Journaling seems, especially in this day and age, a little antiquated. When you can find psychiatric help on the Internet and we live in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world, taking time to be introspective might seem a bit quaint. The good news for my fellow journalers: it’s not.
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Time spent journaling can be used to effectively combat stress and relieve anxiety, researchers found in this study, particularly if done in the right fashion. To start, journalers were split into three groups:
Group 1 focused on how they felt about a stressful situation
Group 2 focused on the thoughts and feelings they had about dealing with the situation, and
Group 3 focused on writing objectively about events in the media, without emotion.
The study found that the first group actually suffered more, possibly because they were focused on the negativity of the situation. The third group yielded no results: a veritable control group, really. But the second group of participants who wrote about thoughts and feelings they had about the stressful situation showed the ability to look at the positive side of the situation as well as the negative.
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The study seems to show, then, that writing in a journal helps to give a person perspective in terms of processing a given situation. Committing your thoughts and feelings to paper actually helps you sort and process them more effectively.
As for the group who only saw more negativity in the situation because they were focused on the stress they felt dealing with it, researchers say that this is still better than keeping your stress bottled up, because writing about it still helps you deal with it and give it some perspective.
Researchers also found this is the case with non-stressful journaling. You don’t need to be stressed out or overly emotional to benefit from journaling. Just writing down the events of your day, mundane though it seems, can be helpful. It’s a place for you to store your accomplishments and your lessons, what you’ve learned day by day while existing as a human beings.
Furthermore, journaling gives you a place to go to look back and reflect upon your life lessons, your accomplishments, your stress, your anxiety, your emotions, fears, all of it. Journaling makes you a mentally stronger individual because it gives you the opportunity for perspective by being able to look back at something that happened in your life with fresh eyes. It’s a private and cathartic activity that is also an effective means of dealing with daily stress, whatever that looks like for you.
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You don’t have to be a writer to start journaling; these days, you don’t even need a pen and paper. Some people prefer to do it the old-fashioned way (I have been recording my life in composition books since I was a kid and will probably do so forever) and some prefer to use modern technology’s wealth of apps, blogging platforms, word processing tools, file sharing programs and more. Your journal can be as private or as public as you want it to be, so long as it is yours.
And that brings us to the only real rule of journaling: making it about you. This is the only absolute rule in terms of journaling for better mental health, say the scientists behind these recent studies. It needs to be a decision you make to become a more active participant in managing your life and, therefore, it needs to be about reflecting on your life. Need a little more help? Check out this great lifehacker page to get yourself started.