The benefits of journaling have been well known for some time now. The Huffington Post mentions ten benefits for journaling backed up by research:
Journaling seems to be positively correlated with intelligence according to the University of Victoria.
Journaling brings one into a state of mindfulness
Journaling increases the likelihood that you will achieve a goal.
Journaling increases emotional intelligence; being able to understand the emotions of yourself and others.
Journaling boosts memory and comprehension
Journaling increases self-discipline as journaling itself consistently requires discipline!
Journaling improves verbal communication skills
Journaling can help to heal traumas by making an overwhelming experience more understandable
Journaling can help increase creativity
Journaling can increase self-confidence
Modifying an intervention designed by Philip Kendall PH.D and Kristina Hedtke M.A. called Coping Cat I have found that journaling can be surprisingly profound for children. Amazingly this happens even if they cannot write a word since in that case pictures can be substituted in to tell a story or memory. I bolded example four above to emphasize what results I’m seeing with children who get really into journaling.
In an attempt to increase emotional intelligence in children the essential method of journaling can be broken into three basics fundamentals:
Describing an event or experience
Identifying the somatic (in the body) sensations experienced during the event
I typically ask the children I work with to describe one time in the past week they felt positive and one time they felt negative. After journaling each description I then ask them to put into words how their body felt during that experience; this can be quite a challenge at first. To describe our emotions in words and specifically in terms of what actual sensations occur in our body (hot, cold, tingling) is a new process and takes some time to get used to. This knowledge, however, proves invaluable as the person continues on in life as it is the essential key to emotional intelligence. The more difficult this step is for someone the more this skill needs to be developed. The third step, relaxation training, is built on the ability of being able to notice the bodily sensations that a person associates with a negative state as they begin to arise! It’s of paramount importance for a child to notice right at the beginning of getting upset because it’s really only at this mild level of anxiety that a coping strategy (journaling, mindfulness, taking a break, breathing etc.) can help the person self-regulate back to a positive state.
I hope that you’ll try this method with your own children or any children you may work with. This practice can really reap huge rewards and not just for children that may be having difficulties with behavior or anxiety. In fact, I hope you start journaling so that you can verify the benefits for yourself!