Are you going through a rough patch or recovery from some major emotional upset and have heard from different sources that expressing your feelings by writing can help? Before you start, add to your motivation by learning some of the many benefits of journaling.
Expressive writing is more beneficial than if you were to write about surface topics, like the weather or your shoes. It means going deep, naming feelings, and describing traumatic events or situations that upset you. Gratitude journaling focuses on finding the positives in situations or things that make you feel grateful.
You can do journaling in many formats, but the key is to set aside time each day, for at least 15-30 minutes, and on consecutive days. You can feel the positive effects even if not done daily because it helps you better understand your needs and gives you a bump in well-being. However, writing will have a better impact if you are able to follow through for a month or longer.
Benefits of Journaling
- Reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. Stuffing your feelings and thoughts can create cumulative stressors on the body, whereas confronting your trauma or issues through writing helps you to acknowledge the associated emotions and can help to release them.
- You could reap a variety of health benefits. According to a research article published by Cambridge University, the health benefits include:
- Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
- Improved immune system functioning
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved lung function
- Improved liver function
- Fewer days in the hospital
- Improved mood/affect
- A feeling of greater psychological well-being
- Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations
- Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms
- Speaking of health, you could improve medical conditions by journaling. The same Cambridge University article also says expressive writing can help with a variety of health issues. They mention lung functioning in asthma; disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis; pain and physical health in cancer; immune response in HIV infection; hospitalizations for cystic fibrosis; pain intensity in women with chronic pelvic pain; sleep-onset latency in poor sleepers; and postoperative course.
- Boost your self-confidence. Stick to journaling long enough, and you can look back at all the progress you’ve made. Additionally, since writing helps release negative thoughts, you allow for the positive and confidence-boosting ones to show up instead.
- Inspiration for new solutions or ideas. Did you know that DaVinci would keep journals, and that’s where his best ideas for inventions sprung up? When you write without limiting yourself, then thoughts come through that spark your imagination in new ways. Those AHA moments can inspire you to see a challenge in a new light or to create a project that makes you happy.
Now that you know some of the top benefits of journaling, the next step is to start writing. Putting pen to paper may feel as challenging as moving a mountain. Author Peter Burke started journaling during his recovery journey. From his experiences, he has created a series of journals with prompts to support you as you step into writing for your own reasons. These Journals For Seekers offer ten days of prompts – which you can use consecutively or at your own pace. You can go on to other journals or use them as a starting point for filling your blank journals with your thoughts, feelings, and actions.