18 Incredible Benefits of Journaling (And How To Start)
These incredible journaling benefits show how writing improves your mental and physical health. Here’s why journaling is so powerful – and how to get started.
Do you remember rushing home from school and throwing yourself on the bed to pour your heart into a spiralbound notebook? There was such relief in those wide ruled pages.
But lots of us wrote as teenagers and then grew up and stopped.
Now journaling is making a huge comeback. It’s filling Pinterest boards and making headlines.
And rightly so. Journaling offers incredible physical and emotional benefits that go beyond that teenage diary catharsis.
Did you know journaling can help you heal injuries faster and boost your IQ?
If you haven’t journaled in awhile, here are some incredible journaling benefits that will inspire you to get back into the habit.
18 incredible journaling benefits:
1. Journaling strengthens your immune system
New studies show that journaling offers physical benefits to those battling terminal or life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis.
Though venting into a journal isn’t enough. The research suggests people who use writing to better understand their emotions get the most benefit.
In another study, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients who wrote about stressful events in their life showed improvement.
Writing gives structure to your anxious feelings and helps you get past them, a researcher said.
The powerful health benefits of journaling:
Psychologist James Pennebaker says that journaling strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes. He believes that journaling about stressful events helps you come to terms with them. And this reduces the impact of stressors on your physical health.
Researchers noted that 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.
Journaling about trauma helps your body heal 4.4 times faster, a study says. Stress leads to slower healing, so when you lower cortisol levels you’re tapping into the physical benefits of calmness.
3. Journaling reduces your stress and anxiety
Journaling lets you work through your anxious feelings and obsessive worries before you descent into rumination and stress. When you ask yourself how likely the worst-case scenario is, you gain a more realistic perspective on life.
Getting your thoughts down on paper helps you identify stress-inducing thoughts and beliefs that are distortions of reality. You begin to notice when you’re in a bad mood or when you overgeneralize with words like “always” or “never” to describe your experiences.
The benefits of journaling for stress management:
Journaling about your anxieties soothes your nerves and helps you brainstorm for solutions to your problems.
4. Journaling helps you learn from your experiences
Learning from experience is more effective when it’s combined with reflection, says a study from the Harvard Business School. “Reflecting on what has been learned makes experience more productive,” the study says.
When you journal and reflect on the day, you’re more likely to draw lessons from what you’ve gone through.
And in this digital age when you’re consuming massive news and information, journaling lets you step back and actively engage with ideas you’ve encountered. It connects you with complicated concepts when you’re able to phrase them in your own words.
Through writing, students can increase their understanding of complex material, unfamiliar concepts and subject-specific vocabulary, says a study from Edutopia, a platform focused on education.
5. Journaling improves your communication skills
When you journal, you learn to better express yourself. And this lets you better communicate your feelings with others.
The more self-aware you become, the more you can make yourself understood to others.
Writing leads to clear thinking – which in turn leads to clear communication.
Journaling can also benefit you in relationships and marriage, where so many problems come from misunderstandings.
Journaling is used in classrooms to help students learn to better express themselves. Writing increases self-efficacy and promotes a healthy sense of control over one’s life, which is vital for child and adolescent development.
Journaling is an incredible tool for people of all ages to learn to label their thoughts and emotions, which in turn makes it easier to communicate with others.
How often have you kept a conflict bottled up, unable to find the right words? Journaling helps put your feelings into words. And this makes talking about your emotions more natural.
Who hasn’t tossed and turned into the night with thoughts of unfinished tasks circling in their mind?
Bedtime worry about incomplete future tasks contributes significantly to people’s difficulty in falling asleep, a study found.
The benefits of journaling before bed:
One study made an amazing discovery: people who write to-do lists and journal about the tasks they need to complete fell asleep significantly faster than those writing about completed activities.
It helps to write a very specific to-do list for about 5 minutes at bedtime to help you sleep better, the study concludes. The more specific the list the faster the study participants fell asleep.
And why not? A to-do list helps your mind tie all those loose ends that unravel during sleepless nights.
Writing about positive events before bedtime also helps, as it redirects your mind from dark thoughts that keep you up. In another study, college students slept better when they journaled about the bright side of life.
It’s proven that students who take notes during lectures retain information better. Just writing something down improves your ability to remember it.
Journaling is also a great way to remember specific moments in time and phases of your life.
When you write by hand, it stimulates a collection of cells called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). Your mind then puts whatever you’re focusing on at the forefront and processes it at a deeper level. The physical act of writing brings information centerstage and lets your brain know it should pay close attention.
When you’re writing, you’re letting your brain know your words are important.
8. Journaling moves you towards your goals
A journal helps you commit your goals into writing. And writing down your goals makes you more likely to achieve them.
