The opening day of class, Dr. Davies, my wise, beloved Old Testament professor from Wales, asked an intriguing, life changing question. Instead of quizzing us on our Biblical knowledge, he began class by asking for a show of hands from those of us who journaled. I was quite shocked by that question from someone who appeared to be a grandfather because I was pretty sure grandfathers didn’t journal. Besides that, it was an Old Testament class we were in, not an English class. Being a precocious and bold 19 year old, I quickly and proudly raised my hand, although it had been quite some time since I had honestly spent time in my journal in any “intimate way”. Dr. Davies spent the entire first class period explaining to us why he had chosen to journal for the last 50 years of life. At 19, that was sounding like an extremely arduous undertaking. He went on to commend those of us who did journal and to challenge those of us who had not been so wise as to yet chronicle our lives. Being the consummate dedicated student, I dutifully adopted the practice and discipline of journaling more formally that semester. Twenty four years later, I am still an avid journaler because of the tremendous benefits that I have received. I want to encourage all of you who have not yet discovered this fabulous tool to give it a try and here is why:
First of all, journaling offers emotional benefits. It is a great avenue to gain clarity during the confusing times in our lives. It can provide a safe respite, and a confidential and free place to vent and sort through our sometimes tangled web of emotions. Journaling also is a wonderful tool to aid in self discovery. Plato once said, that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and presumptuous as it may sound, I think he was on to something. He did after all sit at the feet of Aristotle and Socrates.
In our frantically driven, production oriented society, too little space is given to self reflection. Journaling offers a way to honor the importance of slowing down and “being still” so that we may indeed “know” ourselves as well as the creator, as the Psalmist suggests. Don’t let life pass you by without taking time to get to know yourself. Outside of our relationship with our God, the relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship that we will ever have.
In addition to emotional and spiritual benefits, journaling also supplies scientific, physiological benefits. Research studies have shown that the immune systems are stronger in people who consistently journal. Studies have also shown that recovery rates of cancer victims are much higher in patients who have incorporated journaling into their recovery programs. The American Medical Association conducted research on patients who journaled for 20 minutes over a 6 month period. The results demonstrated cholesterol reduction, improved cardiovascular function as well as asthma symptom reduction. Finally, North Texas State University also did a research project on “process” journaling and its potential impact on test results. You guessed it. The students test scores were 50% higher than those who did not journal at all.
So here is the bottom line ..….if you WANT TO LIVE A LONGER, HEALTHIER, SMARTER, FULLER LIFE then listen to the wisdom of the ages. Take up the long, lost art of journaling. It is much cheaper than medicine, surgeries, massages or…..ok, I will admit it, even therapy. You will be glad that you did!