Journaling for health and happiness
If you had a diary when you were a kid, you likely have fond memories of pouring out your deepest, darkest secrets onto the pages of that tiny notebook night after night. There was something very soothing and cathartic about writing down every last detail, and chronicling all of your pain, joy, accomplishments and disappointments—and then simply putting down your pen, closing the book, and going to bed.
As it turns out, that daily writing exercise was actually really good for you—and it’s a habit you might want to consider picking up again now that you’re all grown up.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center1, journaling is a great way to help control and improve your mental health if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety. That’s because having a healthy way to express yourself is incredibly important when you’re dealing with an overwhelming emotion, and writing allows you to do just that.
The reason journaling can be so helpful is because it allows you to prioritize your problems, fears and concerns, and to track your symptoms so you can see what things trigger you and learn how to control them. It also gives you a chance to engage in positive self-talk (something we’re all notoriously bad at) and identify negative thoughts and behaviors.2
But journaling isn’t just good for your mind; it can also keep your body healthy too. Believe it or not, expressive writing can help improve immune function, decrease your risk of illness, and keep your brain sharp.3
With all those benefits to gain, you really have nothing to lose! You just have to pick up your pen and start.
How to begin
Your journal and your journaling experience will be as unique as you are. Your journal might be filled with poems, sketches, photographs, and doodles as well as your daily thoughts—and that’s absolutely fine. There aren’t any rules. Your journal is just for you; it’s a private place to put down your thoughts, and to write about absolutely anything and everything that’s in your head and heart.
All you really have to do is make time for it. Set aside a few minutes at some point during the day when you know you won’t be interrupted. Make it time you really look forward to by putting on music you love, making a cup of coffee or tea, shutting the door, and getting comfortable.
It doesn’t matter what you write—you’re not aiming to pen a bestseller, so style, grammar, punctuation, and spelling don’t count at all—just write.
Writing by hand stimulates and trains the brain in a way digital communication doesn’t4, so go get yourself a brand new journal—or even a dollar-store composition book—and kick it old-school.
Think of your journaling time as a really wonderful way to care for yourself, and pat yourself on the back for taking such a healthy, positive step.
For more information on the health benefits of journaling, visit PsychCentral.
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