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This One Habit Could Help Boost Memory, Weight Loss, Intimacy

Sis, if you make just one change to help you have a healthier, happier, more loving and more successful 2024, consider adding or leveling up your journaling practice.

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What do you want out of the new year, sis? If better health, more joy and deeper relationships are on your list, one habit can address all of those — journaling. That may seem like an overstatement, but developing a journaling routine has been a game-changer for me. My early morning (and sometimes super late) writing sessions have helped me be more present, identify my feelings, express myself and empathize with others.

Research has a lot to say about the benefits of journaling, too. Studies have shown that expressive writing can boost emotional wellness, improve physical health, increase self-awareness and lead to other positive changes.

And no — journaling is not just for writers. Anyone can (and should) journal. Here’s how a journaling practice can change your life.

1. Do you want to feel more heard and understood by your loved ones? Journaling will improve your communication skills. Naturally, you’ll sharpen your writing, but you’ll also be able to express yourself more clearly in your relationships. If you’ve ever had an interaction with a friend or family member that left you feeling some type of way — but you’re not quite sure what way — journaling gets your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, wants and needs out of your head and into words. This helps you make sense of them — for yourself — so you can relay them to others.

2. Do you crave more peace and less drama in your life? Journaling decreases stress, anxiety and overwhelm; it can also ease symptoms of depression. Instead of stewing on stressful and negative thoughts — which often makes things worse — journaling puts them on paper where you can deal with them objectively and productively. It also helps you bounce back from negative experiences. Some psychologists stress that how you write about harmful events matters, though, so if you have significant trauma in your history, consult a mental health professional to see if journaling is an effective way to process your experiences.

3. Would you like to remember names, faces, experiences — and where you left your keys? Your journaling practice will strengthen your memory. How? Writing something down sends a signal to your brain that you want to remember it. So, journaling can help you recall meaningful events and conversations with greater detail. Also, studies have shown that expressive writing can improve working memory — no more walking into a room and forgetting why you’re there.

4. Do you desire more meaningful relationships? Journaling leads to greater self-awareness and empathy for others. On too many occasions, I’ve sat down to write after a “spirited” conversation with my spouse, and right in the middle of my on-paper rant, I have a flash of his side of things. Journaling slows things down so you can step back from situations, regulate emotions and gain insight.

5. Do you want to visit the doctor less? Journaling goes beyond benefitting the brain; it can lead to better physical health. Studies have shown that journaling may lower blood pressure, reduce stress-related doctor visits, help manage diabetes and boost immune function in people battling illnesses such as asthma and arthritis.

6. Do you want better problem-solving skills? Writing can spark your imagination and generate creative solutions, insights and ideas. Something magical can happen when you write, “I have no idea how to deal with so-and-so.” Often, your brain and pen will work together to find a solution.

7. Would you like to get more done and reach your 2024 goals? Journaling boosts productivity and clarifies your intentions. Whether prioritizing your daily tasks or mapping out your weight-loss plan, journaling helps you figure out your next steps, structure your time and stay accountable to your daily and big-picture goals.

Tips to begin journaling

It doesn’t take much to develop a journaling routine. Here are some best practices to get started.

Find your rhythm. My daily journaling habit gives me an automatic time to set my intentions for the day or process the day’s events and all the thoughts and feelings that go with them — especially when I can’t hash things out in real time. I often think, “I can't wait to write about that.” But you don’t have to journal daily for it to be effective. Weekly or every-other-day writing works, too. With journaling, consistency is more important than frequency.

Find your happy place. Make your journaling habit something to look forward to by creating a relaxing and comfortable space. This can mean sitting in your favorite room, adjusting the lighting, burning incense or journaling outside. I prefer journaling early in the morning — when I’m the only one awake — in a room where I can watch the sunrise. But even something as simple as a warm cup of tea can elevate my journaling sessions.

Find your canvas. Writing is an art, so think about what tools you want to use. If journaling digitally, you can use your computer and a blank document in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Or try a wellness or journaling app. You could even do an audio journal by recording your entries.

If you prefer pen and paper, there are an almost unlimited number of journal styles to choose from — blank, lined, dotted, softcover, hardcover, spiral bound, pocket-sized, desk-sized, etc. Or you can use a guided journal. Writing in a pretty journal with some fun pens gets me excited about my journaling sessions. But these aren’t even necessary; any notebook, journal or paper you already have will do the trick.

Find your flow. Just as there are different journal styles, there are several approaches to journaling. Try various techniques to find the best fit. Here are a few:

  1. Freestyle: The page is your blank canvas to work with. Set your daily intentions in the morning, recap the day at night, record your goals or vent after a challenging moment. You get to choose.
  2. Stream of consciousness: This journaling style is more of a brain dump. You write without judgment or self-editing. It doesn’t have to make sense; write what comes to mind.
  3. Themed journal: With this approach, you dedicate your journal to a specific purpose. For example, a gratitude journal focuses on what you’re grateful for daily, or you could use your journal to document your weight-loss journey.
  4. Journal prompts: Whether from a guided journal or ones you find online or create yourself, writing prompts can be helpful when you don’t know what to write. One of my favorite prompts is the “5 P’s.” At the end of the day, I write: one productive thing I did, a time I was emotionally present, a peaceful moment, a pleasurable experience and something I’m proud of.

Experiment and evolve. If you’re starting a journaling practice for the first time, try different approaches to find your rhythm and journaling style. Over the years, I’ve experimented in so many ways. I’ve journaled freestyle, used apps, followed writing prompts, tried guided journals, created my own questions or did a hybrid of these. I’ve journaled in the morning, at night and sometimes both. Each approach seemed to fit the season I was in. Allow your journaling to evolve and adapt with time.

Start small. Don’t be concerned about how much you write. If you can only manage three minutes of journaling each day, that’s a fantastic start. When you don’t know what to write, literally write, “I don’t know what to write.” Your pen will likely keep going. Your journaling practice doesn’t need to be elaborate or lengthy; it just needs to be yours.

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