benefits of journal writing

'Mature gratitude' helps us deal with threats (that expose our vulnerability) and gives us the opportunity to self-reflect on our current life.

During coaching sessions, my clients write down key messages that they have uncovered. Not only is this a great way to remember what was discussed but, upon revisiting their notes, they can continue to ‘self coach’ by furthering the themes.

Ideally, a journal does not simply become a reporting tool. Rehashing the stresses and strains of the day isn’t productive and may not feel good. However, combined with a mindfulness practice, expressing self awareness about these activities and jotting down the positive outcome from this reflection can be helpful.

Psychologist Rick Hanson instructs how to ‘absorb the good‘ to benefit our health. Instead of letting positive experiences quickly go by, take the time to write down what is good in our lives, which wires positive neural structures in the brain. This improves how we feel and helps us get things done.

While gratitude journals are popular, without direction they can begin to feel hollow, as focus lands on our privilege and luck. It can become a laundry list of achievements outside of us, that remind us of what others do not have. And when things are not turning out the way we think we want, it can be tough to find optimistic things to write about.

I read a perspective paper called ‘Mature Gratitude as a Way of Coping with Covid-19‘. It is a review of studies that resulted in the assertion that ‘mature gratitude’ not only helps us deal with threats (that expose our vulnerability) but also gives us the opportunity to self-reflect on our current life. This actively strengthens psychological resilience and coping skills.

Here are some tips offered in the paper for taking in the good, with observations that are readily available:

  • reflect on actions of kindness – make note of how you helped someone, be reminded of compliments you receive for being who you genuinely are, write about kindness you observe between others.
  • express being thankful for life – there’s one thing we all have and that is presence on this earth.
  • enjoy the small things – notice the sweet smell of rain, how an animal makes you laugh, the comfort of lying in bed…

Happy journaling!