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How Keeping a Journal Could Help You Maintain Strong Mental Health

We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but how about journaling everyday can keep depression at bay?

A growing body of evidence suggests that writing is a potent form of therapy that can help practitioners better manage their mental health, including as a helpful tool for those diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

Further research is required but there’s also evidence that suggests narrative writing recounting traumatic events could also provide an approach to addressing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Given the stereotypes of famous writers that suffered from depression and other mental health challenges, we might be led to the assumption that the emotional and solitary activity of transforming thought into written expression can be a mentally and spiritually exhausting pursuit.

Leave it to Dan Harmon, celebrated storyteller and show writer to explain that by putting pen to page or finger to keyboard, you unleash a way to get those “dark thoughts” out of the “walls of your skull” that brings forth a “miraculous magic”.

Some more magic: James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist researcher and professor at the University of Texas even suggests that journaling even works to strengthen your immune function; making you more resilient mentally and physically to past trauma and future challenges.

Another study found that asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients that wrote for 20 minutes on each day about stressful events and daily activities saw improved health and deteriorated less, compared to the control group.

But how does it work? WebMD writer Kara Mayer Robinson found that journaling helps its practitioners by:

  1. Providing greater self awareness of yourself and emotional process
  2. Reducing the overwhelming burden by making the stressors appear more manageable
  3. Allowing you to retrain your brain by writing about happier events and focusing on the positive
  4. Detect patterns and triggers and help you avoid them later on

Not sure when to journal? Any time of day will do: it really depends on when it’s convenient for you and when you feel the need to put pen to paper. But if you want to put a happier tone to the text, try the morning: a study that analyzed the data from millions of public Twitter messages found that individuals awaken in a good mood that tends to deteriorate as the day progresses.

The other important part of journaling is sticking with it. If your pressed for time, try the Five Minute Journal technique. Famous self-help author and master of skill and time management Tim Ferriss is also a big fan.

Ultimately, journaling helps you to understand you and in turn, provides the opportunity for you to reorient yourself by focusing your written words on what affects you and what you want to achieve. So whether you’re typing a note on your phone or filling lined sheets with cursive, give journaling a shot –  it’ll give you insights into who you are and who you can become.

 


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