10 Benefits Of Journaling You Shouldn't Ignore
By: Danni Peck
Updated February 11, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
As an adult, you might feel silly about keeping up with a journal. You may think that journaling is something pre-teens and teenagers do, and you're too old to indulge in "Dear Diary" moments at this point in your life. But, as it turns out, journaling can be incredibly therapeutic.
Journaling is a great way to get all your thoughts down on paper. Maybe you're an aspiring novelist, and a journal can help you keep all your thoughts organized. Maybe you still harbor anger or sadness toward a lost loved one, and it would do you wonders to write a goodbye letter to them of sorts, chronicling all the ways that they hurt you, and your methods for letting it go. Or maybe you just like the idea of keeping track of the events as they happen in your life for easy reference later.
What follows is a list of 10 benefits of journaling that may inspire you to go out right now and pick up a crisp new notebook and a trustworthy pen.
- Your journal can help you heal.
Arguably, one of the more fulfilling benefits of journaling is its power to help you heal, both in the long and short terms. Writing helps to clear the air, quite literally, as it dissolves the fog that stress can create that stands in the way of clearer thinking. Putting experience into words makes it real, and when you make an experience real, you are freeing yourself from the mental gymnastics that you would otherwise be struggling with in turning those ideas over repetitively in your head.
Stress isn't the only thing that journaling can relieve. Grief over a lost loved one, whether by death or a bad breakup, feelings of inadequacy at the office, self-doubt within a marriage—all of these things can be confronted and alleviated when you take charge of your thoughts, write them down, and go over them again later on. Or maybe you never need to go over them again. Maybe just getting them out and on paper allows you to let them go finally. That is a gift in and of itself.
A short-term benefit? Taking all of that weight off of your mind reduces your anxiety and stress levels and allows you to sleep more peacefully and deeply, and we all know how important recharging one's batteries in preparation for confronting the challenges of a new day can be. Finding it difficult to achieve the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night? Try journaling—you may just find that it helps immensely.
If, however, you find that journaling is simply not enough to help you cope with stressors or past grief, please consider reaching out to a counselor, who can help you right from the comfort of your own home.
2. You can increase your emotional intelligence through journaling.
What better way to get in touch with your emotions than to write down what's bothering you or, conversely, making you happy, and seeing those emotions on the page, tangibly and right in front of you? One of the benefits of journaling is that you can improve your ability not only to understand and manage your own emotions but the emotions of others as well. This helps to make you more empathetic, which allows for deeper connections with people.
3. Journaling can help you achieve your goals.
We all set goals for ourselves, but sometimes, as we say, "life gets in the way," and the things that you thought were once possible no longer seem to be. As a result, your goals change, and you may sacrifice the things you once wanted for the things you now need, which can lead to depression. Take charge of the depression before it even starts by journaling about your goals—what they are and why you want to achieve them—so that you can refer back to that list throughout the year and do everything possible to make those dreams a reality.
4. Journaling can help you stress the importance of your goals.
This point goes hand-in-hand with point number three. When you journal, this tells your brain that if you are taking the time to write this down, then it is probably important. The more details you include, the better. As a result, you are increasing the possibility that you will stick to your goals and achieve them because you will remember that what you wrote down was important enough to want to follow through with later on.
5. Journaling can improve memory.
It is often easier to remember something after you write it down. That's because your brain remembers the curvature of the letters, the color of the ink you used, the flaws on the page that you wrote upon—all those little details come together to help you better remember what you had written down.
- Journaling can improve your vocabulary.
It may not seem like journaling can improve your vocabulary when you're first starting out, and it won't while you're still new at it. Over time, however, you may grow tired of using the same words to describe things or to express yourself, and you may want to spice up your journal entries by looking up synonyms for the words that you use most often. In doing so, journaling is adding words to your lexicon, words that can be used in both your diary entries and in everyday speech. Your communication therefore also improves as a result of journaling.
- Journaling can make you smarter.
