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Wellness > Mental Health

Why It’s Important to Journal and How to Get Started

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

Having a locked diary used to be one of the pinnacles of childhood. You could write out your secrets in a place that was truly, wholly yours. Yet these little written secrets slowly became of less importance and that diary has probably been collecting dust ever since. 

Nowadays, putting pen to paper can present a real challenge. What is the first word going to be? What am I trying to say? The fear of what should come next and the self-judgement are major inhibitors when trying to journal or even thinking about it. But getting past this initial writer’s block is crucial because journaling can open up a whole new realm of possibilities and lend a more clear outlook on the world. 

It’s easy to push these kinds of self-care tools aside, to brush them off and say “I’ll do it tomorrow,” but what often goes dismissed is that today was the tomorrow of yesterday. The benefits of journaling are too good to pass up. Even just taking a few minutes to briefly write down thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. can increase mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health.

Journaling helps to clear the mind and rationalize thought processes. The human mind likes to blow things out of proportion and writing these problems down instead can make it easier to see that whatever situation may be plaguing you can likely be boiled down to just words. On that note, journaling is a useful tool in specifically identifying problems. The action of identification can lead to a decrease in overall anxiety levels and even help with depression management — and that is all in addition to helping you figure out a solution.

Keeping emotional trauma bottled up inside can actually result in physical manifestations. This compression of feelings can have physical effects and puts the body in a fight-or-flight response. The physical stress can make you more susceptible to illness and can cause unnecessary inflammation in the body. Yet journaling, when used as a stress-reducing mechanism, has the ability to increase immune response; researcher James Pennebaker found that regularly journaling can actually help mobilize immune cells called T-lymphocytes

Furthermore, the process of setting intentions can be both moving and inspiring. Writing down goals makes individuals more likely to actually go through with them. It cements the idea in the mind and can make the dream seem more attainable. Specifically, in a study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews, it was found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams if you write them down on a regular basis. This is because the act of journaling actually connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Yes, you read that correctly, by journaling you are actually utilizing your whole brain, which thus induces a powerful effect on both a conscious and subconscious level. 

Lastly, journaling can help to bring you into a gratuitous, positive mindset. As alluded to in the Law of Attraction, what you are putting out is exactly what is coming back to you. By putting yourself in a positive mindset, even despite negative external circumstances, those positive experiences are going to circle right back to you. Hopefully by this point, journaling is seeming like a pretty good idea. Though the next question is often: how do I start? The first thing you should do is treat yourself to a journal that fits your personal style and most importantly is one that you will enjoy using. Besides getting a writing utensil, the next thing to do is to put pen to paper. For some, a stream of consciousness style might be preferred while others may value a prompt — this part is individual and it’s whatever you prefer. The important thing to remember is to not judge yourself or release any preconceived expectations. Be sure to note that this is not an English term paper that you are turning in. You do not need to have proper punctuation, grammar, or even spelling and there certainly does not have to be any central thesis point. Be selfish too! Journaling is all about YOU. So with that, go try it because you may be surprised by what you discover.

Kayla is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Health and Kinesiology through the honors college and following a pre-Physical Therapy track. She hopes to travel the world one day and she currently loves to bake and hike in addition to photography and reading.