What Role Does Journaling Play in Our Mental Health Journey?

Close up of a girl writing in her journal to indicate how therapeutic journaling is.

If the first thing that comes your mind when you hear the word ‘journaling’ is a teenager writing about their high-school crush, clearly it’s because we have stereotyped this most wonderful and helpful practice.

Either that, or we tend to believe that journaling is only for writers or highly educated people. But the truth is, that journaling is for everyone!

Studies have proven that journaling can have a deeply positive impact on our mental health. Keeping a journal can help us reflect on our personality, track our goals, achievements, and contribute to our overall growth. It also is an effective way to trace our journey looking back over time without worrying about being judged by someone. It is not only an effective way of coping with stress but also one of the most affordable way of self-therapy.

In this article we’d like to explore the relationship between journaling and mental health and also discuss how you can start on your journey of journaling.

How can journaling impact our mental health?

There are multiple ways journaling can help us balance negativity and shift our focus towards towards positivity in a healthy way. It’s like a self-care tool that encourages people to slow down, take a few minutes to process everything, pour their hearts and minds out to recognize their feelings; and that is extremely powerful. But how does writing words on paper have so much power?

Boosts cognitive functions of the brain

During journaling, we engage the left hemisphere, which is the analytical part of our brain. This helps the right hemisphere wander freely and pushes us to become more creative, inspired, and intuitive. Done on a regular basis, this can make a huge difference in our day-to-day life.

Studies have shown that journaling also improves memory, comprehension, and overall cognition.

Image of left and right hemispheres of brain to indicate which areas they control. Journaling helps with both.
The left and right hemispheres of the brain are both positively impacted by journaling

Enhances emotional wellness

Emotional wellness is a state in which we feel content, happy, and in control of our emotions.

However, emotional wellness doesn’t mean only experiencing feel-good emotions such as love, joy, and excitement. It is impossible to be that way all the time.

Emotional wellness is equally about acceptance of our unpleasant and less desirable feelings.

When we have a healthy mind and emotional well-being, we recognize that feeling sad, angry, jealous, or scared is also a part of the human experience. And instead of bottling these unpleasant feelings, we learn to embrace them.

Maintaining a gratitude journal is an extremely powerful tool for mental health as per research

Expressing our feelings through journaling can give us insights into ourselves and answers to our unique situations in a way that little else can do. It gives us an outlet to recognize our emotions, reflect and work on them by balancing them wisely.

Helps with anxiety and depression

According to studies, journaling can be useful for individuals who have a history of trauma. Several research studies have found that journaling helps to cope with post-traumatic symptoms. That’s why many therapists recommend that their patients write a journal to express their feelings in order to manage their anxiety and depression.

Writing thoughts on paper can relieve anxiety and depression. Journaling can also potentially help people cope by revealing triggers they wouldn’t normally identify. Combined with the right professional help, they can then try to avoid those situations in the future.

Whatever disorder, stress, or addiction we are struggling with, journaling can act as a useful recovery tool.

Benefits of regular journaling

Young man journaling in copybook, noting goals, achievements and failures in time management check list during coffee break at cafe table
One can choose to journal anywhere and at any time to help clear one’s thoughts and emotions

While writing about our emotions and difficult situations is therapeutic in general, the benefits of frequent journaling (if not daily) are much greater.

  1. Daily journaling can help us recognize what triggers our feelings of anxiousness or stress. We can also write about what helps us cope with stress and this can make us develop better mental habits.
  2. When we take time out every day to reflect on our thoughts and feelings, we get a chance to engage in self-talk and becomes a mirror to our inner selves. Done consistently with appropriate course correction, this can help us shape ourselves into who we wish to become over time.
  3. Daily journaling can teach us to become disciplined in life. We can keep a track of our goals, daily achievements, roadblocks, and setbacks and can hence contribute to improving our self-awareness.
  4. Journaling can become our own story of self-growth by helping us to keep a record of all the lessons we have learnt and efforts we have made.
  5. Daily journaling can improve our memory. Writing something with a pen and on paper stimulates the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in our brain. It helps the brain pay attention to what we’re focusing on and process it deeply. In short, writing brings important information to the forefront, to let the brain know that these words are important.

Final thoughts

Writing a journal helps us organize our messy thoughts and emotions. It can enable a sense of stability amid chaos.

We should look at journaling as a form of self-therapy, and use our journaling practice in creative ways to help us find the answers that lie within. Only then it will allow us to declutter our minds and have a fresh perspective towards life.

Open Journal with Handwritten Pages and Pen
Documenting one’s life and goals can itself give one a feeling of great accomplishment

However, writing a journal to improve mental health doesn’t necessarily show immediate results. Improving your mental health through journaling may take a while, but with regular practice and determination, one can reap the immense benefits of journaling.

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Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only. Lokyatha has observed best effort due diligence and all health related content is reviewed by a trained professional before publishing. However, this should not and can not replace personalized medical help. Please refer to a professional in all cases of need.