Benefits of journaling & The science behind it
Daily journaling is like the flossing of the mind. It is the most inexpensive and accessible form of self expression, decompression, mindfulness and self-understanding. Incorporating journaling into your daily routine will always be beneficial.
So why should you journal? Why is journaling beneficial and what does science have to say about it?
It may seem hard to believe that journaling can impact your overall physical health, yet recent studies have shows that it is more than possible. If you kept a diary as a teenagers, you know how good it feels to drop off your thoughts on paper.
LET’S talk about the BRAIN. On a neurological level, a brain that worries all the time is constantly multitasking. Worrying is like an extra activity that you are doing (on top of your to do list), and it takes up energy as a portion of your cognitive efforts are working on suppressing the worries.
An experimental study conducted at Michigan State University shows that “if you get these worries out of your head through expressive writing, those cognitive resources are freed up to work toward the task you’re completing and you become more efficient” Schroder said.
The experiment was conducted with college students that suffered from anxiety. The students did computer-based “flanker task” that measured their response accuracy and reaction times. They were split into two groups. One group took time before the test to write down their deepest thoughts and feelings about the upcoming task for eight minutes; the other groups wrote about what they did the day before. Both groups performed at about the same level for speed and accuracy, however the expressive-writing group was more efficient and used fewer brain resources, as measured with EEG.
Journaling works like a stress relief tool, so it doesn’t’ only impact our physical health and immune system (as both are jeopardised by stress, worries and anxiety), but it is also helpful for mental health.
The immediate impact of expressive writing is usually a short-term increase in distress, negative mood and physical symptoms, and a decrease in positive mood compared with controls. Expressive writing participants also rate their writing as significantly more personal, meaningful and emotional. However, at longer-term follow-up, many studies have continued to find evidence of health benefits in terms of objectively assessed outcomes, self-reported physical health outcomes and self-reported emotional health outcomes.
How many times have you been able to solve a complicated math problem in your head? Or do you do end of year taxes in you head? You need to take paper and pen and write it down. The solution becomes more obvious and it is way easier to identify it. The same happens to our emotions, traumas & problems. The more you write about them the easier it becomes to see it with clarity and detach yourself from your problems. ( Not in a negative way, but many times we become attached to our problems, emotions, and create an identity out of it.)
The more you get to know and understand yourself the more compassion you will have for yourself and others. You might have heard before that you need to love yourself before you learn to love others?
Do you know on top of your head what your favourite cuisine is, what your coping mechanism are & what love means to you? Maybe you do, but if you take pen and paper right now and write down some thoughts on these topics you will be surprised to see how much more you will learn about yourself. The more you know yourself, the more you will know who your people are, what social activities you enjoy and you will learn when to say “yes” or “no”.
You will become more organised and will remember things better. We live most of our lives unconscious ( doing things by default and not truly being present). The moment you write things down you become more ware of them and then clean your memory canvas and create more space for other things.
I know it’s very tempting to only grab your journal when shit hits the fan and you wan to complain about everything in life. Even if it is extremely beneficial to vent and clean out your energy, it is really beneficial to write down what you are grateful for. It can be a simple bullet point list, or a full on description of the moments from you day that brought you joy. Trust me it doesn’t only cheer you up and many times reminds you of moments you wouldn’t even have given a second thought otherwise, but it will also be very pleasant to read about in the future when you grab your journal and flip through it. You don’t want all your journals to be only about complaining. There are many things that happen that we can be grateful for, a smile from a stranger, lunch with parents, a sunny or rainy day, a good cup of water when you are really thirsty.