10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Journaling

In today’s world, a lot is put on our plate. The essentials, such as housing, gas, and food, are more expensive than ever.  We are all witnessing ongoing injustice. The Covid-19 pandemic knocked us off our feet. There are constant natural disasters, wildfires, and so many other difficult events to manage. Among all of this is the rising popularity of journaling. It’s easy to think of journaling as the diary you kept under your mattress as a kid but the truth is, journaling is powerful and the world is seeing this. 

Journaling can mean something different to everyone. For some people it is a cathartic release of their emotions. For others it is a creative process that inspires them. For some children, journaling is a way of understanding how they are feeling. For people prone to depression, journaling can lift heir spirits. Regardless of your age group, background, lifestyle, or writing skills, journaling is a psychological activity. People all around us are taking part in it. While research on the benefits has shown mixed results, there are psychological reasons why journaling is more popular than ever. Let’s dig deeper. Here are 10 things to know about the psychology of journaling.

Journaling can lead to self-discovery. 

There are so many benefits to frequent journaling. Many therapists and mental health professionals actually encourage their clients to journal once a day. One of the reasons for this is because journaling can boost our mood and sense of well being. 

Another benefit to journaling is self-discovery. When we write down our emotions, our fears, our issues, our triggers, we can gain a new perspective on ourselves. Journaling is a bit like talking to ourselves about what we are going through. When we put it down on paper, it’s real and we can use it as an opportunity to reflect and then move through or past it. For many individuals, journaling helps remove mental barriers and encourages self-discovery. 

Journaling may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It can be very easy for our emotions to become too much to manage. When our feelings do become overwhelming, it can lead to:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress

While journaling is a great way to easily boost our mood, it can also be a very helpful tool for breaking down the overwhelming emotions that are causing our distress in the first place. Journaling can help us manage our emotions by:

  • Helping to prioritize fears, concerns, and issues at hand
  • Tracking our triggers throughout the day so we can predict and manage them
  • Helping to identify negative behaviors and thoughts
  • Being a place to talk positively to ourselves 

If you struggle with anxiety or depression, or both, you may want to consider keeping a journal close by and adding it into your daily routine. 

Journaling can increase brain power. 

While journaling is not some superpower in the latest Marvel movie, it is a pretty powerful tool to have in your corner. Journaling helps our brain through cognitive processing. When we write down our thoughts, we are naturally encouraged to understand them and make sense of them. This allows us to process in a whole new medium. Additionally, when we write down our thoughts, we can “leave it all on the paper” and allow space for new thoughts and concepts. Because of these things, journaling has been proven to increase:

  • focus
  • clarity
  • concentration
  • memory 

Writing can make us more pleasant to be around.

Journaling is a safe place for managing and controlling our emotions. Whether we know we are doing it or not, if we are vulnerable and real while writing in our journals there can be some serious self work done. Journaling helps us to:

  • Understand our emotions
  • Recognize patterns
  • Feel a sense of relief and healing
  • Reduce stress points

If we can learn to manage our thoughts and feelings, we do not react the same way we did before. When we can learn to control our emotions we stop:

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  • reacting to triggers
  • taking things personally
  • reacting out of defense, etc. 

Essentially, when we learn to control our emotions we lower our emotional reactivity to other people. Additionally, doing this work can let us see other people’s perspectives and be more sensitive to what they are going through. 

Gratitude journals can be a great way to journal every day.

Gratitude journals are quickly becoming a very popular way to journal. The concept is quite simple but the results are astounding. The idea is to read a prompt each day and then write a response. Your answer to the prompt is meant to remind you of something that brings you joy that you may have otherwise overlooked or taken for granted. For example, “Who did you spend time with this week and what did you take from your time together?” Perhaps you went to coffee with your best friend, but because you have been friends for so long, you didn’t truly appreciate that time and give it the credit it deserves.

When we express gratitude for something, no matter small, we are firing up chemicals in our brain that boost our mood and happiness. Writing down just one thing a day that you are grateful for can lead to a long list of benefits for both our brains and bodies. 

Expressive writing can heal physical wounds.

Writing can help with emotional healing. It can help with physical healing as well. In a study published by Psychosomatic Medicine in 2013, researchers discovered that expressive writing– a specific type of journaling– can help with the healing process of small physical wounds. 

According to Psychology Today, “Investigators asked healthy adults ages 64 to 97 to journal for 20 minutes a day, three days in a row. Not everybody used the same journaling practice. Half were encouraged to write about things that upset them, honestly discussing their thoughts and feelings about those events. The other half wrote about a much dryer topic: how they manage time during the day. Two weeks later, all participants had a tiny biopsy performed on their arms, creating a small wound. Researchers then tracked how that wound healed by taking a picture every day. By day 11, a full 76 percent of the group who wrote the more genuine journal about upsetting life events had healed. This was compared to just 42 percent of those that wrote about time management.”

Journaling can be very helpful for youth.

Being a child or teenager is difficult. Being a parent or guardian or a child or teenager is also difficult. Journaling is a great way to be creative and expressive. It also has some serious psychological benefits as well. This is exactly why journaling is a great tool to use in these tricky formative years. The benefits of journaling for children include:

  • Helping deal with big emotions
  • Providing a safe place for problems
  • Improving writing skills
  • Improving communication skills (both parents and other children) 

Not all journaling is equal.

Just as not all brains are the same, not all journaling is equal. Those who are new to journaling should keep trying if they haven’t found a specific type of journaling that works for them. Just because something is beneficial for other people does not mean that it will be beneficial for you. Keep trying to unlock your own set of benefits from journaling. Some types of journaling include:

  • Reflective journaling
  • Daily journaling
  • Art journaling
  • Visual journaling
  • Stream of consciousness journaling
  • Bullet journaling
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Travel journaling
  • Nature journaling
  • Food journaling
  • Expressive journaling

Some personalities may not benefit from journaling.

With most activities in life, there is a good side and a bad side. While there are many psychological and physical benefits to journaling, there may be a bad side to it as well. Depending on your personality, journaling could have a negative effect on your well being and behavior. While this may seem hard to believe, the reasons go as followed:

  • May keep you in your head too much
  • May keep you from being present if you’re too consumed by the idea of writing it all down later
  • Your journal may be where you place blame instead of looking for solutions
  • You may become self obsessed from so much self thought
  • You may use your journal as a place to only focus on negative things that happen

Even people who don’t write may find journaling to be beneficial.

For creatives, journaling is often a part of their daily routine. Writing down their thoughts is comfortable. Better yet, it’s familiar. But what about the people who don’t write on their own time? It is very easy for people who who haven’t journaled to be turned off by the idea of writing down their emotions. However, the benefits are vast and the only step to take is forward. If you’ve been feeling low or looking to get more creative, try a simple journal prompt once a day. You’ve got nothing to lose!

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