Journaling: A Writing Practice for Mental Health
For hundreds of years, humans have used writing as a form of artistic expression, a historical recording tool, and a way for people to document their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in diaries or memoirs. In recent years, science has shown that the act of writing down one’s thoughts and feelings also provides mental health benefits. The conscious act of putting into words your feelings, emotions, and thoughts–and capturing them on paper or a computer–allows individuals to build strong mental and emotional skills to deal with life’s difficulties. It also provides healing capabilities by allowing a person to identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
Journaling Benefits and Advantages
Journaling for mental health and its benefits have been researched and studied for many years, and the evidence is clear, journaling for mental health has a direct impact on mental and physical well-being. Below are five benefits to journaling:
Reduces Depression and Anxiety Symptoms
Depression and anxiety are often accompanied by negative thoughts. Writing these thoughts down on paper or typing on a computer helps with processing them in a more analytical way. Gratitude journaling and expressive writing also contribute to reducing these symptoms, and it is often used as an intervention tool in therapy. A 2006 study by Stice, Burton, Bearman, and Rhode demonstrated that journaling had the same effect as cognitive-behavioral therapy when used to reduce the risk of depression in young adults.
Boosts Immune Function
A lesser known benefit to journaling is its benefit to the immune system. According to “Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing,” a research paper by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm, people who journaled for 20 minutes per day at least three to five times per week saw the following benefits:
- Fewer stressed-related visits to the doctor
- Improved immune function
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Increase in lung function
- Improved liver function
These physiological benefits relate to a decrease in stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms. By enabling a person to think more positively, physical illnesses related to mental health are decreased.
Assists With Post Traumatic Stress Disorders
When treating traumatic events, journaling helps process anger and anxiety, the two main emotional states related to PTSD. It also enables a person to confront traumatic events and experiences instead of avoiding them. In a study conducted by Dr. James Pannebaker, University of Texas, Austin, participants who journaled about their past traumatic events had fewer visits to health centers and required fewer pain-relieving medications than those who wrote about trivial things.
Helps Foster Gratitude
Journaling can help you reflect on all the good things in your life, and in turn, encourage you to be grateful. Many studies demonstrate that gratitude and gratefulness increases a person's overall health. For example, gratitude has been shown to be directly related to improved quality of sleep, increased optimism, and increased frequency of exercise. All of which lead to a more positive and healthy life.
Enhances Learning and Critical Thinking Skills
Journaling can increase self-awareness, enhance learning, and foster the development of critical thinking as well as facilitate one’s curiosity, self-development, and empowerment (e.g., Lasater, & Nielsen, 2009). It has been demonstrated that students may obtain these benefits through guided reflective journaling. Furthermore, the use of reflective journaling allows for introspection, concept attainment, problem solving, and action planning, making the practice a beneficial tool that students can use in every stage of their lives.
Journaling for Mental Health with BASE Education
As a mental health and social emotional learning solution, BASE Education provides a journalistic introspective approach to its module content. Modules provide open-ended questions, guiding students to connect the content covered with their feelings and emotions. Today’s students, who have grown up in a digital-first world, feel comfortable opening up and providing honest responses related to their mental health through the technology platform. The platform also enables supervising adults to gain insights into social emotional well-being and monitor their students’ mental health for signs of crisis. Together with our firewords technology, journaling for mental health with BASE Education is helping save kids’ lives.
If you would like to see how the BASE platform incorporates journaling and the insights you can gain from it, a BASE teammate would be happy to show you a live demonstration. Simply request a demo today to get started.