21 Benefits of Journaling: Write Your Way to Better Health

Geoffrey Lions
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1: Makes You Happier

When people keep a personal journal, it has significant emotional benefits. The most obvious benefit is it helps people express their feelings and work through them. Journaling can improve mood and happiness by helping people express the things that are bothering them.

Studies have found that while writing in a journal is cathartic, it is also beneficial for the way people process and manage emotions.

In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers found that keeping a journal helped people become less emotionally reactive when going through difficult times. For example, following a disappointing medical diagnosis or break up, a person who journaled had a better overall mood and experienced less negative reactions in the weeks that followed.

2: Increases Your Immunity

Journaling has been proven to help the immune system. Journaling helps deepen the immune system connections that develop in the Thymus and the thymus is deeply related to the immune system, so journaling enhances our immune system.

3: Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety

Humans have been keeping journals for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians kept journals in clay tablets. Today, we still keep journals but, rather than writing on vases or papyrus, we write on pieces of paper.

A study from Michigan State University was conducted on 24 seniors. Over the course of 10 weeks, half of the participants recorded details about their daily activities. The other half completed a control activity. The result? Those who journaled showed decreases in biomarkers related to depression and stress.

The link between journaling and a decreased risk of depression is based on an old Chinese proverb, which says: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. But if you want happiness for a lifetime, plant a garden.”

While being in nature has been acknowledged as being therapeutic, it may be journaling about nature that proves to provide the greatest benefits. Research has found that writing about emotional subjects can lead to a decrease in negative feelings and an increased sense of overall well-being.

Researchers suspect that the benefits of journaling have to do with the way that the act of writing influences the brain. When we put pen to paper, we create strong memories because, unlike oral communication, writing provides a permanent record of our thoughts. This is known as the memory reconsolidation phenomenon.

4: Improves Your Physical Fitness

In writing to-do lists, exercises, and activities you’ve completed, you’ll start to gain awareness of the activities you’re engaging in and how they’re impacting your health. This awareness can lead you to expand your workout and activities outside of those that focus on physical fitness.

For example, this awareness inspired me to schedule time to sit down with my husband and work out financial goals and concerns instead of sitting on my computer going from website to website.

I’ve even added an exercise to my day by creating a poster board with all of my favorite exercises I learned in an exercise group, and I made a schedule for myself. This way I’m able to continue to work on my physical exercise regularly without much effort.

5: Helps Manage Chronic Pain

Researchers at Ohio State University found that writing about a traumatic event or about spiritual or religious topics can reduce pain symptoms in patients dealing with chronic pain. This is due to the fact that writing about these topics can lead to the release of neurotransmitters called endorphins, which block pain signals from reaching the brain.

6: Reduces Symptoms of Depression

A study showed that writing about emotional upheavals improves mood through reducing depressive symptoms. During the writing phase, researchers found evidence of increased activity of the left frontal cortex in the brain, where positive emotions are believed to originate. This study also found increased activity in the anterior cingulated, or ACC, which has a lot to do with appetite and self-control. This could mean that journaling not only helps you to understand your emotions but also helps you to gain control over your actions during times of stress.

7: Improves Memory

A cognitive psychologist conducted a research on 77 individuals for a total of a hundred days. She tested their memory when they started the experiment, and after the experiment. The test measured the ability of the participants to remember lists of words they had seen. The participants were divided into two groups. One group was asked to write about the emotions they were experiencing at the moment; the other one had to write random words. The group that wrote about their emotions experienced twice as much growth as the group writing random words.

8: Helps with the Grief Process

As mentioned before, keeping a journal is a great way to express your feelings and to work through the grief process.

When something bad happens or someone dies, writing about it can help the healing process.

Writing about the grieving process actually helps you to process the grief and get a grip on it.

The act of writing about your feelings about the person who died can help you sort through them and understand them better.

By writing your thoughts, you can put things in perspective which means they get easier to cope with.

