As self-isolation protocols continue across the nation, especially in senior living communities, it can be hard to stay positive. Many seniors have spent months away from their families, friends and grandchildren while doing their part to stay safe. This sense of isolation can be difficult to cope with and can have lasting effects on our wellbeing. It’s crucial for seniors to find ways to cope with the emotional stress of being both lonely and isolated from others. Journaling, which involves the practice of exploring thoughts and feelings through writing, can be a great way to keep your brain active while also working through your emotional stress.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is often thought of as an old-fashioned hobby, however, it’s much more than that. In fact, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “Journaling can help manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.” Those who practice journaling regularly might notice a variety of health benefits, especially during difficult times.
Experiencing long-term stress can negatively impact your health, including your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Journaling is a great way to express your emotions, which in return can help manage stress and frustrations.
Produces Positive Health Outcomes– A study found that those who engaged in expressive writing, which focuses on expressing deep thoughts and feelings, reported improved immune system functioning along with fewer stress-related visits to the doctor, reduced blood pressure, improved lung function and improved liver function.
Keeps your Memory Sharp– Many researchers believe that journaling consistently can help recall memories while also keeping the brain stimulated and sharp. Writing can help boost memory and improve comprehension skills.
Boosts Mood– Writing down our emotions, even if they are difficult ones, can help us release negative thoughts and give us a greater sense of control.
Sharpens Your Emotional IQ– Our emotional IQ refers to our capacity to understand, evaluate and manage emotions. A regular journaling practice can help us tune into our own emotions, which allows us to connect to our needs and desires. As we do this consistently, our ability to practice empathy and compassion, both with ourselves and others will become a well-formed habit.
Improves Communication Skills– Journaling is a great way to practice our ability to communicate effectively. If you find it difficult to express yourself to others, you might consider using journaling as a way to get to the core of your emotions. As you maintain your journaling practice you might find it easier to communicate your needs, thoughts and desires to others.
Sparks Creativity– You might surprise yourself with your own creativity! It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you first start journaling, however, the more you practice the easier it will become. Writing helps unleash your creative side, allowing you to explore ways of self-expression and acceptance.
Types of Journaling
If you’ve never written in a journal before, you might feel clumsy in the beginning. However, you don’t need to be intimidated. There are many different types of journaling, which can help provide some structure, especially as you start out. Once you get more comfortable within your practice, you might be ready to branch out into other styles.
• Gratitude Journal– Some people choose to keep a journal focused on the positive aspects of their day. Those who practice gratitude journaling often list three aspects of their day that provided joy or for which they are grateful.
• Personal Diary– This type of journaling allows a person to write about their day—what they did, who they met, or what kinds of emotions they have been dealing with. Keeping a personal diary is a great way to hold on to memories and relive experiences later on in life.
• Dream Journal– If you are prone to dream, or at least remembering them, you might consider a dream journal. Keep a journal by your bedside and each time you wake up to a dream, make sure to jot it down. Dreams can provide a lot of insight into our emotional and creative selves.
• Planning or Bullet Journal- Writing doesn’t come naturally to all people—that’s why some people find bullet journaling especially helpful. If you want to keep track of your day or even find a way to express your emotions efficiently, bullet journaling is an excellent option. This type of journaling involves keeping a bullet list of your thoughts or emotions in a clear and concise way.
• One Sentence Journal– Some people choose to write only one sentence a day in their journals. This type of journaling, similar to bullet journaling, allows you to focus on exactly how you’re feeling and what you want to remember when reminiscing in the future.
Journaling Tips for Beginners
Sitting down and writing can be challenging for so many people. However, writer’s block doesn’t have to keep you from expressing yourself through journaling.
As you first begin, consider writing in your journal as soon as you wake up. This will help you get your thoughts together and is especially helpful for those keeping a dream journal. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get with writing. Set goals for yourself, such as writing every day for five minutes, or at least twice a week for beginners. Remember, it’s important to be gentle with yourself, especially if you’re new to journaling. Don’t judge what you write and always keep going!
Expressing Ourselves at Maplewood Senior Living
We know how important self-expression and creativity can be to our health, especially during uncertain or stressful times. Our residents at Maplewood Senior Living have been exploring different creative outlets, while having fun in the process. If you’d like to hear more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.