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The REAL question you should be asking me (and yourself) about journaling

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

There are lots of questions people ask before they start journaling.

Questions like:

What should I write?

How long should I write?

What kind of journal should I use?

What’s the right way to journal?

What if I get it wrong?

What if I run out of things to say?

What if I’m a terrible speller?

How often should I journal?

What if someone reads it?


These are all great questions – and very common questions.

But the REAL question you should be asking me (and yourself) is:


WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DON’T JOURNAL?

Gena McLean journaling on couch


Personally speaking (and I've been journaling daily for about 17 years) when I don’t journal is that I feel untethered, a sense that something’s not quite right. I typically write every morning and if there’s a day when I have to do something like catch an early flight or respond to an unexpected phone call and then go about my morning jobs I can get to noon and feel like something's wrong or missing, and I’ll realise I haven’t done my journaling! So I tend to feel a bit disconnected and ungrounded.


I could liken it to how people feel if they meditate each day or practice yoga or run - when they don’t do it they don’t feel right.

And if we look at the bigger picture: if I didn’t journal I wouldn’t:

have written Note to Self or Find Your Way

have created or started Seeker & Sage

have healed and grown from core wounds

be there for myself like I can be and am now

know what I needed and what I really wanted

be able to process the challenges of life or find answers and solutions

be in touch or able to express my creativity

be aware of my dreams and desires – not like I am when I journal.


So if I hadn't journaled for all these years I wouldn’t have gotten through the painful and despairing times I’ve had with physical illness, with my kids, with my work, with my family, with relationships.


I wouldn’t be so comfortable with who I am and I wouldn’t be so comfortable with where I’m at.

I also know I would’ve missed heaps of joyful momentous occasions – moments that I am so grateful for, and appreciated and loved – because when we write about those highly emotional times we prolong the feelgood emotions which boost our mood.


All the growth, all the healing, all the ideas and insights, the creativity, the kindness, the compassion for myself and others…none of that would be so prevalent in who I am as a person, and a lot of my joyful experiences wouldn’t have been so valued and appreciated!


So the question you should be asking yourself is WHAT IF I DON’T JOURNAL? WHAT WILL BE THE COST?

From a research perspective, studies have shown that:

Journaling helps improve well-being after traumatic and stressful events.

It improves cognitive functioning. It can strengthen immune system response.

It can counteract many of the negative effects of stress.

And journaling before bed has been shown to decrease cognitive stimulus, rumination, and worry, allowing you to fall asleep faster.


And handwriting in particular (which I am a big advocate for) can increase neural activity in certain sections of the brain, similar to meditation; it can sharpen the brain and helps us learn; and it forces us to slow down and be in the moment.


So the real question you should be asking me and yourself is:


WHAT IF I DON’T JOURNAL?

What will be the consequence?

How will I feel if I don’t?

What will be the cost?


And…can I afford not to journal?

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