Learn why keeping a self-care journal can benefit you as a massage therapist

When it comes to journaling, people tend to either love it or hate it, according to those who frequently write about the subject.

If you love it, then you likely already know the value this particular activity can provide.

But if you fall into the latter category and just can’t seem to get yourself to sit down and put your feelings on paper, you might just change your mind once you understand how much this one action can benefit you and your massage therapy business.

Benefits of Journaling as a Massage Therapist

Journaling is probably best known for its psychological benefits. New York’s University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) lists a few of them on its website, some of which include: easing anxiety, reducing stress and relieving depression.

URMC also stresses how journaling has positive effects on your mood. This is beneficial in massage therapy because most clients prefer a happy therapist versus a therapist who seems angry or sad.

A good mood tends to be contagious, enabling you to have an even more positive effect on the health and welfare of your clients.

Basically, when you’re relaxed and in a good place mentally as a massage therapist, your clients will find it easier to be more relaxed and in a better mental space when they’re with you. You’re also better able to focus on reading your client’s body, because you won’t be sidetracked by negative emotions floating in and out of your head during your massage sessions.

Journaling has physical benefits as well. In an article published by Psych Central, Maud Purcell, L.C.S.W., C.E.A.P., shares that research confirms this , noting that various studies have connected the act of journaling with healthier immune cell response, fewer symptomatic issues with conditions like asthma, and partial relief of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Additionally, in February 2010, a literature review was published in the American Journal of Public Health and it looked at a variety of creative outlets and the impact they had on physical health.

What the researchers discovered is that those who express themselves regularly have reported experiencing greater control of their physical pain, less fatigue, fewer sleep issues and improvements related to physical disabilities, just to name a few.

How can you enjoy all of these benefits, mental and physical, especially if you’re new to the art journaling?

Fortunately, the answer to this question is fairly simple as it involves following a short, 3-step process.

Step 1: Decide Your Journaling Type

Typically when people hear the word “journal,” they envision a notebook full of lines, which is where you place your thoughts, feelings and concerns expressed in words. While this traditional form of journaling is probably still one of the most used formats today, other types of journals do exist. One is a visual journal.

Covers from Kathy Morelli’s visual journal

A visual journal is a journal where you use images, pictures, shapes and patterns to convey whatever is on your mind. Kathy Morelli, L.M.T., C.A., L.P.C., is both a massage therapist and a licensed professional counselor in Wayne, New Jersey, and she says that she has been visual journaling for almost 50 years, starting when she was just 12 years old.

“I write and also use magazine pictures, oils pastels, markers, and colored pencils to express fluid emotionality, in a right brain type of way,” says Morelli. “This helps me ground myself, to think things through, [and] to explore issues with both my right and left brain … logically and emotionally.”

How do you know which type of journal—a word journal or a visual journal—is right for you?

If you find it relatively easy to communicate what you’re feeling and thinking using your language of choice, then a word journal is probably the way to go.

However, if you find more release in creating some type of imagery, such as by painting or drawing, then you’ll probably find a visual journal more helpful to getting your feelings out.

Step 2: Determine Your Journal Size (Think Logistics)

A second factor to consider when journaling is logistics. In other words, what size journal will work best for you given wherever it is you intend to use it?

Ideally, you don’t want one that is so big that you’ll never get it out and use it, but you also don’t want one so small that you’re constantly losing or misplacing it.

Morelli says that, while her journal of choice is actually a large spiral sketchbook, she does have more than one, keeping an 8 x 11-inch journal for travel and a larger 16 x 25-inch journal for home. When selecting the size of your journal then, think about where it is you intend to journal and make your decision from there.

If you will always journal at home, for instance, then you can probably get away with something that is larger in size because you won’t have to move it.

Or, you can do what Morelli does and use two, one for travel and one for when you’re in the comfort of your own surroundings.

Step 3: Ask (And Answer) the Right Questions

Once you have your journal and are ready to use it, the next and final step is to decide what you’re going to journal about. Rachel Beider, L.M.T., is the owner of Massage Williamsburg, and she says that, while she uses her small, portable notebook to help her “stay on top of my dreams, goals, and emotional check-ins,” it’s the questions that she answers in her journal that help push her in the right direction.

“A question that often comes up for me as inspiration to journal is: What has shifted?” shares Beider. “Sometimes noticing these small, subtle changes is helpful for me and helps me answer much bigger questions while staying on a path that’s true to my values and goals.”

Essentially, this is the heart of journaling, which is to figure out what is going on inside of you mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This helps you correct any problems you face, resolve any impending issues that have been bothersome, and ease your troubled mind.

When all is said and done, journaling not only makes you feel better mentally and physically, but it also helps you become a better massage therapist, keeping you in tune with yourself so you can also be more in tune with your clients. That makes it an action that is worth doing, even if you don’t initially like it.

Who knows? You may just change your mind when you see what a positive impact it has on your personal and professional life.


If you enjoyed reading this MASSAGE Magazine online article, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for more articles about massage news, techniques, self-care, research, business and more, delivered monthly. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for additional unique content, including product announcements and special offers.