Writing to Better Health
At the very least, you’ve got haunting images of sticker-covered notebooks filled with your childhood day-to-day recitations dancing in your head. Or perhaps you were more of the lock-and-key-type, burying diaries you hoped your siblings would never find. Either way, you might have a love-hate relationship with keeping a journal.
Well, journaling is no longer old-fashioned, or just for folks of a certain older-and-wiser age. It’s something you need to do — now. Yep, it’s true. Journaling does more than just help you record your memories or find self-expression. It’s good for your health.
What are some of the short- and long-term health benefits of putting pen to paper? Here are five good-for-you virtues of journaling:
- Reduces Stress. An overabundance of stress can be damaging to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s proven. Journaling is a incredible stress management tool, a good-for-you habit that lessens impact of physical stressors on your health. In fact, a study showed that expressive writing (like journaling) for only 15 to 20 minutes a day three to five times over the course of a four-month period was enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver functionality. Plus, writing about stressful experiences can help you manage them in a healthy way. Try establishing journaling as a pre-bedtime meditation habit to help you unwind and de-stress.
- Improves Immune Function. Believe it or not, expressive writing can strengthen your immunity and decrease your risk of illness. Those who journal boast improved immune system functioning (it strengthens immune cells!) as well as lessened symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Expressive writing has been shown to improve liver and lung function and combat certain diseases; it has even been reported to help the wounded heal faster.
- Keeps Memory Sharp. Journaling helps keep your brain in tip-top shape. Not only does it boost memory and comprehension, it also increases working memory capacity, which may reflect improved cognitive processing.
- Boosts Mood. Want more sunshine in your life? Try journaling. A unique social and behavior outcome of journaling is this: it can improve your mood and give you a greater sense of overall emotional well-being and happiness.
- Strengthens Emotional Functions. Related to mood is how journaling benefits overall emotional health: As journaling habits are developed, benefits become long-term, meaning that diarists become more in tune with their health by connecting with inner needs and desires. Journaling evokes mindfulness and helps writers remain present while keeping perspective. It presents an opportunity for emotional catharsis and helps the brain regulate emotions. It provides a greater sense of confidence and self-identity. Journaling can help in the management of personal adversity and change, and emphasize important patterns and growth in life. Research even shows that expressive writing can help individuals develop more structured, adaptive, and integrated schemes about themselves, others, and the world. What’s more, journaling unlocks and engages right-brained creativity, which gives you access to your full brainpower. Truly, journaling fosters growth.
So, great. You get it: Journaling is good for you — physically, mentally, and emotionally. But what if, like many of us, you find yourself stuck, staring fruitlessly at a blank page? Well first, ditch the guilt of not being consistent or instantly motivated. Simply start where you are. If you need to initially just write a single line, or detail the specifics of what you had for breakfast, do it. Don’t preoccupy yourself with managing perfect punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just write and don’t censor yourself. This is for you. Remember: You don’t have to be Shakespeare.
Go ahead, grab one of those four-for-a-dollar marble composition books or another fancier option and set aside a dedicated space and time for journaling. And for now, put aside the screens when journaling — writing by hand stimulates and trains the brain in a way digital communication doesn’t.
Our lesson? If you’re looking to better your health and well-being, keep a journal.