If you’re feeling down, stressed out, and overwhelmed by life’s challenges, daily journaling may hold the key to unlocking a healthier, happier you.
In fact, a rapidly growing number of research studies have confirmed that the simple act of journaling for just 15 minutes a day can do wonders for your mental health.
Why your mind needs a workout
Just like your physical body, your mind needs regular exercise in order to develop and maintain good mental health.
What you’re aiming for in terms of good mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. Ideally, you want to achieve a state of wellbeing where you feel good and are able to function well in all aspects of your life. This level of mental health provides you with the resilience you need to:
- cope with everyday stressors
- live productively
- face your fears
- endure pressure at work or school
- recover from physical trauma and illness
- process grief and loss
- overcome anxiety and depression
- resolve relationship issues
- realise your potential.
Cultivating good mental health doesn’t have to be rigorous or difficult. The simple act of journaling each day will give your mind the workout it needs to stay healthy.
You could be rewarded with a sense of wellbeing, purpose, peace, happiness, love, joy, and compassion, all of which will increase your overall enjoyment of life. And, you’ll have the energy and enthusiasm to look outward to your community and make a positive contribution to society.
What are the mental health benefits of journaling?
Here are just a few of the many ways in which journaling improves your psychological (and, consequently, also your physical) well-being.
Journaling helps you think more clearly
We all know how hard it can be to stay on top of things when you’re mentally and emotionally overwrought. It’s exhausting having a million thoughts racing around your head at all hours of the day or night.
The nonstop cycle of obsessive thoughts can severely hamper your ability to cope with everyday tasks, let alone the challenges life throws at you.
Regular journaling – whether by writing, drawing or doodling – will help to clear your mind of the unproductive thoughts that whirl around in your head whenever you’re brooding and obsessing over your problems.
Once you’ve spilled all your worries, fears, and frustrations onto the page, you’ll have made some room for useful insights that will help you to work through life’s challenges without going round in circles.
Journaling revitalises your creativity
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages you to take time at the start of each day to write three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. In this type of journaling, you’re encouraged to let all your thoughts flow freely out onto the page without censoring them.
Endearingly called Morning Pages, they have proven invaluable to thousands of followers of The Artist’s Way, including loads of celebrities and top-achievers.
Regularly writing everything that comes into your head down in your Morning Pages will help to purge all the worries and concerns that take up room in your brain. So, you’ll be able to think creatively and fearlessly pursue artistic endeavours such as writing, painting, dancing, acting, or composing.
Journaling drains away negativity
Another mental health benefit of journaling, whether you do it first thing in the morning or last thing at night, is the power it has to drain away negative thoughts and emotions.
Journaling provides a marvellous outlet where you can write out your concerns – about an argument you had with your partner, the neighbours’ dog that keeps digging up your garden, the state of your kids’ bedrooms, how you’re going to cope with the latest rent increase or anything else, big or small, that might be bothering you.
Letting it all out in your journal will help to drain away all the stress and negativity, leaving you calm and refreshed – ready to face the day or turn in for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Journaling improves problem-solving skills
Jotting your thoughts and feelings down in a journal or notebook allows you to let go of all the mental chatter that clogs up your brain and inhibits the thought processes required for problem-solving.
By freeing up your mind, journaling helps you to think more clearly and see new possibilities that may have been hidden from view by recurring fretful thoughts.
Try journaling for just 10–15 minutes a day, and you’ll find that you are better able to think “out of the box” and come up with innovative ways to solve problems at work, at home, and in your relationships.
Journaling helps you to get things done
As Julia Cameron points out, paradoxically, although journaling takes time, it also helps you to create time in your day for things that normally get left undone. It does this by making you aware of snippets of time that you might otherwise take for granted.
For example, while journaling in the morning, you might have noted down that you’re worried about a spot on your forearm. When a five minute slot appears in your day, your journal entry might prompt you to make use of this time to schedule a skin check.
With these small tasks getting dealt with each day, you’ll be relieving stress and anxiety in your life. And, as an added benefit, your journaling will encourage you to make time for things like preventative health measures and self-care.
Journaling reduces depression
Julia Cameron is not the only one extolling the benefits of journaling. Researchers around the world are putting anecdotal evidence to the test and making fascinating discoveries about the mental health benefits of daily journaling.
In one such study, psychologists used a journaling technique known as expressive writing to successfully reduce depression in people diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
How does journaling reduce depression?
Well, journaling helps you to put traumatic events into words (or pictures) and, in doing so, face the things that are bothering you. By writing down what happened and letting all the emotions surrounding the event out, you’re able to face your feelings of pain, fear, grief, loss, helplessness, and inadequacy.
Once you’ve got it all down, you can remind yourself of your strengths, your previous victories, and the support and resources available to you. In this way, journaling helps you to stop dwelling on your intrusive thoughts, ruminating and worrying over events. Instead, you can acknowledge what has happened, organise your thoughts around this acceptance, and find meaning in it. This equips you to overcome depression and move forward.
Journaling helps us deal with traumatic events
Studies indicate that journaling actually eases psychological distress caused by traumatic events, such as violent attacks, accidents, divorce, the loss of a loved one, financial difficulties, or unemployment.
In one study, just 15 minutes of journaling per day helped to reduce the feelings of depression, anxiety and hostility that emerge during and after traumatic events. In another study, expressive writing was shown to alleviate the symptoms of patients living with post traumatic stress.
Journaling helps overcome stress, anxiety & depression
Positive affect journaling (PAJ) is a type of journaling where people write about positive aspects of their lives and themselves. Studies have shown that this type of journaling helps people to cope with the anxiety, stress, and depression that accompany the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illnesses.
Journaling boosts your mood & overall emotional health
According to Dr Matthew Lieberman, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, people who put their negative feelings to paper felt happier and had greater emotional control. He is quoted in The Guardian as saying, ‘Writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally. Whether it’s writing things down in a diary, writing bad poetry, or making up song lyrics that should never be played on the radio, it seems to help people emotionally.’
Journaling spurs you to take action
This applies to more than just bullet-journaling or writing daily “things to do” lists. Even if you’re drawing or writing about the things in life you find frustrating, annoying, or downright infuriating, journaling can (and will) prompt you to take action.
Afterall, there’s a limit to the number of mornings you can spend complaining about things in your journal. Eventually, you’re bound to get fed up and start making some changes. In this way, your journaling becomes the springboard that releases you from self-defeating behaviour patterns and propels you into a healthier, more productive lifestyle.
Journaling even assists in recovery from illness
Journaling actually strengthens your immunity and ability to recover from illnesses. Expressive writing has been shown to reduce clinical symptoms in patients with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and HIV or AIDS.
Expressive writing also has beneficial effects on blood pressure. And, patients who regularly journalled needed fewer post-heart-attack medical appointments and prescription medications. They also showed increased self-care behaviours, improved cardiac symptoms, and improved health-related quality of life.
Journaling has also been shown to produce small, but consistent, improvements to the well-being of patients living with a variety of cancers – especially breast, renal, and prostate cancer patients.
Ready to give your mental health a boost?
If so, grab a notebook, pick up a pen, and say hello to a more energised, less stressed-out, mentally healthier you. Plus, with a Notely journal, you’ll not only have a beautiful space to express yourself, but you’ll also be helping us to give back by replanting the planet, one note at a time.