Improving your vocabulary and your communication can make you smarter in general. Because journaling is an exercise in practicing the language, when you seek out new words and improve your vocabulary, you are upping your level of intelligence. Here's a good way to test how your intelligence has grown: after journaling for a year, try taking a vocabulary test online. You may just be surprised at how many more words you know (and get right!) than you used to.
8. Journaling can strengthen your self-discipline.
When you set aside a time every day during which you are going to write in your journal, you are creating for yourself an act of discipline. Choose a time that will be easy to stick to, no matter how busy you get, like the second you get up in the morning, or before you go to bed each night. The latter may be more beneficial, as it allows you to recap and release the stressors of your day. Every time you show up at the scheduled time to your writing spot and put that pen to the paper, you are practicing self-discipline. The more often you practice, the better you will get at it.
You may find that self-discipline bleeding over into other aspects of your life as well. Who knew that when you started to journal, it would eventually lead you to make your bed every day, straightening up the kitchen, or ensuring that your desk at work remains organized? All because you made a plan—and stuck to it—to show up every time and work at your craft. Patience, determination, and consistency all combine into a recipe for a better person—which you can become every time you open your journal to write in it.
- Journaling can improve your self-confidence.
Maybe when you started reading this article, you were skeptical as to how beneficial journaling can be. However, if you've gotten this far, then the benefits seem pretty realistic, no? On that note, when you consider how journaling can reduce your anxiety and self-doubt, improve your self-discipline, and help you organize your thought patterns, then it should come as no surprise that journaling can also improve your self-confidence.
Not only that but when you chronicle some of your more positive experiences, re-reading the entry allows you to re-live it. Remember when you thought you would be simply horrible when giving that presentation before the board? Or when you were so sure you wouldn't stick with the gym each week this year…and then you did? Reading about your accomplishments can boost those endorphins in your brain and encourage you to keep at what you've already achieved, while also setting new goals for yourself—benchmarks that you are now more confident you can meet.
10. Journaling can increase your level of creativity.
Journaling allows for what is called "stream of consciousness" writing. When you're writing in a state of the stream of consciousness, thoughts and ideas just come to you, and you become freer and more expressive with your language and communication.
Another good idea is to look up writing exercises online. Some writing exercises are nothing more than one line that inspires you to write about something crazy, and once you begin, it might be hard to stop.
For instance: imagine an alien spaceship has just abducted you, and when the door closes behind you, you notice the President is also standing there. What do you say to each other? How do you get out of the situation? Do either of you even notice or care that you're there? The possibilities are endless when it comes to crafting a story, and you'll see just how much more fun journaling as an adult can be than you ever thought possible before.
Understanding Your Thoughts With BetterHelp
Evidence shows that online therapy is an effective method of helping individuals understand how their thoughts influence actions and emotions. In a wide-ranging review published in Internet Interventions—a peer-reviewed research journal—the effects of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on common mental health disorders were examined. Researchers note that mental disorders are considered a leading contributor to diseases, but that they are substantially undertreated. This, they state, is due to a number of 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 and accessibility to those who might not otherwise seek treatment.
As discussed above, online therapy is a valuable resource for those who want to better understand and address their emotions. With BetterHelp’s online platform, you’ll have the opportunity to write in a journal that can be shared with your counselor, if you choose. You will have access to a record of messages and journal entries that you can review if you want to remember certain discussion topics or points, instead of relying on your memory of a face-to-face session. The mental health professionals at BetterHelp can provide you with guidance when you’re looking to explore your feelings. Read below for counselor reviews, from those who have sought help in the past.
“Lindsay is so kind and sweet. I was nervous for video call sessions but her whole demeanor is so calming. I look forward to our weekly sessions and writing in my journal to her everyday. She always gets back to me at least once a day. Usually around the time I tend to feel my worst. She has already been a great help to me and I look forward to working with her more in the future.”
“Charity really tries to relate to my experiences during the sessions. She also seems to care about my progress by commenting on my journal posts right after I share them with her.”
There are numerous ways in which journaling can help you better understand your feelings and thoughts. If you want even more help, consider reaching out to a mental health expert. Working through difficult-to-confront emotions can make a huge difference in your life. Take the first step today.
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