As you write, you’ll think more about the things that were most important about the person who died.

Then you can work on the things they were most passionate about and continue to care that passion even though they’re no longer on this earth.

9: Reduces Stress

Writing about a particular subject may be a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. Journaling about your deepest, darkest fears can be a lot more cathartic than talking about them in person.

Everyone has fears, worries, hopes, and dreams. By writing about these things, you’re taking control. By writing about what is troubling you, you will be able to get more clarity.

Empirical research has shown that writing about traumatic experiences can help people heal mentally. It allows people to promote neural organization. When we don’t write about what’s going on, these wounds will fester in our subconscious.

Over time, that leads to relationship problems, bad emotional habits, and even physical concerns. So by taking control of your thoughts, you take control of your life.

10: Helps with Recovery from Trauma

If you’ve experienced trauma such as a car accident, a plane crash, sexual abuse or a natural disaster like a hurricane, journaling can help you heal. In a National Institutes of Health study, researchers found that expressive writing reduced stress hormone levels for 82 percent of participants.

Not only that, but one study of patients hospitalized after a heart attack found that those who kept daily journals were less likely to die in the following eight years than those who didn’t keep a journal.

Since keeping a journal helps you process the feelings you have about the trauma that happened to you, it makes sense that it could help aid your recovery.

11: Improves Your Sleep

Studies have shown that writing in a journal can help you sleep better at night. In a study conducted at the American Psychological Association, people who kept a journal before they went to bed reported less anxiety, and a greater feeling of calmness and well-being than those who didn’t write. And journaling could help you fall asleep, too. In another study of college students, those who took daily fifteen-minute writing breaks fell asleep faster and had fewer nighttime awakenings than those who didn’t take the breaks.

12: Reduces Inflammation

If you do an annual physical, you may notice a blood work result that says “elevated C-reactive protein”” (abbreviated as CRP). Although CRP is a direct measure of inflammation in the body, it’s notoriously difficult to diagnose inflammation just from a blood test.

There are actually several protein markers in the blood associated with inflammation, and the CRP test is just one of them. Common symptoms of inflammation include tiredness, fatigue, muscle soreness, and muscle weakness.

An older study done in a college setting compared the results of those who wrote in a journal at least once per week with those who did not. Researchers found that students who wrote in a journal were able to significantly reduce the C-reactive protein in their blood. The students who didn’t write in a journal showed no change in their blood work.

Writing in a journal has been shown to directly reduce the amount of inflammation in the body. So if you’re experiencing some symptoms that could be attributed to inflammation, try sitting down and writing it out. While you’re writing, let it all out, don’t hold back. Use at least fifteen minutes at a time to write down your thoughts.

13: Benefits Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

Keeping a journal helps to keep your thoughts and feelings in order, records your memories and special events, and provides an outlet for creative writing.

For women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, keeping a journal can also be a way to manage the stress and uncertainty of the diagnosis, as well as keeping track of important test results. Doctors may not have time to answer all of your questions or handle every concern right away.

If you’re considering keeping a journal, consider using a nomogram to track your progress. A nomogram is a chart used to track changes with whatever you may be treating.

Keeping a journal can help you keep track of vitamins, supplements, and medications you are taking, along with other important information your doctor may require you to record.

Before you begin writing, think of a title for your journal that you can stick with. This will help you when you may get distracted in the middle of writing. A title is also helpful for others if and when they read your journal.

The process of writing can help manage feelings and stress caused by the diagnosis. It also makes you evaluate how you’re handling medical tests, how you are responding to treatment and what you need from your friends and family.

14: Helps Parents with Technology-Dependent Children

The same way technology can make parenting easier, it can make it harder.
Older children can have an easier time embracing technology and all it has to offer, but this is not the case for younger children.

Children under the age of five can get frustrated with technology, and they may lash out and even retreat from these devices. Instead of helping parents, technology can become a hindrance if parents aren’t careful. Expressing your feelings on paper will help you sort through these thoughts and control your emotions. It will also help you communicate your feelings and expectations around camera usage to your child.

