest, easiest and most therapeutic things we can do each day.
There’s a growing body of research that shows it lowers stress, improves our mind and can even help our bodies heal faster.
But we bet less than 1 in 10 folks will bother to do this five-minute task each day.
In fact, many folks these days are instead turning to a habit with proven dangers and some serious health effects.
Instead of picking up a pen and jotting down their thoughts for the day, many folks are putting their lives on social media.
Imagine if a Facebook feed is the only record of your life that’s left behind.
For the average person, it’d be a sad tribute to their life.
There’d be memes about cats… a rant about the new sewer plant in town… something about a border wall… and pictures of rainbows with cheesy quotes on top.
There’s no substance… and absolutely no value.
Write This Down
Social media is all about input. With each scroll down the page, Facebook gives users a hit of something new… something fresh for our brain to download.
It tickles our dopamine receptors.
It becomes addictive.
That’s why it’s vital we focus on something that requires output – something that forces us to think for ourselves and exercise some of our brain’s most powerful muscles (something an intellectually dulling site, like Facebook, could never dream of).
That’s why we – and everybody else who’s ever studied the subject – beg folks to pick up a piece of paper and do some old-fashioned journal writing.
The benefits are huge.
Most are self-evident.
Writing down the events of the day helps us solidify memories and learn from them.
Our brain treats all information that we hear virtually the same way. It doesn’t parse the nonimportant things from the important. But when we write ideas down, it’s been proven that our brain divides the ideas into specific categories, which allows for much better recall.
Journal writing also helps us ponder new things and release emotions – a key to lowering stress and anxiety levels.
Writing down our thoughts at the end of the day also increases our gratitude.
And the more thankful we are… the happier we are.
Finally, the big one…
Feel Better, Too
There’s new research that shows a simple journal is good for our physical health as well.
Get this… Expressive writing is now believed to help boost our immune system, as well as the overall function of our body.
This is crazy, but a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 107 patients with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis who wrote for 20 minutes on three-straight days.
Seventy-one of the folks wrote about the most stressful event in their lives.
The others wrote of something considered “emotionally neutral.”
Four months later, the patients who routinely penned about stress were in far better shape. They improved more and deteriorated less.
But it’s not just one study.
When a group at the University of Auckland measured the effects from journal writing on 37 patients with HIV and AIDS, the results were equally stunning.
They measured higher on CD4 lymphocyte counts – an important gauge of immune system health.
“By writing, you put some structure and organization to those anxious feelings,” said Dr. James Pennebaker. “It helps you to get past them.”
We can’t think of a daily habit that has stronger, longer-lasting effects than journal writing.
It doesn’t have to be hard. And it certainly shouldn’t be time-consuming.
The tests above had folks write for 20 minutes. We recommend less. It can be as simple as writing down just three or four lines that are packed with the most important, most emotional items of the day.
It should take less than five minutes.
We also recommend doing two writing sessions per day – one in the morning and one at night.
By bookending your day with thoughtful reflection, you first set the tone for what’s ahead and then you reflect on what went right and what went wrong.
But here’s the thing a lot of folks get wrong.
Don’t write to somebody else. These are your thoughts… not records of your life.
If you want to start a journal for the grandkids, do it. Absolutely. But it should be separate.
In fact, many experts agree with us that your day’s notes should be tossed in the trash at the end of the week. That way, there’s no social pressure when you write… there are no worries about what others will think of your thoughts.
It’s just you, your thoughts and what you learned.
Try it today.
You’ll be amazed by the results.