4 Surprising Benefits of Journaling

Putting pen to paper stimulates the brain like nothing else, even in this age of e-mails, texts and tweets. — Suzanne Baruch Asherson, The New York Times

Ever since I was 12, I’ve kept a journal. I didn’t know it at the time, but writing things down would become cathartic for me. Over the years I’ve learned of the benefits of keeping a journal:

Reduce stress and anxiety

Reducing stress and anxiety are two of the biggest reasons why I keep a journal. Writing things down helps me cope with and better understand my anxiety. It’s a relief to get all of my emotions out on paper. Writing can be therapeutic for some people and even make them happier.

Help you visualize your goals

Jotting down your goals helps you set yourself accountable. This helps you better keep track of your goals and achievements and lets you reflect on those events and accomplishments.

Improve cognitive processing

Writing may have physical and emotional benefits too. Putting pen to paper helps with the “reticular activating system” which filters and focuses information. According to a study on expressive writing, we know that there are “enhancements in immune function, drops in blood pressure, improvements in sleep, and drops in other markers of stress [with Expressive Writing].”

Keep a personal archive

One reason you might want to keep a journal is to keep a personal history that you can look back on when you’re older. I have still have my very first journal. Sure, I may cringe every time I read through it, but it’s a testament to how much I’ve grown over the years. It’s also fun to see what I was doing at certain points in my life to help me better understand who I am today.

“Expressive journaling may not reduce the frequency of intrusive thoughts in depressed individuals, but it moderates their impact on depressive symptoms, leading to a reduction in symptoms (Lepore, 1997)” — Positive Psychology

Okay, but how do I start writing?

If a blank page intimidates you, one easy way to start journaling is to get a book with guided prompts. One I recommend is 52 Lists for Happiness. This book gives you ideas about what types of lists to write. Although it’s not like traditional journaling, it can be just as beneficial.

If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for a blank notebook! Blank (unlined) notebooks are a great way to keep a journal/scrapbook. You can glue or tape in memorabilia or photos from a night out or a special vacation and write a small caption. Or you can get a lined journal and write your own memoir. It doesn’t matter — as long as you’re getting your ideas out it counts. Remember that you don’t have to share your journal with anyone. It can be a personal and private and that’s okay, or you can share it with a therapist or trusted friend. Journaling is an expressive way to explore your thoughts, goals, and emotions. Make it right for you.

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