Writing your thoughts and feelings in a private notebook isn’t a new concept. When you were a teenager, you or someone you know may have kept a diary. For teenagers, a journal is a great way to cope with the stress of adolescence.
Many adults cease using diaries when they grow up. However, they shouldn’t because it can still help you deal with stress just like it did during high school years. For adults, instead of writing in a diary, it’s called journaling.
Journaling is a technique that’s been successfully used for mental health therapy all over the world. It’s proven to have immense benefits for your mental health. Many people are unaware that it also has benefits for your physical health as well.
In this article, you’ll discover what doctors say will happen to your body when you write in a journal daily. It’s good news, so keep reading to find out more.
Scientific Evidence Behind Journaling
When you write in a journal daily, it improves your mental health, which leads to improvements in your physical health. It’s no secret that the mind and body are connected. The body often mimics the state of your mind.
Researchers believe that journaling can help people avoid negative thoughts and improve their memories. University of Texas psychologist James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., says that people tend to express more emotion when writing which helps them “simplify and organize fragmented memories.” Dr. Pennebaker is a lead researcher and widely known for his research into how journaling improves cognitive functioning.
Journaling is even helpful for people with physical conditions and diseases. When they write in a journal daily about things that involve their needs, it helps them to manage the problems better. One example is a food journal – journaling about what you eat, when you eat it, and how you feel when you eat can help manage things like diabetes and weight loss.
Increases in availability of technology have led to online journaling being popular. Even this type of journaling has shown to be a significant help in managing mental health. Plus, the ability to access the journal anytime, anywhere, makes it more convenient.
Journaling directly impacts mental health and indirectly affects physical health. In the next section, some of the more specific benefits are discussed.
Eleven Benefits of Journaling
One of the most widely known benefits of journaling is stress reduction. Many of the benefits of journaling stem from the removal of stress. This outcome is because stress affects many functions in the body, including your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and even physical processes.
Journaling about stressful things in your life can help you get a fresh perspective on them. Simply writing them down can feel like you’re lifting a weight off of your shoulders. With the clarity, you get from journaling about these stressful things comes the rest of the benefits below.
2 – Improve Health Conditions
It may not seem like your physical health can improve when you write in a journal daily, but it’s been proven that it does. In a study done by Dr. Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., of Syracuse University, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients who journaled during the course showed improvements in their conditions four months after their journaling exercises. There are studies done for other conditions as well.
Journaling isn’t going to cure any condition. However, it will make it much more manageable by reducing the impact of the symptoms.
3 – Cope with Depression
There are plenty of studies that show that journaling helps improve or fight off depression. It’s been shown that journaling can be as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for depression. Sometimes, getting things off your chest, even if it is just to a notebook, is enough to make you feel better and add some positivity to your life.
4 – Mood Booster
Since journaling can help with depression, it’s no surprise that it can improve a person’s mood. People often feel a sense of relief as well as an inner-peace after journaling. This mindset can make them feel happier, freer, and in an overall better mood. This outcome is especially true when they’re getting stress relief.
5 – Face Your Fears
Journaling may not make you a superhero, but it can make you brave enough to face your fears. When you write in a journal daily, it can help you identify patterns of fear. It can also help you to see solutions to those fears. As your stress is relieved and your mood is improved, you can find the confidence to conquer your fears.
6 – Memory Improvements
Writing is a proven way to improve your memory. This improvement is actual even outside of journaling. That’s why it’s recommended for students to take notes by hand.
According to Dr. Helen Macpherson of the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University, when you write, you have a more challenging time keeping up with what you’re trying to remember (compared to typing). Writing causes your brain to encode the information differently, leading to a better chance of remembering what you’re writing.
7 – Manage Anxiety
When you write in a journal daily, you can improve your anxiety because it helps you slow down and cope with your stressors at a more manageable pace. Writing calms you and allows you to clear your mind. You become more self-aware, and you feel comfortable confronting your stressors.
It’s almost like you’re in a safe place when you write in your journal daily. Your journal becomes that place you can go to when you need inner-peace.
8 – Identify Medical Triggers
As stated before, journaling can help you improve certain health conditions. It can also help you identify specific triggers that can aggravate those medical conditions. By having a log of your activities, the things you eat, and the way you feel, you can go back and see what you were doing right before you got sick. This data comes in handy when you visit your doctor.
9 – Journal to Recovery
Unfortunately, so many people are subject to traumatic events. However, if they write in a journal daily, it can aid them on their path to recovery. Journaling can help you get your negative thoughts on paper so you can stop worrying about them. This allows you to free your mind so you can process your grief.
Journaling can help with recovery from many different situations. It could be alcoholism, eating disorders, drugs, sexual violence, and more. Journaling is especially helpful in helping kids recover.
10 – Immune System Boost
Not only will journaling help improve certain conditions, but it can give your immune system a significant boost, so you aren’t getting sick as often. This is because you’re relieving so much stress from yourself when you write in a journal daily. Your body can stop focusing on stress and start focusing on other things that require energy and attention.
11 – Enhances Creativity
Journaling is essentially a form of self-expression. Since its private, people feel freer to let their imaginations roam while they write. You can put anything you want, and that can lead to your wildest dreams coming out on paper (or screen if you decide to type). You may even surprise yourself at how creative you are.
It can be incredibly freeing to write anything you want without judgment. Letting your creativity come out can be incredibly inspirational and motivational. You’ll find ways to solve problems and achieve goals. The sky is the limit when you write in a journal daily.
Tips for How to Journal Effectively
It’s not hard to be an effective writer for your journal. Use these simple tips to get you going in the right direction.
- The first thing you’ll want to do is find a private place where you feel safe and comfortable. This privacy will help you with clarity while you’re writing.
- Next, let go of any rules or preconceived notions about what journaling is. This is your chance to make it whatever you want or need. It’s your story, so make your own rules.
- Don’t second guess yourself. Write whatever comes to mind. Write what feels right to you. You should feel what you’re writing, and it should be important to you.
- When you write, be honest with yourself. You can’t reap the benefits if you don’t face whatever is in your head. No one will read your journal, so don’t be afraid to write all the things that you keep hidden away.
- Finally, be consistent with journaling. You should write at least 15 minutes, three times a week to be effective, but you can certainly write more than that.
Journaling is a highly useful tool if you’re consistent with it. Daily journaling would be the most effective, but even if you only write a few days a week, you can benefit from the positivity it creates.
You don’t have anything to lose by journaling. In fact, you have all the benefits mentioned here, plus a plethora of others that can change your life for the better. Give it a chance – you will be glad that you did.