Benefits of Journaling

Guest post by Julie Pepper Lim, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Meritage Medical Network.

REJANUATION – noun; to give new life or vigor to a new activity in the month of January.

This year for rejanuation, we are focusing on tracking our life activities—our dreams, our resolutions, our fitness, and nutrition, our thoughts. We’re breaking out our journals and writing stuff down.

I’ve never loved journaling in the traditional sense. Whenever I’ve tried in the past, I’d read back my thoughts and think, “Ugh, I don’t want to know that, see that, or read that.” So what I would do instead, was tell a story that touched on some of those thoughts I didn’t particularly want to highlight, weaving them in so that they weren’t the primary focus. Eventually, I created several journals filled with stories or ideas for stories. Over the years I’d read my handwritten scribble, and it would transport me back to the time I had written those stories, dreams, ideas and I didn’t hate it. Sometimes, I could even piece some of them together to create a short story or an excerpt for a longer piece.

Sigmund Freud emphasized the importance of the unconscious mind and one of his goals in psychoanalysis was to make the unconscious conscious. Though Carl Jung disagreed with Freud about the sexual basis of neuroses, he advanced the idea of introvert and extrovert personalities/archetypes and was aligned with Freud in the power of the unconscious.

Dreams seem to help us process emotions by encoding and constructing memories of them.

Writing memories down from your experiences seem to have valuable impact as well. It makes sense that if you’re writing down what you eat and when, over the course of a certain period of time, it can be helpful to look back on it to help modify your habits. I happen to dislike writing down what I eat because it makes me self-conscious. On the other hand, when we did a fitness challenge through Atlas last year, it was fun to see all of those miles racking up.

My son is a big believer in lucid dreaming, which is knowing you’re having a dream while dreaming. He has told me time and again to keep a journal by my bed so when I wake up with my heart palpitating and my body drenched in sweat, or just happy from a fantastic dream, I can write down what happened as a beginning step to becoming a lucid dreamer. When I followed his advice and jotted down the details of my dreams, it has always made it clearer for me what my subconscious self is worrying about, battling through, or simply exploring. A far cry from becoming a lucid dreamer, I am very interested in the narrative that I might discover if I’m able to capture even one dream a night for a particular stretch of time.

Since our focus is Rejanuation this month, I’m going to add to my resolutions—keeping a journal by my bed and creating a dream journal. I’m not going to get bogged down about writing in it every night, I’ll do it when I can, but I’ll keep it by my bed, so I do it. Our whole team is going to be rewarded for any journaling they do this month. Tracking fitness miles, or training sessions, or marathons, nutrition, calories, or maybe creating a gratitude or personal planning journal—whatever your thing is, writing it down with a pen and piece of paper, not only helps you document your life, but it helps you create memories that tell, not just any story, but your story.

Bonus, there are health benefits of journaling that have been scientifically proven:

  • Journaling decreases the symptoms of asthmaarthritis, and other health conditions.
  • It improves cognitive functioning.
  • It strengthens the immune system, preventing a host of illnesses.
  • It counteracts many of the negative effects of stress.

With all of that said, a lot of people still don’t like doing it and I’ve been one of them. What sometimes pushes me out of that mindset and gets me journaling, is finding the right one. Lined or unlined? Thick or thin? Colorful or monochrome? Composition or Moleskin? Sometimes it’s the way it feels such as, if you’re able to hold it open on your lap. Other factors to question are, does it have its own bookmark and/or removable pages? Is it heavy and solid, or transportable? One of our wellness incentive prizes for Rejanuation is, you guessed it, a journal. Of course, you could just journal on your iPad, but sometimes the physical experience of pulling your pen or pencil across the page, and not having any electronic distraction, is different.

I think one of the other deterrents of keeping a journal, is keeping it private. Once you write it down, it’s out there to manifest what you’re dreaming of, thankful for, newly aware of, scared of, happy about. You’re exposed even if you don’t share it with anyone, but yourself. Wait, is that a bad thing?

It’s January and we are Rejanuating through journaling. Refresh, reinvent, rejuvenate—Rejanuate.

Julie Pepper Lim works in the Network Relations department of Meritage Medical Network in Marketing and Communications. She is a published fiction author, essayist, short story writer, playwright and a strong believer in story’s power to transcend.
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