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Write that Down!

Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health

by Mrinal Gokhale

This April, Daya teamed up with HAWCYL to gather notebooks and writing supplies for our clients. Our goal is that more of our clients will engage in mindful journaling to heal and achieve self-improvement. Since April is wrapping up, we want to discuss how journaling has a place in one’s introspective journey.

In 2018, a peer-reviewed study found that positive affect journaling (PAJ) improved overall mindset and quality of life. In this study, several participants who had anxiety symptoms did 15 minute journaling sessions about three days per week. In just a month, participants reported reduced anxiety and depressive symptoms. By the end of three months, they achieved a greater “resilience” and mental wellbeing.

Writing your thoughts, feelings, and ideas as they come to you feels different than talking to someone else. You don’t have to worry about saying the “right things.” Even better, you don’t have to be in a distressed state of mind to enjoy journaling!

You can start journaling alone or in a group setting, such as therapy. In fact, mental health professionals started the Pandemic Project to allow people to journal their feelings and traumas during quarantine. Whether you want to release some built up emotional pain or get some clarity on your racing thoughts and what they mean, journaling is accessible and there is no “right” or “wrong way to do so.

Journaling for Anxiety

It is hard when a worry gets stuck in your head to the point where it spirals. And even worse when you don’t have anyone to talk with. Try to journal it out of your system as a first step! And you don’t even have to have a formal diagnosis of anxiety to benefit from journaling. Just start scribbling or typing in a running, free-flowing record of your thoughts as they come to your mind. You may discover the root of your worries, and end your session with a fresh, better perspective.

Journaling for Trauma

People who experience adversity can turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Journaling is anything but unhealthy. If you lost a loved one, for example, writing down your feelings can help you honor the memory and move forward. If you’ve experienced trauma, journaling may help you recover more easily.

In the 1980’s, social psychologist James Pennebecker found that journaling may improve immune system function. He studied several participants who journaled for about 15 minutes per day while living with various health concerns. He found that his participants started their sentences with “I”, but later began using words like “because” and “realize”, which showed that they learned about themselves in the process. Coincidently, another study found that those who find positive meaning to their misfortunes via journaling progress better in their healing journies.

Journaling for Self-Improvement

Do you have lots of ideas in your mind that you want to bring to life? Or do you ever have difficulty tapping into your creative spark? Try doodling and writing! Scientists have drawn some invention ideas through their journals, as have artists. Even writing down lists of things you’re grateful for every day can help boost your memory and mood. Or perhaps you have some goals you’re trying to accomplish. Journaling the steps you’re taking can keep you focused, while giving you a sense of pride when you look back at how far you’ve come over time.

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