Expressive writing also helps you better identify what you want. It helps you identify blocks that are stopping you from achieving 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 practical plan to achieve goals and break up big tasks into smaller chunks.
A journal helps you review past failures and successes – and better plan for the future. Journaling lets you track your progress and see what’s working and what’s failing. It’s also a record of your past accomplishments, which can be invaluable on cloudy days when you feel nothing is going right.
Journaling also helps with accountability.
The thought of writing about a wasted day just might motivate you to spend that day more wisely.
9. Journaling improves your mood
Writing down your fears lifts your spirits because you’re expressing your emotions instead of keeping them bottled up. It also puts things in perspective and makes you realize that no matter how bad things seem, there are solutions and things to be grateful for now.
Writing clears your mind of intrusive thoughts and problems that you can’t stop thinking about. It also helps you identify your triggers and learn how to handle them.
Writing about your emotions in an abstract, impersonal perspective is also calming and makes you happier, a study found. Writing about your feelings helps the brain overcome upsets and leaves you happier, the study noted.
10. Journaling helps you solve problems
“It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action,” Julia Cameron writes in her book The Artist’s Way, which recommends journaling for 3 pages every morning.
And 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.
Writing about your emotions helps you become self-aware. It lets you process what you’re going through and work past high emotions to look at situations more objectively.
11. Journaling reduces symptoms of depression
Writing clears your mind and helps you identify what’s really bothering you. It takes a load off and improves your mood. When you’re feeling low, journaling helps with pinpointing what’s really upsetting you.
Journaling helps you identify patterns and specific thoughts that throw you into depression.
The benefits of journaling for depression:
Keeping a journal is so effective that mental health experts recommend journaling to manage depression symptoms – and this journaling makes therapy work better too.
Journaling also lets you express gratitude and notice what’s going well, no matter how small. Problems begin to look more manageable when you get them down on paper.
12. Journaling helps you after a traumatic event
Journaling helps in more extreme cases, too. A review has shown that young refugees and immigrants who’ve experienced war trauma were able to process their trauma through journaling.
In another study, journaling was shown to help 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.
Expressive writing helps people better handle symptoms of PTSD, lowers body tension and lessens feelings of anxiety and anger.
13. Journaling boosts your creativity
Journaling lets you explore uncharted thoughts and emotions. Writing about your recurrent thoughts gets them out of the way and clears your mind to make room for other ideas.
Writing on paper also lets you examine your ideas from various perspectives.
Journaling helps you keep track of your ideas, inspirations, quotes and sketches. They may be just scribbles when they stand alone, but they add up to powerful insights over time.
A journal is a safe space for honesty that will free you from thinking about what you should be writing. It also frees you from endlessly comparing yourself to others.
Writing puts you into your own lane and boost your self-esteem. It makes you less likely to worry about pleasing others.
Journaling is also great for brainstorming, dreaming out loud and just letting your mind wander.
Journaling can also be used to record your ideas and take notes on inspirations. These notes give you content to inspire your own work.
14. Journaling improves your sense of gratitude
Writing down your positive thoughts can boost your sense of gratitude. Focusing on all the good things in life makes you more optimistic and boosts your self-esteem.
Keeping a gratitude journal can have life-changing effects.
Expressing gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and help you sleep better, a study found. Writing about gratitude also helps with depression, fatigue and insomnia.
Positive Psychology says that expressing your gratitude makes you less materialistic. It also helps with preventing burnout and encourages patience.
15. Journaling helps you discover your voice
Journaling everyday puts you in touch with your authentic self.
It just gets tiring to put up a front when you’re writing every day. And that means you eventually relax and learn to speak in your own voice.
Letting your words flow freely is incredibly liberating – and it’s what happens when you’re writing only for yourself. It matters less what others think.
Writing honestly is a form of self-acceptance. The more you write honestly, the more you accept yourself. And the more confident you become about expressing yourself.
16. Journaling leaves a record for your future self
A good journal is like wine – it gets better as it gets older. After a few years go by, old journals are gold for your future self to look through.
Reading through old journals can give you perspective on how far you’ve come – and what roads you’ve still to travel.
It also makes you grateful for everything you’ve had. You can look back and experience your joyful moments once again.
17. Journaling improves your mindfulness
Mindfulness, or being in the present moment and aware of your surroundings, can be boosted through journaling. Writing about your surroundings and the present moment helps you become more mindful every day – even when you’re not journaling. It teaches you to pay attention and be present.
Being in the present moment lets you escape that endless cycle of brooding over the past or worrying about the future. You’re left in the now to take things in with all your senses.
Mindfulness lets you appreciate life without letting it pass you by.
18. Journaling boosts your self-esteem
Specific prompts to boost your self-esteem can do wonders. Writing about anything from today’s highlights to your biggest achievements gives you a brighter outlook on your life.
A lack of confidence usually means an 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.