Write about your life and experiences to better understand them and yourself.
- Journaling is a valuable resource that nurses can use to support their health and wellness.
- Journaling allows you to script feelings and thoughts to better understand yourself and events, as well as cultivate self-compassion and self-awareness.
- Writing strengthens cognition, fosters insight, and improves emotional regulation.
NURSES’ FOCUS on compassion can be both rewarding and depleting. To offset the fatigue that can come with nursing care, nurses must find ways to express their feelings and tend to their own well-being. Journaling is a valuable resource that nurses can use to support their health and wellness. Using journaling to script feelings and thoughts promotes understanding, self-compassion, and self-awareness. In addition, writing strengthens cognition, fosters insight, and improves emotional regulation.
Although the benefits of journaling are well established, it’s underused as a method for self-care and reflection. Philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey wrote that “reflective thinking alone is educative.” Journaling provides a foundation for reflective thinking and can help anyone, including nurses, express their emotions and improve their health and well-being.
At its most basic, journaling is a record of personal thoughts, daily events, and evolving insights. It also provides a foundation for creativity, guidance, selfawareness, understanding, and spiritual development. While journaling, authors can express themselves without censorship, disapproval, or judgment. Screaming, expressing anger, whimpering, feeling sad, wailing, and raging may occur while journaling.
Journaling has been shown to decrease blood pressure, ease symptoms of depression, and improve immune functioning. Francis and Pennebaker researched how journaling about emotionally distressing situations affected a person’s thoughts, feelings, and physical health. The results indicated that journaling reduces blood pressure, improves mood, and decreases absenteeism. And in a study by Dimitroff and colleagues, the authors concluded that journaling increased nurses’ compassion and decreased burnout and compassion fatigue symptoms. In addition, they identified three themes in their qualitative analysis: “journaling allowed me to unleash my [innermost] feelings,” “journaling helped me to articulate and understand my feelings concretely,” and “journaling helped me make more reasonable decisions.”
Research also shows that journaling is an important tool for developing critical-thinking skills. Nurses use journaling to explore “general observations, questions, speculative statements, expressions of self-awareness, statements of synthesis, revisions of previously held ideas, and the accumulation of new information to develop critical thinking…” as noted in a 2017 article by Dimitroff and colleagues. Scheffer and Rubenfeld defined reflection as “contemplation upon a subject, especially one’s assumptions and thinking, for the purposes of deeper understanding and self-evaluation.” And Raterink found that journaling was valuable in the clinical setting when used by graduate nursing students. As the students became more comfortable with journaling and self-reflection, they felt more competent about their critical-thinking skills and habits.
Use these suggestions to get started with your journaling.
A proven tool
Journaling provides an opportunity to express emotions and gain self-awareness. It also is a proven way to gain perspective and achieve a higher level of health and wellness, which benefits nurses directly and, in turn, all of the people whose lives we touch.
Lynda J. Dimitroff is an educational and leadership consultant in Rochester, New York.
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