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I am anxious, and it soothes me to express myself here. It is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time. – Mina Murray Harker, writing in her journal in Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Even if you’re not running away from evil vampires, it can still be soothing to place your thoughts on paper. Forget the qualification of being a writer or being what you consider creative. Being human means that writing your thoughts out can not only release emotion, but stretch and grow your brain.

Journaling is a personal exercise, far removed from grammar Nazis or your high school English teacher. It comes out of your core, and simply expresses what is on your mind and in your heart. You can be as specific as you like and choose to focus on a particular topic, or allow your thoughts to ramble.

If you’re frustrated with a situation, rather than yelling at the sky–or worse, the person(s) involved–try letting your thoughts loose on paper. You can say whatever you like without repercussion. You may find that after spilling those thoughts and emotions out, you feel lighter and freer. That’s why journal writing is often cathartic.

Journaling can also be reminiscent, if you use it like a diary and record events and time periods. I have a travel journal that I used through college, keeping notes on various places and people that I encountered. I picked that same book up 15 years later when I began my journey to The Content Castle.

It was fascinating to see not only how I thought and what struck me back then, but also to remember little incidents that had escaped to the back of my mind. I have no doubt that another 15 years from now, I will delight in reading about the elderly backpacking couple I met or those monkeys I saw hitching a ride on a coconut truck.

Getting Started

First, pick a book to write in. It can be a plain spiral notebook, a beautifully embossed journal, or in my case, a book with an inspirational quote on the cover (I have several books for different moods). Use lined paper if you like order, plain pages if you want space to sketch and draw, or graph paper if you’re mathematically inclined.

Then, get your pen or pencil and let the words flow. Here are a few topics to get you started if you would like some inspiration:

  • What is the truest thing about you?
  • What is your most vivid memory?
  • What have been some of your defining moments?
  • What is one of your greatest blessings or your greatest regrets?
  • You have magic soap. What does it wash away?
  • It is the end of life and you are up on stage being presented with a major award. What is the award and what is it for?
  • You are the wind’s interpreter. What is it saying?
  • Write about one thing that is simple in your life, and one thing that is complex.
  • Write about a song and the memories or feelings that it evokes in you.

Let’s Get Scientific For a Moment

Although it can be tempting to keep your journal on a mobile device or computer, it actually is more beneficial for your brain if you write it out. Writing by hand engages your brain on several levels.

Physically writing requires both the motor cortical and sensory cortical regions of the brain, and is the result of several processes including visual memory, gestures, and motor control. One of the originators of this discovery was neuropsychologist Nicholas Bernstein. Since then, scientists have continued to corroborate that the act of writing exercises and strengthens the brain. So when you journal by hand, not only are you calmer and more emotionally in tune, but you are growing your brain as well.

Have you already discovered the power of journal writing? Then share your favourite prompt or anecdote with us and fellow journalers in the comments below.

By Joyell Nevins

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