9 reasons why writing in a journal should be your only resolution in the new year.

If you've got a list of resolutions, this one thing will cover them ALL.

Once upon a time in Texas, some computer engineers got fired.

After four months of unemployment, not a single one of them had found a new job. Something a little surprising gave them hope ... and better results in their job hunt.

A diary.


In a study led by University of Texas researcher James W. Pennebaker, a group of the jobless professionals got in touch with their feelings and wrote about it, diary style. 20 minutes. Writing. Emotions. Repeat. Daily.

It's what Pennebaker wanted to test. Could this emotional writing practice reduce stress and help solve the problems these engineers were having?

"Listen, Frank. We're going to write about our feelings in a diary. Just accept it." Image by SDASM Archives/Flickr.

In the group that got all up in their feelings and put them down on paper, more than 26% found a new job.

"So if i don't address my feelings in an emotional journal, I'm less likely to find my next job? Whoa." More on this below. Image by Nasjonalbiblioteket/Flickr.

The other engineers wrote about non-emotional stuff like time management, or they wrote nothing at all. Less than 5% of those in this group found a job.

And as it turns out, emotionally expressive writing is useful for so much more than finding a job.

It can improve your health, your happiness, your goals, your love life ... everything! And for those of you thinking, "Whatever diaries are dumb," try thinking of journaling or freewriting as PRODUCTIVE MEDITATION.

And we're off ...

Writing in a journal should be your ONLY New Year's resolution this year. And I'll prove it to you.

Name a resolution, and we'll keep it using — you guessed it — a writing practice! Let's get started.

1. If your resolution is to be healthier:

All images by Lori White.

Journaling can help you with your immunity.

Ever heard of T lymphocytes? Me neither, until I learned that regular journaling can strengthen these important immune cells. More research, chronicled at PsychCentral, also shows that journaling can reduce symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

2. If your resolution is to be happier:

Emotional writing can heal mental and emotional wounds ... after about two weeks.

I know I've been cheerleading for emotional journaling, but know this: the first two weeks will be rough. In one study, during the beginning of emotional writing, subjects got more depressed, and some of their blood pressures even increased!

Writing about trauma is uncomfortable in the short run, but after a brief period of time, the costs can disappear and the benefits emerge ― and they last.

As one participant admitted, "Although I have not talked with anyone about what I wrote, I was finally able to deal with it, work through the pain instead of trying to block it out. Now it doesn't hurt to think about it."

3. If your resolution is to lose weight:

Journaling helps process emotions, which are an often ignored obstacle to weight loss and healthy habits!

OK, first, you're perfect the way you are. And second, long-term studies found no relationship between only weight loss and health improvements. Weight loss doesn't contribute to a healthier you, but healthy habits do! So maybe think about a resolution to form some healthier habits.

The emotional aspect of weight loss is overlooked, and journaling is proven to help with emotional processing.

From Dr. Diary, aka James W. Pennebaker:

"When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health. ... They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up. People will tell us months afterward that it’s been a very beneficial experience for them."

4. If your resolution is to be less stressed:

Pennebaker believes that writing about stress can help you come to terms with it.

Stress has physical symptoms too. So if you journal about stress and therefore reduce stress, you'll also reduce physical symptoms of stress. Easy!

5. If your resolution is to heal that cut on your finger from when you were slicing the holiday ham:

Journaling might just help heal physical wounds too.

Yes, really. In a study in New Zealand, 72% of a group who'd done expressive writing after a biopsy were fully healed, versus 42% of a group who'd done no writing. Researchers think the writing may have led to better sleep and reduced stress, and therefore ... heal-ier wounds!

Cool, huh?

6. If your resolution is to get a new job:

Journaling can help you find a job faster, but not necessarily get more interviews.

It's a quality-quantity thing.

An interesting tidbit on this from the study of the laid off engineer story at the very beginning of this article:

"Interestingly, expressive writing didn't land the engineers any more interviews. It just increased the odds that they were hired when they did have an interview. "

And if you think the whole thing about the expressive journal-ers getting jobs is a little too good to be true, it's worth noting that the scientists who first did this study have been able to replicate it many more times.

7. If your resolution is to write more:

Journaling daily not only can help heal the emotional blocks of insecurity, perfectionism, and other fun demons ... it can train you to just write, censor-free, and to just generally make things.

Emotional journaling, aka the concept of morning pages, is a basic tenet of a book titled "The Artist's Way" — which has sold millions of copies. Plus, it's a book I like and I create things for a living!

8. If your resolution is to be a more creative soul:

Journaling can get your right brain involved.

Problem solving gets relegated to your analytical left brain most of the time, but sometimes analyzing a problem ain't gonna cut it. That's when it's great to get your RIGHT brain involved. And one of the quickest ways to do that is through writing!

There's even a theory, based on MRI imaging, that activating your brain and then resting it leads to more a-ha moments.

9. If your resolution is to be better at your job:

Plain ol' emotional writing will make you miss less work and get better grades, but writing about how your work is making a difference might make you better at that job!

A study of fundraising found that when people working in stressful fundraising jobs journaled about how their job was making a difference for just a few days, it increased their hourly effort by 29% over the following two weeks.

Excuse me I have some deadlines coming up, so I'm gonna take 20 minutes now to write about how this article is making a difference ... hold on a sec.

So .. how?

Start journaling when you feel ready. Set a time. Stick to it.

20 minutes. Three pages. Whatever.

Get in your feelings.

Pennebaker's research has shown that writing about traumatic events only improves health when people describe facts and feelings.

Throw in some gratitude and maybe a line or two about achieving future goals and dreams and the difference you're making in life. Don't be too strict.

Trust yourself! You know what's making you feel better!

You'll be in good company. George Washington, Virginia Woolf, Pablo Picasso, Richard Branson, and Mark Twain are just some of the members of the diary club.

Don't worry about the writing being "good." Writing is like dancing! We can all dance in our own way ... and no one gets to tell you you're dancing "wrong" because they're not you.

It might sound pretty out there to be all "I'm writing in my diary now!" — but there's nothing flighty or youthfully naive about decades of scientific research that show that something as simple (AND FREE!) as writing for 20 minutes a day can change your life.

Try it in 2016.

Resolutions are annoying: They make you feel bad, and they're often just plain annoying to try to meet. I'm sharing this so that we can all be done with those obnoxious, shaming, icky-feeling New Year's resolutions.

All we need to do to get started on a better year — according to research! — is put a pen to paper. It's free. It's easy. And you deserve ALL that it can bring you in 2016.

More

Comedy legend Carol Burnett once said, "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head." She wasn't joking.

Going through childbirth is widely acknowledged as one of the most grueling things a human can endure. Having birthed three babies myself, I can attest that Burnett's description is fairly accurate—if that seemingly impossible lip-stretching feat lasted for hours and involved a much more sensitive part of your body.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via SNL / YouTube

Christopher Walken is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He's been nominated for an Academy Award twice for best supporting actor, winning once for 1978's "The Deer Hunter" and receiving a nomination for 2002's "Catch Me if You Can."

He's played memorable roles in "Annie Hall," "Pulp Fiction," "Wedding Crashers," "Batman Returns," and countless other films. He's also starred in Shakespeare on the stage and began his career as a dancer.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular