Everyday life is full of stresses that chip away at our mental health. Add in personal traumas, social and political upheaval, and a worldwide pandemic, and things can get overwhelming fast. Self-care becomes integral for coping with everything that life throws at us. Journaling is one of the oldest, most effective — and least expensive — forms of self-care available. For centuries, poets, scientists, and even presidents have harnessed the benefits of journaling for mental health.
The requirements for journaling are low. One needs only a writing implement and paper. Alternatively, any electronic device with the ability to take notes will work. While writing about day-to-day life is beneficial, the most benefit comes from writing about events that bother or stress you out.
When you write about traumatic issues and situations, you process them. It allows you to vent but also to see things from a distance. You can recontextualize the events in your life.
Journaling also allows you to get in touch with your innermost needs and emotions. It helps you to get a handle on parts of yourself that you might not have understood before.
Doing this reduces stress. Journaling also bolsters your immune system, helping you to be healthier overall.
For those who struggle with mental health issues like depression, journaling can help. A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that women with PTSD experienced a significant drop in the symptoms of depression when they kept a journal. It allowed them to confront their negative emotions and see themselves in a new light.
Two separate studies found that anxiety disorders began a sharp increase in 2020 due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. With anxiety affecting such a large number of people, finding ways to cope with it is necessary. By writing out our fears and detailing our experiences with anxiety, a pattern becomes visible. When we journal, we see which elements in our lives are triggering anxiety — things such as being on social media for too long or having to travel to specific locations. It varies by individual.
Journaling helps us to recognize what makes us anxious. Once we know this, we can create a plan to better cope with our trigger situations.