10 Benefits Of Expressive Writing Through Journaling

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Journaling is something that can benefit anyone of any age or gender. Studies show that expressive writing, such as keeping a diary, or a bullet journal has a direct positive impact on mental health. Many journaling prompts are available, and they can be an effective way to get your thoughts out on paper.

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Journaling may also benefit those who want to use it for other reasons, such as aspiring novelists hoping to organize their plans for a book. Journaling exercises can prompt writing that help real life issues like someone wishing to write a letter that they can’t send to a past lover. Or a friend that benefits from writing about a fight in their journal to process their feelings and move forward. Journaling can also be used to write about your day or keep a track record of events in your life. While longitudinal evidence is still sparse, initial studies show that journaling can be psychological health benefits as well as physical health benefits from the practice of journaling.

The benefits of journaling

If you’re curious about journaling and how it can improve your life, here are ten journaling benefits that may motivate you to get started.

1. A journal may help you heal current and past hurts

Studies show that journaling may help you heal in the long and short term. Writing your thoughts down may help reduce stress levels and improve your mood. Putting experiences or difficult emotions into words may help you organize your thoughts and feelings and gain clarity over your experience, rather than leaving the thoughts in your mind or ignoring them. Journaling helps with accepting negative emotions. 

Stress isn’t the only thing that journaling may relieve. It may also confront and potentially alleviate other hurts, such as:

  • Grief over a lost loved one
  • Grief over a breakup
  • Feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt
  • Feelings of fear or anxiety felt throughout the day
  • Concerns about the intentions of others
  • Feelings of anger or stress

Expressing your emotions through journaling can be an effective way to label them, make sense of what you’re feeling, and potentially finally let them go as you face them on the paper or screen. Journaling like this is a common psychiatric treatment and can be done as a part of acceptance and commitment therapy with a licensed therapist. 

While journaling offers you the opportunity to work through some of your difficult experiences or negative emotions in the long term, it may also have immediate benefits. Finding it difficult to achieve the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night? By releasing your emotions and expressing your deepest thoughts through journaling, you may be able to find a sense of peace. Journaling has been proven to assist individuals with sleeping more peacefully and deeply. Getting more and better-quality sleep can lead to a number of physical health benefits like reduced blood pressure, improved blood sugar control, better liver function, and a more supported immune system. 


If you feel overwhelmed and find that journaling is not enough to help you cope with stressors or past grief, a counselor may be an additional beneficial option.

2. You can increase your emotional intelligence through journaling

A potential way to feel the immediate benefits of getting in touch with the depth of your emotions is by writing down what you feel and seeing those emotions on the page, tangibly and right in front of you. 

Throughout multiple sessions, you may find it easier to understand specific emotional triggers or coping skills to deal with challenging emotions, creating greater self-awareness. When you start journaling you can find yourself on a journey of self-discovery. You may also find that journaling allows you to be more empathetic to those in your life who come to you with similar concerns to things you’ve processed.

3. Journaling can help you achieve your goals

Many people set goals for themselves. Sometimes, you may have heard others say that “life can get in the way” of these goals. Being busy can make it seem that you don’t have time to follow your dreams.

Studies show that the physical act of writing your goals down can increase the chances of meeting them. Writing your goals down may help you narrow your focus and remind you that they exist. In your journal, consider writing a list of things you’d like to complete in a certain amount of time. When you return to that list later in the year, check off any of the items you’ve completed.

4. Journaling can remind you of the importance of your goals

When you write something down, it can communicate to your brain that you find it essential. If you add more details, your brain may be more likely to remember what you’ve written. As a result, you may increase the possibility of sticking to your goals and achieving them. 

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5. Journaling can improve memory

Studies show that it is often easier to remember something after you write it down. Your brain remembers the curvature of the letters, the color of the ink you used, the flaws on the page you wrote upon, and the subject. These details come together to help you better remember what you have written down. If you want to remember a specific time in your life later down the road, or recall your favorite memories of your own or your children’s lives, journaling may be a way to do that.

6. Journaling can improve your vocabulary

Over time, you may grow tired of using the same words to express yourself in your journal, and you may want to diversify your journal entries by looking up synonyms for the words you use most often. In doing so, journaling is adding words to your lexicon. These words can be used in your diary entries and everyday speech.

