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18 Journaling Benefits (And How To Start)

Did you know journaling heals your injuries faster and boosts your IQ?

Maybe you kept a diary as a teenager and later you got busy and stopped.

But journaling is now making a huge comeback. And these scientifically-proven benefits of journaling will inspire you to get writing again.

Because keeping a daily journal isn’t just a form of catharsis. It’s not just a place where you unload all your emotions onto a page.

Journaling is a practice that makes you more eloquent, calms anxiety and even boosts your physical heath.

I’ve been journaling since my teens and it’s helped me immeasurably to become a better writer and solidify my goals.

This is my ultimate guide to all the surprising benefits of journaling – and how to start a journal of your own!

Journaling benefits:

1. Journaling strengthens your immune system

A journal filled with cursive writing and two pens on top lays on a white table next to a cup of milky coffee.

Journaling has physical benefits to patients with terminal or life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis, studies show.

But venting alone isn’t enough. Patients who journal to better understand their emotions get the most benefit.

Asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients who wrote about stressful events in their life showed improvement, another study found.

Writing gives structure to your anxious feelings and helps you fight stress to facilitate healing.

How it works:

Journaling strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes, says psychologist James Pennebaker. Journaling about stressful events helps you come to terms with your traumas. And that reduces the impact of stressors on your physical health.

2. Journaling helps injuries heal faster

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Journaling helps adults heal faster after biopsies, research shows.

Writing about stressful events helped patients make sense of tragedy and reduced their distress.

Long-term upset can increase your body’s level of stress hormones like cortisol, which weakens your immune system. So writing about distressing experiences lowers your cortisol levels and allows you to heal quicker.

How it works:

Journaling about trauma helps your body heal 4.4 times faster, studies show. When you lower your cortisol levels you’re tapping into the physical benefits of serenity.

3. Journaling reduces stress and anxiety

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Journaling lets you work through obsessive worries and anxieties before you begin to ruminate.

You get a far more realistic perspective on your problems when you ask yourself how likely that imagined worst-case scenario actually is.

Journaling helps you identify your stress-inducing thoughts that distort your reality. You notice when you overgeneralize with words like “always” or “never” to describe your experiences.

How it works:

Journaling about your anxieties soothes your nerves and helps you find solutions to your problems.

4. Journaling helps you learn from experience

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You’re much more likely to learn from experience if you reflect back on your day, studies say.

Journaling about what you’ve learned makes your experiences much more insightful.

How it works:

Journaling lets you step back and actively engage with ideas you’ve encountered. It connects you with complicated concepts and lets you phrase them into your own words.

5. Journaling improves communication skills

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Journaling teaches you to express yourself better and get your point across clearly,

And this improves your communication with others – whether that’s at work, in your relationships or with family.

Being more self-aware makes it easier to make yourself understood. And writing leads to clear thinking, which in turn leads to clear communication.

Journaling also benefits your marriage and relationships, where so many problems arise from silences and misunderstandings.

How often have you kept a conflict bottled up and weren’t able to find the right words? Journaling makes talking about your emotions more natural.

How it works:

Journaling teaches you how to identify your muddled emotions, which in turn makes it easier to communicate your emotions to others.

6. Journaling helps you sleep better

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Have you ever laid awake at night with thoughts of unfinished tasks circling in your mind?

Bedtime worries about incomplete tasks contribute significantly to people’s difficulty in falling asleep, studies show.

But you fall asleep much faster when you write to-do lists and journal about tasks you need to complete, studies say.

Can’t fall asleep? Write a very specific to-do list for 5 minutes at bedtime. The more specific the list the faster you’ll fall asleep.

A detailed to-do list helps your mind tie all your loose ends together – so they don’t unravel in the middle of the night!

Write about positive events before bed to direct your mind away from dark thoughts. People slept better when they journaled about the bright side of life, a study found.

7. Journaling improves memory

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Students who take notes during lectures retain information better. Just writing something down improves your ability to remember it.

Journaling is likewise a great way to remember specific moments in time and phases of your life.

When you journal, you’re telling your brain that your words are important.

How it works:

Writing by hand stimulates a collection of cells called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The physical act of writing brings information centerstage and lets your brain know it should pay close attention.

8. Journaling helps you achieve goals

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A journal commits your goals into writing. And writing down your goals makes you far more likely to achieve them.

Journaling helps you identify what you really want. It helps you identify blocks that hinder you from your goals – whether that’s self-doubt or limiting beliefs.

A journal helps you affirm that your goals are possible. It helps you create a plan and break up big goals into achievable chunks.

A journal helps you review past failures and successes. Journaling lets you track your progress and see what’s working and what you should improve.

9. Journaling improves your mood

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Journaling about your fears improves your mood because you’re expressing your emotions instead of keeping them bottled up.

Journaling puts things in perspective and makes you realize that no matter how bad things may seem, there are always things to be grateful for.

Writing clears your mind of intrusive thoughts that you can’t stop from circling in your mind. It helps you identify your triggers and learn how to handle them better.

