How journaling can improve your mental health

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Studies have shown that journaling helps reduce worry and anxiety, leading to better sleep, clarity and focus.

Creating a journaling habit, writing about your challenges, is an effective tool many use to improve mental health.

We all have different ways of coping with life’s challenges. Even with medical expertise as developed as it is, that there is no pill for every ill. Much of the trials and tribulations in people’s lives come from dealing with life’s issues – the ups and downs that everyone experiences.

Exercise, meditation and healthy eating all benefit mental and physical health. Journaling is an approach widely recommended by health professionals as delivering multiple well-being benefits. And, there are many ways journaling helps deal with mental health challenges many face now; living through this pandemic.

Research shows that journaling can help:

Bring a greater sense of well-being – as we look to a post-pandemic future, enhancing our wellbeing will be key to a well-lived life. Journaling, writing down what’s important to you, what brings you joy, what you value – and what you don’t. Writing down what you can control and what you can’t, brings clarity. Having clarity is the first requirement to taking steps towards feeling better.

Decrease stress – uncertainty about what will happen next as we roll through successive virus-waves has caused stress for many. Because journaling helps you focus on what you can control, this prompts action, thus lessening feelings of anxiety.

Improve relationships – especially the relationship with yourself. Knowing what’s important to you, writing down how you can be more kind to yourself are key to you valuing yourself. Because of this, writing down what’s good, not so good and what bugs you about important relationships will tell you what needs to change and crucially remind you of the good stuff.

Research confirms the advantages of journaling for health.

Leading experts James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth in their book Opening up by Writing it Down  how taking a few minutes to write about deeply felt personal experiences or problems may benefit you in all of the above ways – and more.

They explain how a technique, called Expressive Writing works. Expressive Writing involves writing about whatever issue is bothering you for 20 minutes for four days in a row. Describe how the problem is affecting you, your career, your relationships, your health and wellbeing. Four days in a row is recommended, not prescriptive. Writing for just 15-20 minutes three of four times a week about the same or different problems, whatever you need, has been found to help people resolve difficulties and feel better.

Research also shows that people who very vividly describe, in written form, or picture their goals, are anywhere from 1.2-1.4 times as likely to successfully accomplish their goals than those who don’t.

Gratitude journaling gives a mindset boost

Journaling about what you’re thankful for is a technique known to deliver both an instant mindset boost as well more long-term benefits as you built the habit. Feeling down, a bit sluggish? Write down 5 things you’re grateful for right now.

You’ll find that repeatedly writing down 5 things you’re grateful for helps you feel better, improves resilience, and the ability to look at your life more positively.

Actually writing down what you’re grateful for will enhance the effectiveness of your gratitude work because it embeds the positive thoughts in your brain.

Like coping mechanisms, everyone’s methods of journaling will be different. Some may find expressive writing helpful. Others like to keep a pen and paper nearby to jot down ideas, challenges and ‘to do’ lists. Journaling at night before you go to sleep helps rid your brain of worries and improve sleep quality.

If you initially find that writing down your feelings and emotions upsets you, take a break and return to journaling when you’re ready.


Take your journal and a pen, write down things that bring you joy and happiness. Even if you’re struggling right now, think back to times when you felt good, when things went your way. Were you walking, swimming, enjoying a coffee in the sun? Perhaps you were gardening, cooking or reading? Re-read your list regularly and choose to do something from your list.

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