How Journaling Can Impact Your Health
By Contributing Author, Kate Harveston
Did you ever keep a journal or a diary as a child? What about in school? Most of us have written down our feelings at one point or another in our lives, filling notebooks with our thoughts, emotions, and dreams. As we grew, though, this is likely one of those things that you put aside along with stuffed animals and sleepovers.
Science is starting to prove that journaling may have been something we needed to hang on to because it can help your emotional well-being. Let’s take a closer look at how writing down your thoughts in a journal can help keep you emotionally healthy.
1. Managing Anxiety
Anxiety affects more than 40 million adults in the United States every year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, but only 36.9% of those individuals are receiving treatment for their condition.
If you suffer from anxiety, journaling can become a healthy coping mechanism, allowing you to sort out your pent-up feelings and negative energies in a safe and welcoming space where you don’t have to worry about judgment.
If you feel yourself experiencing an anxiety episode or a panic attack, try sitting down with your journal and writing. It doesn’t have to make sense — panic attacks rarely do, especially if they happen without obvious triggers — but just the act of writing can often help you calm down and make sense of what’s happening inside your head.
2. Reducing Stress
Stress is something that isn’t particularly easy to define. If you ask ten different people to tell you what stress is, you’ll get 15 different answers.
In spite of this ambiguity, more than 75% of people experience physical symptoms from stress and research has found that journaling — getting all of your pent up emotions down on paper and out of your head — can help to reduce the potential damage that stress can cause.
This is where daily journaling will come in handy.
At the end of the day, or whenever you’re stressed, sit down and start writing out what is causing those feelings. It could be your boss, or your relationship, or your friends, or any number of other things. Just get them out on paper so you can figure out which ones deserve your attention and which ones are stressing you out for no reason.
3. Managing Depression
Experts estimate that 16.2 million adults in the U.S. experience at least one major depressive episode a year. Depression is a growing problem, but the negative stigma surrounding mental health means many people don’t seek help for their illness.
While it doesn’t seem like journaling could help with something like depression, gratitude has been proven to help people manage their symptoms. Gratitude lets us shift our mindset from a negative one to a more positive one, which causes the brain to release the feel-good hormones — dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Even if you don’t want to start a journal where you’re writing down every aspect of your life, consider starting a gratitude journal where you write down things that you’re thankful for every single day. You might be surprised by how quickly your whole attitude changes. It isn’t a cure for depression and is no replacement for medical care and therapy, but it can help you manage the symptoms and be a little more thankful for everything that you have.
4. Learning to Love Yourself
We’re taught to love our fellow man (or woman), but why don’t we take as much time to teach people how to love themselves? This has led to generation after generation of men and women who will set themselves on fire to keep someone else warm with no thought to the damage that it will do to them.
While this selfless mindset is noble, it’s not healthy, and it’s up to us to learn how to love ourselves.
That’s where journaling comes in. Start small by writing a love letter to yourself.
You’re not allowed to use any negative self-talk. Don’t write about all the things you wish you had done or how you want to look. Instead, focus on the things that you love about yourself. From there, look for more self-love journaling prompts and use your journal as a tool to learn how to love yourself again before you try to love anyone else.
Pick Up A Journal and Start Writing
From here, the last — or first — thing you need to do is pick up a journal and start writing!
Keeping a journal can help improve your emotional health and help you cope with mental illnesses, just by giving you a piece of paper where you can pour your heart out without worrying that someone will think less of you for it. Give it a try. You might be surprised how much better you feel afterward!