1. Journaling reduces stress
“When we feel overloaded or simply have a lot going on inwardly, journaling may be a terrific pressure releasing valve,” explains Amy Hoyt, PhD, founder of Mending Trauma. This is supported by research. Patients, family, and healthcare providers at a children’s hospital, for example, reported lower stress levels after performing this journaling exercise in one study:
Make a list of three things for which you are grateful.
In six words, tell the story of your life.
Make three wishes in your journal.
In a 12- to 18-month follow-up research, 85 percent of the participants said the writing practice was beneficial. Fifty-nine percent continued to use writing as a stress reliever.
2. Journaling has been shown to improve health and well-being.
According to a 2018 study, writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings will help you:
fewer doctor visits due to stress
blood pressure should be reduced
enhanced state of mind
Furthermore, a 12-week research of 70 persons with medical illnesses and anxiety discovered that writing about happy experiences, such as gratitude, was associated with:
Participants in the same study reported reduced feelings of despair and anxiety after a month. Participants reported increased resilience after the first and second months.
3. Journaling creates a safe haven for unpleasant thoughts.
It’s easy to get caught up in negative or worrisome thoughts and their tragic storylines. According to Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in New York City, writing down your thoughts “creates space and distance to analyze them in a more objective way.”
This separation is formally referred to as cognitive defusion, which is a useful notion in acceptance and commitment therapy. “You are not your thoughts, feelings, or bodily symptoms; rather, you are the circumstances in which they occur,” Romanoff explains.
In other words, you don’t have to believe your thoughts if they don’t serve you. Instead, journaling might help you see your thoughts as apart from yourself.
Try adding this line to your journaling to emphasize the separation: “I’m having the notion that…”
4. Journaling allows you to process your emotions.
Many people go about their days either not noticing or consciously suppressing their feelings. What is the issue? Your emotions have a way of rising to the surface and influencing your behavior, whether or not we are aware of it.
Journaling allows you to process your feelings in a private, safe environment. Accepting and naming the precise feelings you’re experiencing diminishes their power. Difficult emotions become less overwhelming and simpler to manage in this manner.
5. Journaling can assist you in determining your next course of action.
The first step in figuring out how to handle a problem is to write down your thoughts and feelings about it. After you’ve calmed down a little, you can see that your emotions are attempting to communicate with you:
Perhaps your rage is a sign that you need to be more assertive with someone. Alternatively, your melancholy may be prompting you to reach out and strengthen your bonds.
Seeing your worries, problems, and feelings in black and white helps you see your needs more clearly. Even a simple list of advantages and disadvantages can reveal more about your objectives than a tangle of thoughts bouncing around in your head.
6. Journaling enhances self-awareness.
Consider yourself a puzzle in which you get to uncover a new piece or design every day. Journaling allows us to take a much-needed break and reconnect with ourselves and rediscover who we are. We learn our preferences, pain areas, anxieties, favorites, and dreams when we write. We are always changing. Journaling allows us to pay attention, bear witness to these changes, and simply learn more about ourselves.
Find additional advice to help you get started on your journey of self-discovery.
9 easy-to-follow guidelines to get you started
Whether you’re brand new to journaling or returning after a long break, follow these guidelines to establish a long-term habit.
Take a small step at a time.
Try not to bite off more than you can chew at first. “Micro-steps are less likely to be rejected by the brain,” according to Hoyt, “whereas massive sweeping alterations can feel hazardous, and we may give up.” She recommends setting a timer for your journaling session every day for one or two minutes.
Choose the most basic tools.
Because everyone is different, Romanoff recommends starting with the strategy that is simplest to adopt into your daily routine, such as:
on your laptop, writing in a blank document
Using a smartphone note-taking app
using a pen and paper
Experiment with free writing.
According to Lori L. Cangilla, PhD, a Pittsburg-based psychologist, enthusiastic journal writer, and member of the International Association for Journal Writing, “start by taking several deep breaths, examining your immediate surroundings, and writing whatever comes to mind.”
“Describe that experience until something else comes forth in your journaling,” Cangilla advises if you’re stuck. Let everything out.
Without censoring yourself, write whatever thoughts and sensations come to mind. “It’s your notebook,” Cangilla explains, “so you can be as petty, blunt, and honest as you want.” To avoid the desire to revise, she recommends writing as quickly as possible.
Your journaling should be anchored.
- If you prefer consistency, journal at the same time each day. For example, write your ideas first thing in the morning or analyze the day before bedtime, according to Valentin. You can also tie your journaling to a long-standing habit to increase your chances of sticking with it. For instance, consider the following journal:
- Before to or following a nightly prayer
- When you’re waiting in line for a car
- During a television ad break
- Join the dots.
- You can jot down your feelings about a specific situation on a daily basis to improve your self-awareness. For instance, you might just write:
- This is how it went down today.
- I’m having these thoughts about it.
- These are my thoughts right now.
- Re-reading vexing entries isn’t a good idea.
Cangilla advises against going over the same ground in difficult situations repeatedly. You can refocus on: if you feel you aren’t done with a scenario, she suggests.
- Things you’re thankful for in this circumstance
- what you’ll do with what you’ve learned
- Investigate a question
- Prompts are a great approach to learn more about yourself. They’re also useful when you don’t know what to write about in your journal. Try these suggestions from Lori Ryland, PhD, LP, a psychologist and Pinnacle Treatment Centers’ chief clinical officer:
- Make a list of your favorite childhood memories or experiences from your children’s life.
- Take a walk in the woods and write about it.
- Explain why you are afraid of doing anything.
- Give an example of something you enjoy doing and why.
- Describe your personality as well as your roles at work and at home. Then, from the standpoint of a close friend or family member, describe yourself.
- What would it look like if you woke up tomorrow with everything you wanted? Where have you gone? Who are you hanging out with? What do you do with your free time?
- Change your footwear.
- Try writing with empathy if you’re journaling about a quarrel. Romanoff advises that you consider the other person’s point of view and the motivations behind some of their acts.
- Putting yourself in their position might help you gain perspective, minimize resentment, and possibly discover a solution.
Last but not least
There are numerous advantages to keeping a journal. Simply writing for a few minutes each day can help you reduce stress, improve your well-being, and gain a better understanding of your own requirements.
Journaling gives us a real way to discover who we are and what we require.
Start with a few minutes — or more, depending on your desire — to establish a lasting journaling habit. You can use your journal to investigate a problem, write about the present moment, or experiment with a prompt.
At the end of the day, the amazing thing is that it’s entirely up to you.