March 04, 2021 4 min read 10 Comments
When people hear about journaling, a lot of them think about pretty, personalized notebooks. Pinterest, calligraphy, and aesthetic are a few related things that come to mind, and there's a misconception that that's all there is to it. But having a beautiful journal is more of a preference. Journaling goes way beyond design: it's all about the art of journaling itself that has, time and time again, proven to be beneficial to our physical and mental well-being.
There are many scientific studies that can backup the amazing benefits of journaling, and in this article, we're going to show you just how much the simple act of writing things down can help improve the quality of your life. If you've never tried journaling before, we hope that going through this list will encourage you to give it a shot. Meanwhile, if you're an avid journal keeper, then all the more reason to continue journaling!
While we make no claims that it can replace actual therapy, an NIH study did indicate that journaling "may serve as an effective intervention for mitigating mental distress, increasing well-being, and enhancing physical functioning among medical populations." When paired with conventional therapy, patients who were part of the study had less depressive symptoms and anxiety after the first month, and even showed greater resilience by months two and three. Another study, in which journaling was a part in its different forms of writing, had similar findings.
There is, of course, a lot to consider here: the type of medical condition, the accompanying usual mode of therapy, and the person involved. But overall, these studies show that journaling is more than just writing down a to-do list or drawing up a sketch that represents how your day went. Instead, it's a medium that allows people to make sense of themselves - who they are and what they feel about the world as they carve their place in it.
Goal setting has proven valuable in encouraging people to fulfill ambitions and reach dreams, and one of the things that make it effective is writing your goals down. In one study, asking students to write their personal goals and plans (regardless of type) resulted in increased academic performance by a staggering 22%.
With journaling, you have an avenue to write your goals in the format of your choosing. For example - bullet journaling is used for various types of lists - chores, to-do's, recipes, meal plans, groceries, habit trackers and so on. Put simply though, no matter what you call them, all of these are just little goals organized into categories. So when you own a journal, you're not just creating a list in fancy calligraphy: you're actually doing something useful by mapping your way towards success one word at a time.
Believe it or not, there's a correlation between journaling and being happy, and it has something to do with mindfulness. According to Psychology Today, "Mindfulness is both a set of skills and an orientation to life that involves maintaining open attention on whatever is happening in the present moment and bringing an attitude of acceptance and openness to whatever is going on internally or externally.
Writing in our journal gives us some practice on that: by allowing us to reflect on things that have taken place, we gain a better understanding of what's happening around us. It makes us more self-aware when it comes to accepting the things that we can or cannot change, which is ultimately helpful for us to maintain a happier disposition. And happiness in itself? Gives us more benefits that positively impact our health.
Journaling allows people to express themselves, and for those going through difficult times, writing about it can help reduce stress and even aid in immunity according to the American Psychological Association. In a study by psychologist James W. Pennebaker and his colleagues, participants who were part of the writing group reported a more positive mood and had less illnesses after six weeks. But not only that, the study’s participants showed improved measurements of immune system function, too. Their physical health actually improved. In the absence of stress and trauma, it's possible for people to thrive!
This means that keeping a journal can give you the means to vent, confront the source of your stress and trauma, and heal - all of which are beneficial to your physical and mental health!
Memory plays a big part in who we are and end up becoming. Without it, we would forget not just simple things - like needing to go to the grocery store after work - we may also end up forgetting important ones that can have a direct impact on how our lives end up. But here's where the beauty of journaling comes in: according to this study, participants who were part of an expressive writing group showed a significantly greater autobiographical memory only after six months.
Why is this important, you ask? We can look at it this way - who we are and who we end up becoming are all dictated by our understanding of our past experiences. By knowing who we were, it's easier for us to reflect on who we want to become, providing us a clearer picture of the future and allowing us to map out exactly how to get there based on all that we've learned from before until now.
The benefits of journaling are countless and spans not just mental health, but also physical health. That journals are more than functional by being beautiful is a bonus - but it sure does help encourage us to keep writing in it! Outside of this list, what other benefits have you enjoyed by journaling? Share it with us by leaving a comment below.