The Case for Journaling: 13 proven benefits and how to get started
Journaling is a lot like exercise – there’s countless benefits and tons of different ways to do it. In this article, I’ll define journaling, outline 13 proven benefits, and explain how easy it is to get started.
What is journaling?
Simple… journaling is sitting down and writing (or typing) your thoughts, feelings or observations.
Most people journal daily, and that’s what I’d personally recommend, but I wouldn’t put pressure on yourself to make it a responsibility. Be intentional by making a habit of it, but let it come naturally. Personally, I start my day with it every day and some nights, I do it before bed.
Here are the 13 proven benefits:
- Decreased anxiety and stress
A significant body of evidence demonstrates that recording thoughts and feelings on a regular basis helps people process negative emotions, identify possible solutions, and ultimately alleviate anxiety.
- Decreased levels of depression
Journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by:
- Helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns
- Tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them
- Providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors
- Higher sense of gratitude
Through intentional reflection, journaling has been proven to increase levels of gratitude. Reflecting on things you are grateful for is a key component of psychotherapeutic intervention and increase in well-being.
- Greater sense of identify and self-awareness
By regularly writing and reflecting on your thoughts, you grow to learn more about yourself.
- Higher empathy and emotional intelligence
By documenting your thoughts and experiences regularly, you will realize how your actions may positively or negatively affect others, and how other people’s actions affect yours. Ultimately, this has been shown to increase levels of empathy and EQ.
- Better social skills
Because journaling can lead to greater empathy, it can also lead to greater prosocial behaviors, such as giving, sharing cooperating and helping others. This, in return, leads to greater social skills.
- Heightened brain activity
An increase in brain activity has been found in relation to gratitude journaling, specifically in the medial prefrontal cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and nucleus accumbens.
- Become a better learner
Journaling has been shown to help students throughout the learning process through promoting reflection, communication and better long-term memory storage.
- Higher level ability to focus
By regularly journaling, you become aware of distractions and how to avoid them. In turn, you achieve a greater level of focus.
- Greater confidence
Confidence, particularly under stressful experiences, increased following studies of combined cognitive and emotional journaling.
- Live longer
Gratitude journaling may improve heart failure morbidity-related biomarkers, such as reduced inflammation and reduced blood pressure.
- Have better sleep
In some studies, journaling before bed has resulted in cases of higher quality sleep.
- Better language and communication skills
Structured journaling allows students to better analyze text, allowing them to read at a higher level which promotes engagement in challenging components of communication and an increase in language skills.
How do you get started?
Also simple… do whatever works best for you. People can really overcomplicate it, but there isn’t a “best way” or a one-size-fits-all approach. There are countless ways to journal, but here are a few of my favorite examples:
- Gratitude Journaling: writing a daily list of things that you’re grateful for
- Bullet Journaling: using charts, outlines, schedules, and checklists to measure productivity
- Habit Tracking: tracking your workouts, meals, books read, water intake, or other routines, especially ones you are seeking to improve
- Reflective Journaling: looking back on your day or week and writing through your thoughts and feelings, similar to therapy
- Brainstorming: selecting a topic and brainstorming ideas or solutions, usually with a set time limit
- Food journaling: tracking everything you eat on a daily basis for fitness goal purposes or identifying foods that may bother you
- Prayer Journaling: documenting the things and people you are praying about and for, so you can remember everything and reflect back on them in the future
- Idea Journaling: keeping a small journal handy so you can document ideas as they come to you
Step one is to buy a journal. I prefer a blank notebook, but there are several guided journals you can find online. Some of simplest ways to get into the habit are to write one line per day or set a timer for just five minutes per day.
Practice journaling consistently and write as though nobody else will read your entries. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, handwriting, layout.