15: Increases Productivity

Journaling provides a daily outlet for your feelings. It’s a great way to get something off your chest without the possibility of being reprimanded for it by another person.

If you’re ever on the fence about whether to express your emotions and thoughts to another person, try journaling. You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and you may not realize just how much your feelings can affect your health.

16: Encourages Digital Detox

Have you ever noticed how we are attached to our smartphones? Our smartphones are great tools, but if you rely on it for all of your entertainment, you'll never know true peace. There is a way to unplug without being too antisocial, and journaling may be the best way to begin that journey toward moderation.

Pull out a pen and paper and take some time to be 100% thoughtful and insightful instead of pecking away at your smartphone. Sure, it might be tempting to pull out your phone to check Facebook or Instagram, but if you give your fingers a rest from typing, you'll get some great insight. As a bonus, you may find that when you're writing down your thoughts, you're much more aware of what you're doing at all times.

From time to time, it's good to take a few minutes to pull away from your computer screen and cell phone. It's difficult to recharge during a work day stuck using these devices, because they are also the place most of us go to interact with other people.

While digital detox is normally something we associate with getting away from it all, you can use it as a way to press the restart button on your mind, and give yourself no distractions or excuses not to finish your thoughts.

17: Great Form of Self-Care

Journaling can be shown to help with stress. Studies show that writing your thoughts and feelings can help reduce stress levels. The act of writing has been proven to help people sleep better at night and help relieve pain. In addition to these clear physical benefits, it also is a form of self-care. Journaling is a great way to check in with oneself and know that you are not alone with your problems. Journaling helps people get the feelings out of their head and onto paper.

18: Low Cost or Free!

You may have spent money on counseling that you needed at the time. Or you may have spent a great deal of money on self-help books or tapes to develop your self esteem. Even if you have already invested money in counseling or self help programs, journaling can cost you almost nothing. This is especially true if you purchase a good journal.

"A cheap and cheerful alternative to the therapist is a notebook. This gives you a space to write your thoughts and feelings about what's going on in your world, as well as the possibility to backtrack over your thoughts if something comes to the surface that surprises you." (Gill, 2003, p.44).

19: No Physical Exertion

Needed!

There’s no need to get messy.

Other exercises, like cleaning or those more aerobic ones, can make a person rather sweaty. Staying fit doesn’t mean getting gross.

If you’ve ever shared a room with someone who worked out and come back to find the room all hot and damp, then you know why this benefit of journaling can be great.

20: Inspires Creativity

As probably the most creative of the arts, making music, is our most direct and immediate connection with the divine and the deepest source of our inspiration. Writing is the most abstract and the slowest of the arts and that is why it is more difficult for us to write.

Franz Kafka, "A Hunger Artist"

When you sit down to journal, you are likely to think the thoughts that are swirling through your mind at that moment. Often, they are the thoughts that could be considered most negative. They may be jumbled and disorganized or confusing. You may feel stressed or overwhelmed by them.

Just like taking pictures forces you to see the world differently, writing forces you to become more creative. When you are writing, putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper, you are forced to think about how you truly feel as opposed to how you wish you felt. In this way, it’s like writing your own memoirs.

As you come to terms with yourself, you are learning more about who you are and how you feel. Learning about your own feelings and emotions can enable you to enjoy life more and help you to understand and accept others when they are going through a difficult time.

It’s like cleaning a closet or organizing your kitchen. Having the space to think more clearly enables you to move forward with more peace and harmony.

21: Encourages Gratitude

Keeping a gratitude journal encourages reflection on the positive during challenging times. When you focus on the positive, you'll receive psychological and physiological boosts.

Psychologically, you'll feel better about yourself knowing that you have something to be thankful for. Physiologically, the release of certain hormones, such as ligthtendin, oxytocin, and dopamine, that come from being grateful, will help your body cope with stress.