When most people hear the term journaling they think of a teenager penning her thoughts and feelings to “Dear Diary.” However, journaling is actually a well-studied, doctor recommended activity that has many valuable benefits. If you’ve never journaled, perhaps it is time to take pen to paper and reap some of those benefits for yourself.
Mental health benefits of journaling
Journaling is more than the act of putting words to paper. When you write about your feelings, experiences, and emotions, it can help you gain perspective over things happening in your life. It can help you work out problems and turn negative energy into personal growth and positive outcomes. There’s more though. Journaling on a regular basis can also help you:
- Relieve stress.
- Get a more balanced, rational view of a situation.
- Prioritize issues, fears, worries, and concerns, work through them, and gain a healthier, more realistic perspective.
- Be less reactive emotionally to others.
- Understand yourself better.
- Track symptoms to help you identify triggers that may cause or exacerbate a condition either physically or mentally.
- Clarify your hopes and dreams for your life.
- Sort out confusing situations.
- Process pain.
- Become more tolerant of the unpredictable nature of life.
Journaling helps reduce symptoms of some health conditions
Mental wellbeing is not the only benefit of journaling. Several studies have shown that it can also help heal the body as well.
- A study in New Zealand found that people who journal regularly tend to heal faster after physical injury.
- A 2005 paper published in Psychiatric Treatment showed that patients who journaled regularly had fewer visits to the doctor, fewer or decreased physical symptoms, and reported fewer sick days from work due to illness.
- A 1999 study published in JAMA showed that asthma patients who journaled regularly showed improved lung function after 4 months. Rheumatoid arthritis patients showed improvements in the activity and progression of their arthritis.
This is further proof that our minds and bodies are indeed connected. A healthy outlook in combination with awareness can have a profound impact on your physical health.
Don’t fall into these journaling pitfalls
While journaling can be a very healthy activity, like anything else it can be unhealthy if used incorrectly. If you find that any of these things are occurring, take a step back, reevaluate your journaling goals and methods, then make the necessary adjustments. Make some changes if you:
- Find you are becoming self-obsessed.
- Begin wallowing in the bad things that have happened to you or the negative experiences you’ve had.
- Use it to blame others for your situations and circumstances instead of a way to grow and find solutions.
- Find you begin living in your head too much.
- Begin having routine pity parties instead of power parties.
Journaling for 20 minutes every day is enough for you to reap the rich rewards both mentally and physically. When you are writing, don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or spelling. Just let your thoughts and words flow. If you are short on ideas, try some writing prompts or choose a theme for the day. Write about emotions, events, people, the bad things that happen to you, and each day make sure to write at least 3 good things that happened as well. Your journal is your private space to express whatever you want.
No matter your journey, writing can be your greatest companion. Whether you are typing on your computer or going old school with pen and paper, journaling can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
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