Every morning, I write a note to my future self.
Maybe you do, too. Although if you do, you would probably refer to it as journaling.
Journaling is a surprisingly brain friendly activity. But in times like these, it is not just good for the brain, it’s good for the soul. And that’s what I want to talk about today.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing, of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
There are certain things I’ve gone my entire adult life without ever doing, and I’m pretty certain that I never will. Things like jumping out of an airplane with a parachute on my back, or getting a tattoo.
For a really long time, there were two other things I had on that list. Meditation, and journaling. Nothing against them, just wasn’t interested in them. I just didn’t think they were for me.
But after I turned 60, and I lost my mother to dementia, I needed to get serious about my own brain health and defend my cognition. And as I educated myself, I discovered that meditation and journaling are two really good ways to do that.
And now I do both of them faithfully. Every day. And my only regret is that I didn’t start 40 years sooner.
Meditation is something I’ve talked about numerous times in these videos. But I have never once talked about journaling, even though I consider it one of the single most important things I do for both my brain health and just my mental health.
And with everything that’s going on in the world today, if there was ever a time to talk about journaling, it would be now.
I tend to focus a lot on science and on research. And yeah, I could tell you that journaling has been shown to boost memory and comprehension, and it also can increase working memory capacity, which may result in improved cognitive processing.
But really, it’s not about that right now. It’s about how journaling can help you through the hard times in your life, kind of times we’re living through right now.
I’ve been journaling for about three years now, and after I’d been doing it a couple of years, I started doing something that has been really beneficial to me. So this is actually my journal from two years ago.
So every morning, after I finishing writing in my current journal, then I take out this journal and I go back and I read the words that I wrote on this same day two years ago.
What I was thinking, what I was feeling. What seemed most important to me at the time. And when you look at those words again two years later, it changes your whole perspective.
You know where I was two years ago, today? I was in Paris. Here’s my journal entry from two years ago, 2018, and it asks me to write what I’m grateful for, and my answer is, “Are you kidding, I’m in Paris.” How great is that?
But when you journal day after day, year after year, you have a lot of days that are not great. Disappointments. Failures. Frustrations. Sadness. You just pour your heart out on those page.
But when you look at the same words two years later, some of these things I was so upset about at the time, I don’t even remember them now. It’s like, did that happen? Oh yeah, I guess it did. Or you see things that really weighed on you at the time, but you got through it, and you’re fine. And sometimes, those dark clouds have a silver lining, and what seemed so bad at the time, you look back on it later and it actually turns out to be a blessing.
And that perspective you get isn’t just hindsight. It can be forward-looking, too.
Because now, I find every morning when I write in my journal, I’m consciously aware that two years from now, I’m going to read those words again, and it feels like I’m writing notes to my future self.
And it gets me out of the moment, it gets me out of my head, out of whatever annoyance or funk I’ve managed to get myself into.
Are times great right now? No, they’re not. Things are actually pretty miserable at the moment, and we’re all going through that. But we’re all going through it together. And we’ll get through it together.
I’ve always loved this quote from Helen Keller. She said, “I want to write about me, my discoveries, my fears, my feelings, about me.”
Whatever you’re feeling right now, let it out by writing it down. Keep a journal for a while. Put it all on paper. It will be therapeutic for you. It will help you cope.
That’s what I’ve got for you today. I hope you find it helpful, and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.