Journaling has been proven to be effective tool for combatting symptoms of depression, anxiety, and improving overall mental health. Many of us may have journaled when we were younger and then abandoned the practice as we got older, busier, and perhaps less interested. You may even be of the opinion that the introspective nature of journaling encourages a sort of self-centeredness inappropriate in adulthood.
However, journaling is simply a tool. There are as many different ways of journaling as there are people who choose to journal. But the general consensus is clear: journaling is good for us. Study after study shows it. Writing expressively can improve the psychological and physiological health of cancer patients, enhance marital satisfaction (1), and even boost employment rates among job searchers.
Considering all the benefits of a regular journaling habit, it is well worth trying out, or revisiting.
The Benefits of Journaling
Journaling helps you manage your emotions. Journaling about your feelings helps you identify your emotions, identify the triggers for those emotions, and take action around the emotions.
According to therapist Amanda Ruiz, MS, LPC, “If you can record how you are feeling and what you are thinking, you are better able to track your emotions, notice people or places that are triggers, and recognize warning signs of your strong emotions.”
Being aware of our emotions and developing healthy ways of dealing with them enhances our overall emotional intelligence, which could improve our social interactions and relationships.
Journaling helps improve communication skills. Writing is a form of communication. Often, the hardest things to communicate are the things we experience internally. Journaling teaches you how to articulate your thoughts and feelings — even if you think you are just free-writing.
Journaling may also make you feel more comfortable talking about certain subjects, as you have already had some “practice” doing it. This can enhance both your willingness and ability to share your thoughts and feelings with loved ones.
Journaling helps you set and achieve goals. Sometimes, dreams and goals just have a way of getting away from you. Long-term goals in particular tend to get lost in the shuffle of daily life. You may find that you do not have the time and energy to devote yourself to achieving a certain goal, assuming you remember the goal at all. You may even find that you have no specific goals — or at least nothing you would identify as a “goal” in the traditional sense.
If you have a goal in mind, journaling helps you work out the details around that goal. It encourages you to keep yourself accountable and teaches you that no goal is too overwhelming when you take it one day, one step at a time. Journaling slows you down so you stay focused but also helps you keep up your pace.
If you do not have a specific goal in mind, you may discover through journaling where your interests lie, or what aspects of your life you would like to improve on. It does not have to be a quantifiable goal or one related to your career. It is more about remaining mindful of your day-to-day life and assessing how happy you currently are with it.
Journaling helps improve your problem-solving skills. By writing about your problems, you gain perspective on them. You start to notice certain patterns and trends. You start to see where they may have started and where they may go. With this level of clarity, you may find solutions to problems you would not have thought of otherwise.
Journaling helps enhance creativity and curiosity. Although journaling is an introspective, solitary act, we do not exist in a vacuum. We are always interacting with the world and engaging with other people. These experiences and the impressions they leave and the decisions we make around them will inevitably make their way into our writing. You may find yourself looking outside of yourself with more curiosity, and finding new ways of expressing what you see.
Journaling helps build self-discipline. Habits are difficult to build. It requires patience, perseverance, and focus. By successfully practicing self-discipline in this area of your life, you may find it easier to build self-discipline in other areas as well.
Journaling helps reduce the stress of trauma. Researchers have found that writing about trauma and the thoughts and feelings surrounding trauma help people process their experiences.
One study analyzed the impact of writing exercises on women with substance abuse disorders who had a history of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Compared to the control group, the women who participated in writing exercises showed greater reductions in PTSD symptoms, depression, and anxiety (2). The same was true for another study examining the effects of journaling on women with a history of childhood sexual abuse (3).
Journaling helps improve physical health. By improving overall mental health, journaling also improves physiological health (4). Some notable physical benefits of journaling include:
- stronger immune system
- reduction of disease symptoms
- improved liver function
- improved memory
- better sleep
- lower blood pressure
- improved lung function in asthmatics
Get Started with Journaling
Journaling is a cheap and accessible way of improving your mental health. It is easy to work into your self-care routine and can even be used in tandem with therapy or other mental health treatment. Do not get overwhelmed by all the different journaling tips out there. Find what works for you.