The start of a new year often means the beginning of healthy new habits. We all resolve to do a little better “this year”. This year, I will eat better, exercise more, and…journal? Turns out, journaling, especially for seniors, can have many positive health benefits.
The 5 benefits of journaling for seniors
1. Stress reliever. Journaling can be a very effective tool in helping to reduce stress. Writing about the traumatic, stressful, and emotional events—or even just jotting down the day-to-day—can be therapeutic, freeing your body of negative feelings as they flow onto the page. This regular reflection time should help you cope with the stressful events as they arise, giving you a sense of control as you sort through the emotions and find meaning.
2. Physical health benefits. Studies have shown that “expressive writing for 15 to 20 minutes a day three to five times over the course of a four-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and have better liver functionality,” according to the Cambridge University Press. While long-term benefits include improved lung and immune system functioning, and a reduction in blood pressure.
3. Maintain brain function. Whether you’re journaling to preserve memories, as a creative outlet, or work through stressors, the process of writing itself involves visualization, speech, memory, learning, and coordination. By regularly journaling, you are maintaining these neural connections to help you maintain cognitive functioning, trigger memories, and improve recall.
4. Get some perspective. We can all become a little self-involved at times. Whether our world view has narrowed through circumstance or self-inflicted, journaling can help you understand more about why you have the views that you do, and perhaps even help you empathize with others’ points of view. As you journal about any given event, the process intrinsically unlocks questions about why others may have acted the way they did, and can inform your reaction.
5. Mood enhancer. Similar to #4, journaling promotes mindfulness by remaining in the present moment while keeping perspective. This emotional catharsis helps the brain regulate emotions, according to a study down at the University of California.
How to journal
Try a few different types of journaling.
There are several different kinds of journals you can keep. Try one, try them all! Find the ones that work for you and that result in the most positive impact on your well-being.
· Stream of consciousness
· Memories (event or daily recaps)
· Gratitude journal
· Dream journal
· Creative outlet for ideas and wisdom
· Health & wellness tracker
Set the mood
Keep in mind that this is meant for you, and only you. Get comfortable, take several deep breaths, use the tools you’re most familiar with—whether it’s a nice new notebook and ballpoint pen, your cellphone’s notepad, or desktop word program—and don’t hold back. This is your time for your thoughts.
Make it manageable
Plan to only write 2 – 5 minutes at a time when you’re first beginning. Or set a 1-paragraph to 1-page limit. The looming blank page won’t be as overwhelming knowing you have a target.