Because you are writing these new words down, you may remember them more easily. Your communication, therefore, may also improve because of journaling.

7. Journaling can increase intelligence

Improving your vocabulary and your communication may increase your intelligence. Studies show a link between creativity, such as writing and art, and mental intelligence. Journaling is a practice in language and literacy, and it also deals with creativity.

You can try testing what you’ve learned throughout your process. One way to try this is by taking a vocabulary test before and after journaling for a year. You may find that you’ve learned a lot more about writing since you started. Journal writing can also increase your emotional intelligence, as mentioned above, and you may have learned to be more in tune with yourself and those around you.  

Shawna Morris, LPC
My therapist, Shawna, is such a solid support for me. I don’t have a large network of family or friends, and I wouldn’t discuss my troubles with them if I did. Having come to Betterhelp and connecting with Shawna has been such an enhancement to my life and mental health. Knowing I have someone to reach out to and who listens and offers real solutions is invaluable. I’ve also been able to use the journaling feature which really does help to get the feelings out when I’m overwhelmed. Very grateful.”

8. Journaling can strengthen your self-discipline and routine

When you set aside time daily to write in your journal, you are dedicating yourself to your routine. This dedication may be known as an act of self-discipline.

When choosing a time to write, you may want to find a time that you’re most often at home, such as when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed each night.

Journaling at night may be more beneficial, as it allows you to recap and release the stressors of your day before trying to sleep. However, journaling in the morning may allow you to record dreams, goals, or a to do list for your day. It’s up to you which works best. Some people choose to journal throughout the day at different moments.

The self-discipline you gain from journaling may also transfer to other areas of your life. Patience, determination, and consistency may all be achieved by creating a journaling schedule.

9. Journaling may improve your self-confidence

Journaling may also improve your self-confidence and self-love. When you chronicle some of your more positive experiences, re-reading the entry allows you to re-live them and practice gratitude. A gratitude journal may improve your mood and help you see positive qualities in yourself, the world around you, and those you love.

Reading about your accomplishments can boost endorphins in your brain, improving your mood and encouraging you to keep at what you’ve already achieved.

Studies show that being optimistic can increase your mental well-being throughout your life. Consider writing a daily list of items that you are grateful for to foster feelings of optimism.

10. Journaling can increase your levels of creativity

Journaling allows for what is called “stream-of-consciousness” writing. When practicing this type of writing, thoughts and ideas may come to you more quickly, and you may become more expressive with your language and communication. It is also a type of mindfulness practice that keeps you in the present moment and sparks creativity.

Looking up writing exercises or journaling prompts may help you feel inspired to write. Here are some potential topics to journal about:

  • What are five things you are grateful for today?
  • What is your favorite thing about yourself today?
  • What was one thing you wish you had done differently today?
  • Who in your life makes you feel safest, and why?
  • What is one positive action you can take throughout the week to improve your mental health?
  • If you could complete any goal throughout the year, what would it be?

Asking leading questions to yourself may help you come up with topics to write about.

How therapy can support journaling

Speaking with a professional can often help you process emotions that are difficult to deal with on your own through journaling. Evidence shows that online therapy can effectively assist individuals in understanding how their thoughts influence their actions and emotions. In a wide-ranging review published in Internet Interventions, the effects of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on common mental health disorders were examined. 

In this meta-analysis, researchers note that mental health conditions are considered a leading contributor to physical diseases but are substantially under-treated. They state some barriers, including costs, medical literacy, geographical constraints, and negative feelings toward therapy. According to the study, online platforms are a way around these obstacles, providing greater flexibility to those who might not otherwise seek treatment. Other studies show that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy in treating mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression.

If you’re considering reaching out for mental health guidance, online resources such as BetterHelp may provide you with advice. Some therapists may offer further journaling prompts or worksheets that can go along with the topics you discuss in a session.


Journaling may help you better understand your feelings and thoughts and can be a great supplement to other forms of self-care. If you’re experiencing any difficulties in your life, you can also consider reaching out to a mental health expert for guidance and support. Working through challenging emotions can make a huge difference in your life. Take the first step today.

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