Health Benefits of Journaling and for Stress Management

The journaling method you choose can depend on your needs at the time, and your personality; just do what feels right.

Journaling generally involves the practice of keeping a diary or journal that explores thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of your life. There are several different ways to do this. Journaling, as a stress management and self-exploration tool, works best when done consistently, but even occasional, sporadic journaling can be stress relieving when the practice is focused on gratitude or emotional processing.

Benefits

Journaling about traumatic events helps one process them by fully exploring and releasing the emotions involved, and by engaging both hemispheres of the brain in the process, allowing the experience to become fully integrated within one’s mind.

Journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge. It’s also a good problem-solving tool; oftentimes, one can hash out a problem and come up with solutions more easily on paper.

Keeps Memory Sharp.

Journaling helps keep your brain in tip-top shape. Not only does it boost memory and comprehension, it also increases working memory capacity, which may reflect improved cognitive processing.

Reduces Stress.

An overabundance of stress can be damaging to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s proven. Journaling is a incredible stress management tool, a good-for-you habit that lessens impact of physical stressors on your health. In fact, a study showed that expressive writing (like journaling) for only 15 to 20 minutes a day three to five times over the course of a four-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver functionality. Plus, writing about stressful experiences can help you manage them in a healthy way. Try establishing journaling as a pre-bedtime meditation habit to help you unwind and de-stress.

Strengthens Emotional Functions.

As journaling habits are developed, benefits become long-term, meaning that diarists become more in tune with their health by connecting with inner needs and desires. Journaling evokes mindfulness and helps writers remain present while keeping perspective. It presents an opportunity for emotional catharsis and helps the brain regulate emotions. It provides a greater sense of confidence and self-identity. Journaling can help in the management of personal adversity and change, and emphasize important patterns and growth in life. Research even shows that expressive writing can help individuals develop more structured, adaptive, and integrated schemes about themselves, others, and the world.

Boosts Mood.

Want more sunshine in your life? Try journaling. A unique social and behavior outcome of journaling is this: it can improve your mood and give you a greater sense of overall emotional well-being and happiness.

Drawbacks

Those with learning disabilities may find it difficult to deal with the act of writing itself. Perfectionists may be so concerned with the readability of their work, their penmanship, or other periphery factors that they can’t focus on the thoughts and emotions they’re trying to access.

Others may get tired hands, or be reluctant to relive negative experiences. And, journaling only about your negative feelings without incorporating thoughts or plans may actually cause more stress. A simple way to counteract this is to be sure you end your journaling sessions with a few words about potential solutions to your problems, things you appreciate in your life, or things that give you hope in life.

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Strategies to Try

Journaling is a highly effective tool for stress relief and can take several forms, so there are multiple options that can work for you. If you already have a favorite journaling habit, by all means, keep it up! But you may want to try something new in addition to it. And if you’re new to journaling, here are several practices to try. See what works best for you.

Emotional Release

You may also write about your emotional responses to events that have happened throughout the day as a way of coping with the stress. This can help you to process what you are feeling and perhaps even explore more positive reframing options. When writing about positive experiences, this allows you the ability to maximize and savor the positive feelings you may have for the good things that have happened in your day. This is also a great way to expand on the positive and manage the negative things that happen in your life, increasing your positivity ratio, which is an important aspect of stress management.

Bullet Journal or Personal Planning Journal:

Some people simply keep journals to track what they need to do each day, goals they have, memories they create, and other things they don’t want to forget. Because writing things down can help keep your mind uncluttered and help you to remember what’s important to you, this can relieve stress as well. Being more organized and balanced is a great way to feel less stressed.

Gratitude Journal

Some people keep a daily gratitude journal where they list three or more aspects of each day for which they are grateful. This is a highly effective strategy for relieving stress because it helps you to focus on the resources you have in your life already and create a more positive mood at the moment, both of which have been shown to build long-term resilience. A bonus benefit is that you are left with a record of the many nice things that have happened throughout your days, so if you’re feeling down in the future, you can cheer yourself up with a few pages of reminders for the things you have to appreciate in life.

Bottom Line

Over time, you might find journaling helps decrease your stress. If not, however, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A therapist can assist you in making sure your journaling is effective or they can help you find alternative stress reduction strategies that work better for you.

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