Writing is my career but also my hobby; my safe haven in a world that is constantly changing beyond my control. I write because it feels good. But why exactly does it feel good? Is there science behind the catharsis in putting your thoughts on the page?
A growing body of research points to yes: writing is medicine for the mind, body, and soul. Here are 3 science-backed benefits of journaling that will inspire you to get writing today.
Journaling Helps You Cope with Stress
Writing down your emotions after a stressful event isn’t easy. But, confronting these feelings early on may prevent trauma from building up and causing additional emotional and physical challenges.
This was proven in a study that explored the role of writing in helping process trauma. Over the course of one month, students in the study were randomly assigned to write about one of the following:
- Emotions related to trauma
- Emotions and thought processing related to trauma
- Media events
Unsurprisingly, the students who tackled both their emotions and their thoughts about them developed a greater awareness about the event. They actually came to realize the positive benefits of the trauma, using it as a learning tool to better their life.
One unexpected element of this study was that writers focusing solely on emotions reported more severe sicknesses during the study. This suggests that focusing on the negative doesn’t just make us sad — it can also make us sick.
Reflective journaling is an amazing tool for processing your emotions and coming to terms with how you feel, so you can move past these traumas instead of letting them stew inside you.
2. Journaling Heals Wounds From Grief
Grief isn’t something we like to talk about, but it’s an emotion that we all experience at one or more points in life. Writing about your experiences and feelings related to grief can help you process and overcome these emotions (as long as you’re moving forward, rather than ruminating).
Expressive writing can help people suffering from grief find greater meaning from their loss, one study showed. These participants also showed lower levels of long-term grief, depression, and PTSD.
This was echoed in another study on the role of writing in aiding people suffering from loss. “A structured writing program might be helpful in promoting thought activities and as a tool to increase the coherence and understanding of individuals in the grief process,” say the authors.
Writing about your loss can help you work through the pain to uncover a greater sense of strength, resiliency, and meaning from an event that may otherwise seem too difficult to bear.
“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.” — Jennifer Williamson
3. Journaling Helps with Decision-Making
When faced with a difficult decision, we tend to put off the task of deciding until the last minute. Journaling helps us confront both sides of the coin earlier, so we can make a more informed decision that we feel good about. Specifically, research shows that journaling is an important tool for helping people see the situation from a new perspective.
Individuals in that same study revealed that reflective journaling helped people understand their emotions. Free writing, which involves writing your thoughts down without strategy, allows your true feelings and desires to come through. Re-reading what you wrote is like looking into the window of your soul. It gives you insight into how you really feel and what you really want — two things that are often hard to access when faced with a difficult decision.
The Benefits of Journaling Abound
To write is to think, feel, and share your inner self all at once. It isn’t an easy process, and it can sometimes reveal truths we didn’t want to hear. Fortunately, the many proven benefits of journaling show why it’s an important facet of self-care, mental health and long-term wellbeing.