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Dear Diary: How Journaling Improves Mental Health

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Susqu chapter.

Journaling is a pastime that has often been thought of as juvenile. The typical image that comes to mind when an individual mentions journaling is of a 12-year-old girl scribbling recklessly in her diary about the inconsequential troubles of her life. I am here to tell you that this image does not do justice to the art of journaling. Anyone of any age can journal, and it isn’t a hobby that’s useless or silly, as many people make it out to be. Journaling has proven to help mental health in a variety of ways, and it is a spectacular way to work through one’s feelings. So, let’s investigate the other benefits of journaling.

From personal experience, journaling has provided a safe space for me to go to with all of my raw emotions. Understandably, even your closest friends and relatives do not want to deal with your issues all the time, so when there is no person to turn to, a journal is the next best option. As someone who needs to physically work through her emotions, and since talking is not always an option, writing is the next best course of action. Though there is not always an opportunity to verbalize my emotions, working through them with pen and paper helps just as much. The importance of rationalizing my decisions and feelings is paramount, so being able to write them down instead of bottling them up is practical.

Not only is all the previously mentioned significant, but it also helps me feel accomplished when I close the journal and see my progress each day. I have already filled up one journal since dedicating my time to the hobby last year, and I’m over halfway through a second one. Shutting the journal each night after I’ve poured out my heart to it is always rewarding, and it serves as a daily record of my life. I can look back on those anecdotes whenever I wish and fondly remember what friends I made, what fun activities I did that day, how I felt when I experienced new things, and much more.

I am a proud diary keeper, but if you are not, you are under no obligation to relay such information. Keeping a journal, no less telling people you keep a journal, can be scary. It’s vulnerable to do so. I’ve gotten countless pleas from people to read my deepest, most unshielded thoughts (all of which I’ve declined) because once someone is aware that there is a tangible collection of your thoughts, the urge to read them is unparalleled. That being said, if you are uncomfortable sharing your thoughts, deny others the courtesy of reading them. The journal is yours, not theirs.

If my personal accounts of how journaling has helped me have not yet convinced you, perhaps these statistics will.

Where depression is concerned, emotional writing has been proven to significantly decrease symptoms, specifically when one focuses on deeper feelings and thoughts rather than daily experiences (Psych Central). Not only does it help to reduce symptoms, but according to positivepsychology.com, it is important to help with the acceptance process when one is writing about trauma. This same study also finds that accepting one’s feelings is linked to better psychological health like improved moods and decreased anxiety. When people journal for stress management, being able to process feelings in written form increases the chance that they will reach out for social support. If this doesn’t convince you, journaling can also reduce the amount of sick days people take off. Expressive writing has great potential to be a therapeutic tool (Cambridge Core) by allowing one to “explore alternatives to anxious thoughts” and put them into words rather than letting them become an obsession (Psych Central).

That being said, there’s no pressure to journal. It’s merely a suggestion that would heavily benefit you. There are many different forms of writing. Perhaps the best way for you to work through emotions is to punch a pillow or go on a long walk by yourself. Those are all viable options, but they are mainly physical alternatives to talking about your feelings. If there’s no one to listen to you, or if you are more comfortable keeping your thoughts to yourself, journaling provides a solution to both those issues. So next time there’s an issue, whether it is big or small, don’t hesitate to jot it down. It could very well save you a sick day in the future.

Journaling For Mental Health: Benefits And Prompts, From Therapists (womenshealthmag.com)

The Mental Health Benefits of Journaling | Psych Central

5 Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health (positivepsychology.com)

Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing | Advances in Psychiatric Treatment | Cambridge Core

Maddie Kuhns went to Pennridge High School in Bucks County, Pa, where she graduated in 2023. She now attends Susquehanna University as a first-year student and English major and will graduate in 2027. Before college, Maddie played field hockey for four years, was an active member and leader of the school's German club and participated in Women Supporting Women and International Cultures Club. In her free time, Maddie likes to read, write, and watch movies. She loves spending time with friends and family and listening to music. She's always ready to do something fun and loves trying new things.