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How Journaling Supports Your Health

Journaling can get a bad rap. Considered at turns the domain of teens (keeping a diary) or the vain (writing about yourself), the act of regular record keeping for your thoughts, feelings and experiences is in fact a strong tool in the box of good emotional health habits.

The Benefits of Journaling

Much like another health trend – meditation – the health benefits of journaling are both intangible and scientific. Many people report an improved mood and a better memory, greater mindfulness and reduced stress. At the same time, research has shown journaling to reduce symptoms in cancer patients and improve patient health after a heart attack. Some studies even suggest journaling can reduce the number of physician’s visits – though no amount of scribbling should replace your annual check-up.

Journaling is particularly popular as it relates to emotional health. New research even posits that it can improve happiness, itself a new metric in mental health. Journaling has been tied to managing anxiety and reducing stress as well as helping people cope with depression. Writing about yourself and your life provides a healthy outlet for your thoughts and emotions. Proponents of journaling and emotional health professionals believe articulating those things can help you understand more clearly what you’re feeling. The act can help you prioritize problems, fears and concerns and get a better sense for the magnitude or severity of stressors in your life. Journaling can also help you track these feelings and symptoms, recognizing triggers. Writing down what you experience and feel can both reinforce positive experiences and release negative thoughts.

Finally, journaling is thought to even be able to induce behavioral changes. By encouraging people to document their goals and “edit their own narratives,” some scientists believe writing helps you identify obstacles and change perceptions of yourself by reframing a given event or experience in your mind, confronting the truth and nudging away from self-defeating interpretations.

What Is Journaling and How to Start

The sense of requirement and work deters many people from journaling – the expectation to write, to write every day, to write every detail of your day. But the benefits of journaling can be seen with any level of commitment. As with any healthy habit, regularity reaps greater rewards, but you may find it easiest to start by journaling whatever you can, whenever you have a moment, or when you feel like you most need an outlet. Keep a notebook and pen or pencil easily accessible, or use a notes app on your phone, and jot down your thoughts when you can.

Over the past year, bullet journaling has become a popular new take on the practice. The concept approaches journaling from a more task-oriented perspective, however, it leaves great opportunity to include thoughts, feelings and habits as they evolve over time. The system is meant to mitigate the effort and time of full-form journaling, and there are even templates available online. Bullet journals consist of short simple notes set apart with different types of bullets to indicate different types of notes. For example, dots might be used for tasks and dashes for events; stars might be used for goals and hearts for feelings. Part of the attraction in bullet journaling is the potential for customization and personalization, turning journaling as a healthy habit into something that works for you and all your other healthy habits, too.

Journaling won’t make or break your health and those who are struggling seriously with stress, anxiety or depression should seek help instead from an emotional health professional. Still, those who are looking to add a little reflection and mindfulness to their to-do lists and agendas can also see improvements to their mood, memory and health from a regular practice of journaling.