By J. Lynn Holsman, PRS
Health & Recovery Content Specialist
Edited for Medical Content by Dr. Pennington, NP
If you keep a journal, you are one of roughly a billion people worldwide who journal regularly or have a diary. Did you know that journaling can actually be beneficial to your health? Both physical and mental health are positively affected by the practice of journaling. When most people think of journal writing, they think of recording one’s thoughts and feelings, as well as daily activities. We will look at some of the beneficial reasons to start (or continue) journaling. The new year is creeping up just around the corner. Maybe one of your resolutions for 2022 is to keep a daily journal. Maybe once you’ve read about the health benefits, it will become one! We will get you started.
Physical Health Benefits
There was a study conducted in 2013 that suggests that journaling can help your body heal faster. This particular study was based out of New Zealand. They had a group of people journal about either their daily activities, or upsetting events for twenty minutes, for three consecutive days. Two weeks later, all the study participants had a biopsy done on their arm. Healing progress was tracked for twenty-one days after the procedure. On day eleven, 76% of the group that journaled was already healed. The control group, or the participants who were in the study but did not do any journaling, only had a healed rate of 42% on the eleventh day following the biopsy. This is just one study, and certainly more research would need to be done on the matter. But it does lead to the suggestion that the body heals faster when we take part in expressive writing.
There was a similar study done where researchers measured the body’s immune response. In this study, two one group of people journaled about upsetting or traumatic events in their lives, and the other group were told to write about what they did during the day. They did this for four consecutive days. Both groups of people were given a vaccine for Hepatitis B the day after completing the writing. Researchers measured the level of antibodies in both groups of participants after receiving the vaccination, as well as at follow up increments. The group of people who wrote about their difficult times had significantly more antibodies than the group who simply recorded their daily activities.
Mental Health Benefits
As one might guess, mental health is particularly affected by journal writing. Multiple studies have been done proving that writing a little bit every day or a few times per week is related to having lower levels of stress. One of the reasons for this, is because journaling provides an outlet. Sometimes when people experience negative thoughts or emotions, they don’t always feel comfortable talking about them to others. Writing those thoughts and feelings into a journal provides a way of getting out those negative experiences in a safe place where you will not be judged. Carrying around this sort of negativity on a regular basis can weigh on a person’s well-being. Journaling allows us to let go. Keeping a journal is also a great way to sort through your thoughts if you have a big decision to make, or a difficult situation in general that might be hard to navigate. Putting the pen to paper allows you to visually see what your thoughts are and can help you process them.
Journal writing can also help with achieving goals. When we write out our goals, either with pen and paper, or typed on a screen, we tend to have a better chance of achieving them. Additionally, a journal is a great place to track progress of the goals you are trying to meet and allow you to adjust as you go along, if need be. Inevitably, this will have a positive impact on self-esteem. As you continuously watch yourself make progress, confidence will grow. If goals are not being met, or progress isn’t being made, the journal will show you where changes you need to make to better set you up to meet the goal.
Additionally, keeping a journal can help with depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as give the writer a place to track any symptoms they might be having on a regular basis.
Keeping a journal regularly, or even semi-regularly can have a huge impact on the body’s overall sense over well-being. Moods are generally elevated in folks who journal. And with the suggested physical health benefits, why not give it a try? It might become a brand-new hobby that you never knew you loved!
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