6 Benefits of Journaling That Will Convince You to Give it a Go

Mental Health

Turn off the TV or radio. Get a pen and notebook. Find a comfortable spot on the sofa and start writing. Nothing could be more natural. Journaling may sound like a complicated idea at first but it honestly doesn’t have to be. At its heart, this hobby is merely about giving yourself some time and space to evaluate how you feel. If you’re looking for a way to boost your lifestyle and get more from your down time, you might just have found it. In this guide, we’re going to look at the current trend of journaling, its benefits, and how you can try it.

What is Journaling?

Blonde woman in pink shirt journaling
Journaling: any type of expressive writing that people do in their spare time.

Before we get into its benefits, let’s answer the following question — what is journaling? The name is given to any type of expressive writing that people do in their spare time. For example, you might keep a bullet journal with short-form notes in it. Equally, you may find that you benefit from a long-form prose journal.

Whatever style suits you, this hobby is all about getting your feelings, thoughts, and plans down on a piece of paper. What’s more, this particular pastime could have a whole range of remarkable health advantages.

6 Benefits of Journaling (and 2 Drawbacks)

Are you thinking about starting a journal? It’s not merely a fun pastime. There are many great benefits of journaling that you need to know about. When you dedicate yourself to this activity, it really is an act of self-care. You’re taking a little time in which you do something that benefits you and no one else. That is a positive step for your mental, physical, and spiritual health. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of journaling, as well as a couple of drawbacks too.

Benefits

First of all, let’s take a moment to look at the positives here. The minute you start journal writing, you will see that there’s a whole range of advantages to it. From making you feel less stressed to improving your immune system, here’s what you will gain from this habit.

1. Prevents the effects of stress

Woman sitting in her terrace journaling

Stress can be a real killer. A massive 77% of people say that they often experience physical symptoms of stress, according to the American Institute of Stress.[1] Needless to say, this issue can affect more than just your mindset. Physical symptoms include dizziness, headaches, being hungry or having no appetite at all, sleep problems, and pain.[2] Doing what you can to relieve some of the negative effects of stress is the smartest way in which you can protect your overall health and well-being.

Journaling could be the answer. Research from Wolters Kluwer Health found that “narrative expressive writing” or journal writing could help to protect people from the effects of divorce-related stress.[3] While this study applies to a specific type of stress, it could easily be applicable to all types of anxiety, including work-related stresses and more. Rather than keeping all your the things you’re stressed about in your mind, it could help to start writing down your worries and letting them out.

2. Helps you stop worrying

Close up of woman holding her pen to her notebook journaling

While we’re on the topic of worries, here’s another one of the benefits of journaling you should know about. Research from Michigan State University suggests that journal writing could help people to calm down when approaching stressful tasks.[4] Whether you have too much work on your plate or a particularly stressful meeting coming your way, opening up your journal and writing about it could be the way to go.

You may be under the impression that worrying is simply a natural part of life. While, to a certain extent, that’s true, you need to do what you can to prevent it. Many people find that the best way to offload is to talk to someone close to them. However, journaling could have a similar effect. Taking the time to acknowledge and name your worries may mean that they stop having so much power in your life.

3. Helps wounds to heal faster

Young woman journaling outdoors on the grass

Did you know that journaling could have a physical effect on your body too? Perhaps one of the most surprising benefits of journaling is that it can help your wounds heal faster. Research suggests that expressive writing helps adults heal better and faster after they have had a medical biopsy.[5] That could mean that writing a journal will help you to heal injuries faster and even get over short bouts of illness too.

So, why does this benefit occur? The experts theorized that writing about distressing events actually helps the patients to reduce that distress. In turn, this effect could impact their immune system in a positive way, which means that your body can fight off infections and heal itself faster than usual. It’s a great reason to start journal writing!

4. Helps you handle your emotions

Woman sitting on the floor journaling with breakfast

How well do you handle your day-to-day emotions? Most of us are under the impression that we have a firm grasp on how we feel. However, when we’re overwhelmed by something, it can be quite difficult to take control and see the bigger picture. One way in which you can begin to solve this problem is by taking up journaling.

Research suggests that journal writing could help people who have previously suffered trauma in their lives.[6] The experts believe that this technique could be used for therapeutic reasons and may help people to both understand and accept their emotions in a healthy way. If you find that your feelings often play a major role in your actions, you might want to give expressive writing a shot and see whether it makes a difference.

5. Improves your memory

Woman journaling on a wooden table with cup of tea beside her

Your memory is a precious gift. As you begin to age, you may find that it becomes more and more difficult to remember details. Simple tasks, such as filling out a form or taking a drive to see a relative, may become trickier when this problem occurs. Don’t panic. Age-related memory loss is quite normal, however, there are things that you can do which will improve your cognitive ability.[7]

Research in this area suggests that expressive writing can improve your working memory capacity.[8] That means that setting aside some time on a daily basis for journal writing could be a positive step toward boosting your memory. Keeping your brain healthy and active as you age is one of the most important things you can do. Don’t overlook it!

6. Boosts your creativity

Woman looking pensive with her journal book open on a train

Finally, when we talk about the benefits of journaling, there’s one thing that we simply can’t miss out. Writing expressively is a highly creative activity and one that many people enjoy. When you take the time to do something creative on a regular basis, it means that you will get better at it.

The truth of the matter is that you may not have written a journal since you were in high school. That’s perfectly okay. The more you practice this art, the more natural it will start to feel. Go ahead! Get yourself a new book and unleash your creative mind.

Drawbacks

As with anything in life, there are pros and cons to journaling. Before you rush out and get started, you’re going to want to know about the possible drawbacks here. Let’s take a look at a couple of the reason you may find that this pastime is not for you right now.

