It’s January: the season of goal-setting.
There are lots of worthy goals out there. It’s good to be in shape. It’s great to meditate. It’s a nice thing to call your parents or visit your kids. Date nights with a spouse or finally making that dating profile: that’s all fine.
But if you really want to change your life, you’re going to put all of that behind one more important goal: a consistent habit of writing.
If you’re going to give something a try this year, journaling is worth the effort.
The Health Benefits of Writing
What surprises people most about writing is the health benefits. Alongside improved sleep and reduced anxiety, studies show that people who write a little as twenty minutes per day, four days in a row, visit the doctor less frequently.
If you’re looking to improve the health of your body, one way to do that is to write expressively about your life. “Expressive writing” just means writing about your thoughts and feelings. Typical journaling. Plenty of “I” statements. I felt …. I want…. I’d like …. Different than simple documentation of one’s activities, expressive writing reflects on how what happened made you feel and what you’d like to do about it.
Emotional Benefits of Writing: Healing From the Past
Perhaps it’s more intuitive that writing would help you heal emotionally. Writing through your childhood or through significant life moments forces you to put words to your thoughts and feelings. It clarifies your emotions and, even better, gives you the position of “narrator.” You get to choose how to interpret those life-shaping events. You get to choose whether an experience made you weak or strong: whether it was humiliating or whether it gave you credibility and wisdom.
Writing could even help you heal from something like the year 2020. Last year was quite stressful (ranked by several historians interviewed by Bloom, a self therapy app company, as one of the most stressful years on record). Chances are, this past year has shaped you. Can you look back sort through the chaos? Ask yourself the following questions:
- What happened in your life?
- What are you proud of?
- What experiences bring up emotion in you (fear, anger, shame)?
- In what ways can you offer compassion to yourself?
- In what ways can you offer compassion to others?
- What would you like to focus on in this next year?
Future Benefits of Writing: Writing Yourself a Vision
Writing is reflective, but it can also be forward-facing. One way writing can help you this year is to use it to envision the future you want. Ask yourself:
- What do you want to spend your time doing this year?
- How do you want your life to look?
- What kind of people would you like to surround yourself with?
- What’s important to you in this next year?
- What do you need to change to achieve that kind of life?
You can spend a lot of energy moving in a direction and then realize that you never wanted to go down that path anyways. Use writing to clarify what you actually want—and what, perhaps, was someone else’s vision for your life.
What we hope is that you find that writing is a window into yourself, with endless benefits. As you get to know yourself, heal yourself, and direct yourself forward, you’ll find your relationships with others improve. You’ll find more motivation. You’ll find that you are happier and healthier.
Here’s to a writing habit in 2021.
Allison Fallon’s new book, The Power of Writing It Down: A Simple Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life, demonstrates just how much writing changes us, our communities, and our world. Start your writing journey, order a copy today: thepowerofwritingitdown.com.