We don’t refer to our journals as “companions” for nothing – when you get into the habit of daily writing, a journal can function as a confidant, co-conspirator and encouraging friend. Writing down your private thoughts, as opposed to holding them in, can not only inspire you creatively but offer mental health benefits as you relieve yourself from stress and emotional burden.
In the past we’ve written about some specific mental health issues (such as insomnia and addiction) that can be alleviated by journalling, so today we are taking a more general look at the therapeutic benefits. While journal writing is certainly not the only way to tackle stress, anxiety or depression, it can certainly have a positive effect on your overall mood and outlook.
1) It Keeps You Looking Forward
The thing about committing to do something daily is that there is always a next time. Writing in a journal every day gives you something to look forward to and always offers the chance to turn things around. We often think of journalling as an “in the moment” exercise, but the true benefits continue to pay off as time goes by. Not only can you look at patterns that exist in your life by reading past entries, you can actively make plans to change them. One great exercise to aid in developing future-oriented thinking is to write out an interview with your older self. By writing about your goals you will take the first step toward achieving them, and contributing daily updates will reinforce your desire to better yourself.
2) It Reminds You of Your Best Self
We are big believers in gratitude journalling. Even if in the moment you feel a bit silly writing down seemingly insignificant daily events that you were thankful for, when you compile a few entries and read them all together the positive effects will be undeniable. Who doesn’t want to read a bunch of great things about themselves? So, even if you are having a truly rotten day and using your journal to vent, remember to take a moment and include one positive thing. This will help to keep things in perspective so that you don’t spend too much time focusing only on the tough stuff, something that can lead to a dangerous spiral of negative thoughts.
3) It Boosts Your Physical Health, Too
The mental health benefits of writing were first scientifically studied in the late 1980s by psychologist James Pennebaker. As exemplified in his book Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval, Pennebaker found that people who wrote down their deepest thoughts and feelings dealt with past traumas and emotional stress much better than those who did not. Since the 1980s, the possible health applications of journalling have continued to be examined, with over 200 studies confirming the therapeutic benefits.
Suppressing your feelings can be taxing not only on your emotions but your body as well. Writing can relieve this tension and also push you out of a negative thought cycle, lessening the likelihood of obsessive or self-damaging behaviour developing. Some studies have even suggested that writing can boost the immune system by allowing stress to be relieved. After all, it’s hard to maintain a positive attitude when you feel like your body is letting you down. Physical pain often goes hand-in-hand with emotional distress and so to combat one, you can’t ignore the other.
Keeping a journal may not be the solution to all of life’s problems, but it can certainly be a part of the answer. Making a commitment to daily writing helps to develop a positive, forward-thinking habit in your life while allowing you to relieve stress, tension and negative thoughts. For more on this, check out our guide to journalling your way to happiness.
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