1. May hinder post-divorce healing

African american woman smiling with an open journal book

In the wake of a divorce, your emotions are likely to be running high. While some people may find that writing about the breakup is a great way to move forward, it could actually be a hindrance. Research from the Association for Psychological Science suggests that writing in-depth about post-divorce feelings could slow down the healing process for some and cause them emotional pain.[9]

Ultimately, you have to determine what the best course of action is here. Every person processes this situation differently and you have to do what’s right for you. You could try journal writing for a short period and then assess how it affects your mood. If it makes you feel low or sad, you should stop and try an alternative course of therapy.

2. Doesn’t work for everyone

Woman in striped shirt writing into her journal

Do you adore writing? If the answer is no, you may find that journaling causes you more stress than it relieves. It’s important to realize that not everybody will benefit from this particular hobby.

If you find it frustrating when you try to write things down on paper, it could be that this is not the way forward for you. If that’s the case, you don’t need to push yourself too hard or try to force yourself into it. Instead, it could help to look at other forms of relaxation, such as meditation and mindfulness, or simply listening to calming music.

Tips on How to Write a Journal

Ready to get started and give journal writing a go? If so, you may be wondering how to write a journal from scratch. Thankfully, starting out could not be easier. You don’t need a lot of knowledge in the area or even special skills. Here are some quick tips on how to write a journal that you should try for yourself.

Close up of woman journaling and writing in her journal
Research from Wolters Kluwer Health found that “narrative expressive writing” or journal writing could help to protect people from the effects of divorce-related stress.

Invest in a high-quality notebook

First of all, let’s talk about the basics of journal writing. You need to invest in a high-quality notebook. Sure, you can write in any book you happen to have. However, this is a special type of writing and it demands a quality book. Take the time to pick out a notebook that you find truly beautiful. It doesn’t have to be expensive. What matters is that you love the way that it looks and want to use it. That way, when you come to journal each day, you will feel excited to do so and be ready to get started.

Set aside 10 minutes each day

One of the main things that holds people back when it comes to journaling is the notion that they don’t have the time. The truth is that journaling doesn’t have to be a long or drawn out activity. Set aside just 10 minutes each day in which to practice some expressive writing. You could set yourself a reminder on your smartphone or simply decide on the same time to do it each day. It’s that simple.

Before you put pen to paper, set yourself a timer (you can use your phone or an egg timer!) for 10 minutes. When you get started and begin writing, you may find that it’s hard to keep going for the entire period. Keep it up regardless of this fact. As you advance more and more, you will see that writing can be super easy and that it comes naturally to you.

Young woman writing in her journal in bed

Don’t overthink it – just write!

In the moment before you begin writing, you may feel an undue amount of stress take hold of you. If you’re not used to expressive writing at all, you may well overthink the situation. Keep in mind that what you write doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It’s not about that. No one else is going to read the entry, unless you want them to do so. That means that you can write freely without fear of what people think. Dive in and write down the first thing that comes to mind. You might find that it’s extremely revealing of your current mindset.

Don’t bother editing entries

When you’ve finished an entry, you might want to read it back. The one thing that you don’t want to do here is edit your writing. You may be tempted to go back and change certain things or clarify your entry. However, journaling isn’t about creating a clear or concise picture, but a stream of consciousness. Panicking about the style or, indeed, the point of each entry defeats the purpose of it entirely. Instead, leave it in its rawest form.

Woman laid on her tummy in bed journaling

Date every single entry

There may come a time when you want to look back at your previous journal entries. For example, in a year’s time, you might find that your life has changed dramatically and that you’d like to look back on the past. For that reason, you should date every single entry in your diary at the top of the page. Make a habit out of doing this before you even begin writing. That way, when you look back, you can see when you wrote each one.

Score how you’re feeling

If you’re struggling to manage your feelings, you may want to use your journal as a mood diary. So, you need to consider how to write a journal that measures your emotions as well. One of the simplest tricks you can use here is a scoring system. Before you start writing each entry, give yourself a mood score of between one and 10. The higher you score, the happier you are while the lower you score, the sadder you are. This small tip will mean that you can keep track of your emotions each day.

Wondering What to Write? Try These Journal Writing Prompts

Top down image of redhead woman writing a journal entry with earphones and music

While some people can put pen to paper and write streams of words, others find it hard to know where to begin. Should you fall into the latter category, you may find that using some journal writing prompts is the way to go. You can use the following ideas as a starting point when it comes to your writing. Remember, you don’t have to stick too rigidly to them. There are no real rules here! Simply allow them to be some inspiration for your first entries.

  • Write a letter to your 10-year-old self
  • Write a note to someone you miss
  • What makes you happy? What makes you sad?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • Write a message to your best friend
  • What is your one wish for today?
  • Imagine your older self. What is she/he/they like?
  • Describe the place where you feel at home
  • Write to an ex and tell them what went wrong
  • Make a list of your favorite songs/movies/books
  • Write about your childhood memories
  • What chore do you hate and why?
  • What is troubling you at the moment?
  • If you could go anywhere, where would it be?
  • What makes you special and why?

Are you feeling inspired yet? Take any one of these journal writing prompts and use it. You might find that you start writing about one topic but quickly move onto something else. Let it happen. The point of journaling is to see what comes out when you start writing.

6 Benefits of Journaling That Will Convince You to Give it a Go

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for a way to relieve your stress or simply need an outlet for your feelings, journaling could be the answer. There’s a reason that this hobby (or form of therapy, if you will!) is so popular at the moment. Now that you understand the benefits of journaling and have a good grasp on how to get started, what are you waiting for? Try it out today and see whether it improves your mood, your stress levels, and your life.

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