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Physical & Mental Health Benefits of Journaling

Dear Diary: I haven’t written in you since I was 12 years old, and I’m not sure if I should start?

When was the last time you put pen to paper? Or even fingers to your keyboard or touchscreen, to write about something other than work? If you’re like many women, you might keep ever-expanding to-do lists, take notes for work, and keep an agenda, but you might not keep a journal for yourself. Which is a shame, because there are so many health benefits of journaling! 

The Health Benefits of Journaling

Call it a diary, call it a journal, call it a log. Writing for yourself isn’t just something for stuffy old people in history who thought the world needed a play-by-play of their lives (we’re looking at you, Samuel Pepys). Journaling can actually be a very meaningful activity that brings joy to your daily life, while also helping you manage stress and stay in touch with your emotions.  

For example, one study found that positive emotional writing can reduce anxiety and perceived stress. 1

Another found that positive affect journaling is effective at “reducing some aspects of mental distress and improving aspects of well-being among medical patients with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms … Thus, this relatively simple and cost-effective intervention may represent a low-risk way to improve a variety of well-being domains, particularly among underserved patients.”2

And don’t think keeping a diary is something best left to melodramatic adolescents! We know from specific research now that expressive writing can be beneficial for older adults, too. In fact, a 2018 study found that “expressive writing may be beneficial for older adults and promote health and well-being.”3

There are many ways writing down your thoughts can help your mental health. According to PsychCentral, for example, writing can help you know yourself better, reduce stress, solve problems more effectively, and even resolve disagreements with others. 4

You can also use your journal to track things like your health, your activities, and anything else that might be helpful to understand better. 

Plus, journaling is just fun! And given how easy it is to do, it’s certainly worth a try, especially if you’re looking for more quick self-care activities you can do anywhere.

How To Journal For Wellness

The first rule when it comes to journaling for wellness: there are no rules! You can write alone. You can write anywhere, on anything. You can write anytime of day, for any amount of time. Just start writing! 

If you find it hard to remember, try putting in reminders on your phone, or even schedule it into your calendar. 

You might find it easy to write a gratitude journal, where once a day you write a set number of things you’re grateful for. You could also keep a ‘good for me’ journal, where at the end of each day you log what you’ve accomplished—even if that’s something as simple as managing to get out of bed and brush your teeth. 

Or if you’re interested in tapping into your emotions, you might enjoy the classic book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which explores how to freewrite, or ‘expressive’ writing.

So give it a try! Worst case, you spend a little time on something that’s not quite right for you. Best case, you’ve got a new self care activity you can turn to again and again for positive fulfillment. Because, yes, self care is very important!

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