Everyone keeps a journal or a diary at some point during their preteen or teenage years. Many people fall off as they get older, citing not enough time or not enough interesting things to write about. But the reasons for keeping a journal go far beyond writing down your childhood crush—research shows that it can be a boon for your mental health, stress levels, and creativity, benefits that are especially valuable during a period of isolation.
When you’re spending hours alone or with the same few people, it’s virtually impossible to avoid getting bogged down by your own thoughts and worries. But researchers say that putting these thoughts and worries down on paper can help reduce the intensity of the feelings and prevent them from growing and spiraling out of control. Even if you’re doing the same thing every day—perhaps especially if you’re doing the same thing every day—journaling about your daily activities, thoughts, and feelings can function as a meditative practice to help you unwind and de-stress.
If writing down your worries seems scary and counterproductive, writing down the things that you’re grateful for can be incredibly beneficial as well. Indeed, cultivating gratitude, or focusing on the things you have, not the things you want, has been shown to improve self-esteem, empathy, and resilience, reduce aggression and stress, strengthen interpersonal relationships, and even improve physical health and sleep. One of the simplest ways you can get these perks is to spend a few minutes every day writing down a couple things that you’re grateful for—many experts suggest doing this first thing in the morning in order to start your day from a place of positivity and happiness.
The benefits of journaling don’t stop there: It has also been found to speed healing, lower blood pressure, and increase creativity. And you don’t even need a dedicated journal (even though it can help). These thoughts and notes can be jotted down in the notes app on your phone, in a word doc, or anywhere else you have on hand.
Not sure where to begin? Journaling doesn’t just have to be writing down the things that happened that day. Here are eight prompts to help you start reaping the benefits of journaling today:
- Make a list of 15 things that make you smile.
- Write down 5 things you’re grateful for.
- If my body could talk, it would say…
- Write about your first love (person, place, or thing).
- Write a thank you letter to your biggest supporter.
- Write a letter to your high school self.
- Describe yourself to a stranger.
- List your 5 favorite movies/books/songs/tv shows and what you love about them.
Next time you find yourself journaling, be sure to snap a photo and tag us, @powerforlifefitness in your stories on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see how you’re taking the time to invest in yourself.