Journaling Your Way to Better Health

Journaling may sound a tad old fashioned to you but chances are you do it daily – you’re just not intentional about it. When you are sharing your thoughts and feeling by facebook, msn, text-messaging, emailing, etc – you are doing a form of journaling.

According to a recent article in Scientific American Mind, personal writing gives us a number of benefits in addition to exercising our fingers. In particular, we can get some distance from our feelings through seeing the words we have written from the position of a third-person observer, rather than a first-person experience. And according to Sigmund Freud, releasing blocked emotions -- aka catharsis -- leads, at least in the long term, to healing – in much the same way that airing an infection does.

Wait. There’s more! University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.

All of this is very well but how do you journal?

Here are some ideas:

1. Aim for 20 minutes daily.

2. Start anywhere – don’t worry about spelling and punctuation and grammar.

3. Write quickly, as this frees your brain from “shoulds” and other blocks to successful journaling

4. There are three questions you may want to answer with each posting:

i. What happened?
ii. How did that make you feel?
iii. Why do you think you felt that way?

I encourage you to leave a space for a later posting, when you’ve had a chance to process this:

iv. What now? By this I mean, how can this situation be used to improve yourself, your relationships with others, your understanding of how things work, your future goals, etc.

Immediate Benefits

Maud Purcell at Psych Central maintains you don’t have to wait for benefits. What are the immediate paybacks? You…

1. Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Do you ever seem all jumbled up inside, unsure of what you want or feel? Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions (no editing!) will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.

2. Know yourself better. By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.

3. Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness and other painful emotions helps to release the intensity of these feelings. By doing so you will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.

4. Solve problems more effectively. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.

Maud concludes that in addition to all of these wonderful benefits, keeping a journal allows you to track patterns, trends and improvement and growth over time. When current circumstances appear insurmountable, you will be able to look back on previous dilemmas that you have since resolved.

Prefer to journal or blog-in-privacy on line?

Further Reading and Videos


"Writing to Save Your Life: : How to Honor Your Story Through Journaling" by Michele Weldon, Hazelden, 2001

"Writing and Being: Embracing Your Life Through Creative Journaling", by G. Lynn Nelson, New World Library, 2004


Journaling with Cynthia Gallaher

I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it. - William Faulkner

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