Writing about your emotions in an abstract and impersonal way calms you and makes you happier, a study found.

10. Journaling helps you solve problems

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If you journal for long enough you’ll get tired of complaining about the same problems. You’ll naturally start to look for solutions and ways to move forward.

“It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action,” Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, a manual that recommends daily Morning Pages journaling.

Journaling about your emotions makes you more self-aware. It lets you process what you’re going through and work past your emotions to look at situations more objectively.

11. Journaling reduces symptoms of depression

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Journaling helps you identify what’s really bothering you.

It takes a load off and improves your mood. When you feel low, journaling helps to pinpoint what’s really upsetting you.

Journaling helps you identify patterns and specific thoughts that throw you into a spiral of depression.

How it works:

Journaling is so effective that mental health experts recommend it to manage depression. And journaling itself makes therapy more effective.

Journaling lets you express gratitude for what you have. And problems look more manageable when you put them down on paper.

12. Journaling helps after a traumatic event

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Young refugees and immigrants who experienced war trauma processed their trauma better through journaling, studies found.

Journaling helped people make sense of trauma. Students who wrote about their traumatic experiences for six weeks reported a more positive mood than a group who wrote about their everyday experiences, studies found.

Expressive writing helps handle symptoms of PTSD, lowers body tension and lessens feelings of anxiety and anger.

13. Journaling boosts creativity

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Journaling lets you explore uncharted thoughts and emotions.

Journaling lets you examine your ideas from various perspectives. It gives you fresh insights and helps you link different concepts together.

Journaling keeps track of your inspirations, quotes and sketches. Your journal may feel like pointless scribbles at first, but those often lead to powerful insights.

A journal frees you from endlessly comparing yourself to others. It’s your safe space to be yourself without judgment.

Journaling puts you into your own lane and boost your self-esteem. It makes you less likely to worry about pleasing others.

14. Journaling improves your sense of gratitude

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A gratitude journal helps lower blood pressure, improves your immune function and helps you sleep better, studies found.

Gratitude journaling brings the good things in life into focus. And that makes you more optimistic and boosts your self-esteem.

Keeping a gratitude journal also helps with depression, fatigue and insomnia.

Positive Psychology says that expressing your gratitude makes you less materialistic. It prevents burnout and encourages patience.

15. Journaling helps find your voice

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Journaling puts you in touch with your authentic self.

It gets tiring putting up a front in your journal every day. And eventually you start to relax and learn to speak confidently in your own voice.

It’s liberating to let your words flow freely – and it’s freeing to write only for yourself. You begin to accept yourself and worry less about what others think.

Journaling with honesty is a form of self-acceptance. The more you write without a filter, the more you accept yourself. And the more confident you become about expressing yourself.

16. Journaling leaves a record

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Old journals are gold that your future self will love to mine.

That doesn’t mean they’re always eloquent or coherent. But they give you snapshots of your past self and show you how far you’ve come.

Reading old journals gives you perspective on how fast life changes. It makes you grateful for all your experiences, both good and bad.

17. Journaling improves mindfulness

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Journaling boosts mindfulness and makes you aware of the present moment.

Writing focuses your mind on the now. Have you ever tried to write a sentence when your mind starts to drift? It’s impossible.

Journaling plants you in the present moment and helps you become more mindful in everyday life.

Journaling lets you escape that endless cycle of brooding over the past or worrying about the future. You’re left in the now to take it in with all your senses.

Mindfulness lets you appreciate your life without letting it pass you by.

18. Journaling boosts self-esteem

A journal lays open filled with cursive writing with a grey pen and a yellow leaf on top. It's surrounded by a cup of coffee, a bowl of pomegranate and scraps of brown papers.

Journaling about positive affirmations or manifestation boosts your self-esteem.

Journaling about your daily highlights or your biggest achievements gives you a brighter (and more positive) outlook on your life.

Low confidence usually means you’ve got a persistent inner critic or a voice of self-doubt.

And although that voice never goes away, journaling puts it into perspective. It gives space for your positive thoughts so the negatives don’t take over.

Journaling tips for beginners

A woman's hand holding a pen and writing in a journal with a cup of coffee in the background.

Do you want to start a daily journal – but you don’t really know how?

Or maybe you can’t imagine squeezing a journaling session into your schedule.

Read 17 Powerful Journaling Tips For Beginners (And How To Start) for my ultimate guide – including prompts, hacks and journaling techniques.

Journaling for mental health

journaling examples

A daily journal can do wonders to help you combat anxiety, stress and depression.

If you’re constantly worried or demotivated, then a daily journal will lift your spirits and give you inspiration.

But what do you actually write about? Read 100 Incredible Journaling Ideas (For Anxiety, Clarity And More) for tips and journal prompts to get you writing.

More resources:

What Are Morning Pages? (And 20 Tips To Start)

16 Incredible Benefits of Writing by Hand (vs. Typing)

How To Start An Affirmation Journal: 10 Easy Tips

72 Powerful Journal Prompts for Self Discovery (To Get You Inspired)

24 Inspiring Journaling Examples (To Get You Writing)