Journaling is defined as a technique for reducing stress by writing about stressful events in your life. Journaling is also a time when you can record special memories, emotions, and other happenings. But journaling does more than just help you record your memories or find self-expression. It’s good for your health — physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can help you clear your head, make important connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. A consistent journaling practice can reduce stress, improve sleep, boost your mood, and help you make better sense of your thoughts.

So how does journaling have such a tremendous impact on our mental health and wellbeing? Writing during times you are feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed can empower you with a better understanding of what may have triggered you to feel that way. It can also help you to prioritise your fears, stresses, and concerns as you are experiencing them.

While research specifically on writing and bipolar is hard to come by, a growing body of literature has demonstrated that purposeful writing benefits physical and emotional health.

Michalak, a team leader of CREST.BD (formally the Collaborative RESearch Team to study psychosocial issues in bipolar disorder) explains that some people find expressive writing a cathartic way to let go of traumatic, stigmatising, anxious or frustrating experiences. Whereas others like the routine of writing in a journal, often at the same time each day – creating structure is important for people with bipolar disorder. Then there are people who share their life stories in order to help reduce misconceptions and stigma.

 

The benefits of journaling 

There are many benefits to journaling but here are our top 5:

Reduces Stress

An overabundance of stress can be damaging to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s proven. Journaling is an 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 Sleep

The Journal of Experimental Psychology found that journaling before bed decreases cognitive stimulus, rumination, and worry, allowing you to fall asleep faster.

Journaling doesn’t require you to be a skilled writer. If you're stuck, staring at a blank page and don't know where to start, just write a single line, or detail the specifics of what you had for breakfast. Don’t preoccupy yourself with managing perfect punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just write and don’t censor yourself. This is for you. 

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.

Boosts Mood

Want more sunshine in your life? Try journaling. A unique social and behaviour 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 emphasise 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.

 

While journaling can provide benefits for your mental health, the University of Rochester recommends you combine it with other aspects of a healthy lifestyle. In order to reduce your anxiety, stress, and any other mental health conditions, try to make time to relax or meditate every day. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet will also contribute to your overall well-being.

How to get started

If you're stuck, staring at a blank page and don't know where to start just write a single line, or detail the specifics of what you had for breakfast. Whatever you write don’t preoccupy yourself with managing perfect punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just write and don’t censor yourself. This is for you. Make your own rules, but you still need a helping hand could start with these:

  1. First, get comfy and get those thoughts flowing.
  2. Then write, or type them.
  3. Don’t be inhibited, for you are probably the only person who will ever read your journal. Tune in to yourself; this is about you.
  4. Don’t make it hard; rather, make it fun and worthwhile.