Benefits of Journaling
Journaling, the practice of recording thoughts in one place regularly, is used by many people as a way to retain memories, work through ideas, or even do creative writing. But did you know that in addition to being a convenient way to store experiences and work on your writing abilities, journaling is thought to have benefits to one’s mental health?
An eye on health
Journaling is lauded by many mental health care professionals as having major benefits to one’s overall health. According to the University of Rochester Health Encyclopedia, journaling can have benefits in the areas of managing anxiety, reducing stress, coping with depression, helping one prioritize their fears, problems and concerns, and identifying triggers that cause anxious episodes. Why does journaling have all of these benefits? According to the health encyclopedia, it has to do with creating a safe and healthy way to express yourself. Expressing yourself — even to yourself — is a beneficial way to manage and work through tricky emotions.
According to the American Psychological Association, the benefits of journaling aren’t just to one’s mental health. “Studies by those in the forefront of this research—psychologists James Pennebaker, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin, and Joshua Smyth, PhD, of Syracuse University—suggest that writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning in patients with such illnesses as HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis,” says an entry online from the association. The article explains that researchers are still working to figure out how or why journaling could benefit one’s physical health, but say that it could have to do with the relief of stress.
In a recent article in Vogue, the writer Cindy Lamothe detailed her experience of using journaling as a tool to manage her anxiety. Lamothe describes how she found herself constantly trying to manage fears and anxieties. As a means to manage this, she began using a journal to write down her fears about the day each morning.
“In the following weeks, as I looked back on my notes, it hit me that the majority of everything I’d written down never materialized,” writes Lamothe. “All of these fears that had felt so tangible in the moment were like a smoke screen, distracting me from reality. I’d heard before that most of the things we stress over will never actually come to pass, but I’d never thought to try and prove my worries wrong for myself. So, I added in a second step to my journaling: I’d jot down my anxieties in the morning and then write what ended up happening at the end of the day.”
For Lamothe, the journal became a tool that was integral to not only identifying what fears were causing her to feel anxious all the time, but also a way to see for herself that most of those fears were unfounded. Lamothe describes this experience as a profound way to heal and manage her own anxiety.
In addition to the mental and physical health benefits journaling can offer, journaling also stands to provide benefits that aren’t health-focused but are nevertheless something to covet. For a writer, for example, the most important thing one can do to keep their writing muscle exercised is to write. Sometimes, a writer doesn’t have a subject he or she is prepared to write about in a way that would lead to a published piece. The journal provides a place to get that exercise done even when there isn’t a project to work on. You can think of it like a treadmill. For a long-distance runner, a run outdoors is usually their go-to form of training and conditioning. But on a particularly bad weather day, or when they are somewhere where taking an outdoor run isn’t possible, the treadmill is a good stand-in that keeps their muscles working. The journal can be that for a writer.
Start journaling today
If you are ready to begin reaping the benefits of a journaling practice, there’s no time like the present to dive and get yourself acquainted with this age-old practice. Here are the steps you can take to begin your own journaling practice:
Decide where you are going to keep your journal. Diarly is a great option because it is a digital app that syncs across your devices, meaning you can start typing an entry on your phone and finish it off on your computer, and vice versa. This makes it easy to journal no matter where you are. And, with powerful features such as custom prompts and notifications, and goals and statistics, there's no easier way to build the habit into your lifestyle.
Think about how often you might want to journal. In the above example about Lamothe, she decided that every morning was the best time for her to write down her fears. For you, depending on what you’re seeking to manage and explore, a different increment might make sense. Journaling is an exceedingly private act — no one needs to know how, when, or why you journal, or even that you journal at all. That means you can really tailor this to meet your own needs. Use the power of password-protection and cross-device encryption to keep your journals safe.
Set aside specific time, especially as you’re getting started. As with any good habit, this one will take some practice to work into your routine. Set a time each day, or at whatever increment you’ve decided to journal, and make it non-negotiable. Even put it on your calendar. That way, you will get into the practice of doing it. Within a short period of time, you’ll start to look forward to your journaling time. Take advantage of custom notifications to remind you to journal at a specific time, on a specific journal, each day.
Enjoy your new practice of journaling, and look forward to feeling its benefits!