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 well-being. 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 an effective 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 well-being. Journaling is a great way to express your emotions, which in turn can help manage stress and frustrations.
Produces positive health outcomes
A study found that those who engage in expressive writing, which focuses on expressing deep thoughts and feelings, reported improved immune system function along with fewer stress-related visits to the doctor, reduced blood pressure, improved lung function, and improved liver function.
Keeps 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.
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 emotional intelligence (EQ)
Our emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to our capacity to understand, evaluate, and manage emotions. A regular journaling practice can help us tune in to 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 with others, will become a well-formed habit.
Improves communication skills
Journaling is an ideal 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.
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.
“At Inspīr, we will also use life storytelling with our residents, which allows the opportunity for intergenerational involvement,” says Molly Fisher, Director of Program Innovation and Education, “and can be done with cognitive impairment as well, whereas standard journaling can be difficult when dementia or Parkinson’s set in. The opportunities for creative expression happen in all levels of care, whether through music, art, comedy, or writing. We know that our residents have lived and still are living great lives, and their stories have a place in this world.”
- 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 the perfect way to hold on to memories and relive experiences later on in life.
- Dream journal – If you are prone to dreaming, 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 bulleted 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.
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. And 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 Inspīr
We know how important self-expression and creativity can be to our health. At Inspīr, we weave our Nine Core Elements into everything we do, helping residents explore different creative outlets while having fun in the process. If you’d like to hear more about our residence, or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.