- What to Consider
What is Journaling?
Journaling is the process of writing down your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. When you journal, you express yourself and understand your thoughts and emotions more clearly. Some people use guided journals, others use a simple notebook or notes on their phone.
How does journaling help mental health?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a range of severe and prolonged feelings including sadness, lack of interest, and negative thoughts. This health condition can make it hard to manage life and day-to-day tasks. While writing your way out of depression might not be possible, journaling may help lower symptoms of depression.
A 2013 study asked people with major depressive disorder to expressively write for 20 minutes, focusing on their deepest thoughts and feelings about a major emotional problem in their life. After three days of writing, they had lowered symptoms of depression compared to those who wrote about the tedious events of the day.
Journaling can lower your stress and its effects on your body and mind. A study showed that writing for 15 to 20 minutes 3 to 5 times over a 4 month period lowered blood pressure, improved liver function, and led to fewer stress-related visits to the doctor.
Several studies show that journaling can help different chronic illnesses. One study asked people with rheumatoid arthritis and asthma to write about their traumatic events or about neutral topics for 20 minutes for 3 days. After 4 months, those who wrote about their feelings and traumas had less disease activity and had more disease improvement. Journaling helped them get better and also stopped them from getting worse.
Another study tested emotional writing versus writing on neutral topics by people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). They wrote for 30 minutes for 4 days. The emotional writing group had a boost in their immune function, though it was gone after three months.
How often should you journal?
It’s best to write for 20 minutes every day. If you find that to be too overwhelming, or you’re just starting out, aim for 20 minutes 3 days a week.
You might feel writing is daunting, but you don’t need to be a professional writer to take up journaling. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, sentence structure, or any other writing skill. Simply write out your feelings. The goal of journaling is to recognize and express your thoughts and feelings.
How to start journaling
To get the benefits of journaling, include it in your daily routine. You can experiment with different times of the day and see what works. Some people like to write at the end of the day just before bed. Others like to journal in the morning while they drink their coffee or during the train commute.
Once you choose the best time, stay consistent. When you create a habit you're more likely to keep it up.
Set a timer for 20 minutes to help you write. Stay judgement-free in your writing. If you want to write a poem or a song, do that. If you want to write a list or a letter instead, do that.
Give yourself permission to write about your feelings and don’t attach negative emotions like guilt or shame to what comes out.
- The Predicted 'Tripledemic' Is Here: Why Isn't There an RSV Vaccine?
- Frozen Stuffed Chicken Products & Microwave Ovens: A Recipe for Salmonella
- First FDA-Approved Fecal-Based Treatment Helps Fight a Tough Superbug
- Seizures Seem Tied to Faster Decline in People With Dementia
- Signs That COVID Infection Might Harm the Liver
- More Health News »
How to use different types of journaling
Different types of journaling can help with different focuses.
Expressive writing helps you express and process your emotions and helps you find a clearer internal understanding of what happened to you. This can help relieve overwhelming feelings and symptoms and can be done with your therapist.
In gratitude journaling, you write down things you’re grateful for. The key is to be specific, use detail, and go deeper. Gratitude practices are associated with a greater sense of well-being. It can help you feel better about your life, feel more optimistic, and encourage a greater sense of happiness.
Things to consider
While journaling is helpful, it isn’t a replacement for treatment or professional counseling. Sometimes you might find journaling to be too intense. You might be afraid of your emotions, or you might discover issues you don’t know how to handle. These are normal feelings a therapist can help manage. Professional counselors can support you and safely guide you through your emotions and teach ways to cope.
If you need help, make sure to talk to your doctor or therapist.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Advances in Psychiatric Treatment: "Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing."
Harvard Medical School Harvard Health Publishing: "Giving thanks can make you happier," "Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma."
JAMA: "Effects of Writing About Stressful Experiences on Symptom Reduction in Patients With Asthma or Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Randomized Trial."
Journal of Affective Disorders: "An everyday activity as a treatment for depression: The benefits of expressive writing for people diagnosed with major depressive disorder."
Mental Health America: "How to keep a mental health journal."
NIH National Institute of Mental Health: "5 Things You Should Know About Stress."
Psychosomatic Medicine: "Effect of written emotional expression on immune function in patients with human immunodeficiency virus infection: a randomized trial."
University of Michigan University Health Service: "Depression."
University of Rochester Medical Center: "Journaling for Mental Health."
Top Is Journaling Good for Mental Health Related Articles
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat Depression?Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses cognitive strategies to help people change patterns in the way they think and behavioral strategies to help people change behaviors that aren't helpful. CBT can help people with mild-to-moderate major depressive disorder.
DepressionDepression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, MedicationKnow when you or someone else is depressed. Get information on depression symptoms, signs, tests, and treatments for many types of depression chronic depression and postpartum depression.
Depression QuizMany people do not recognize the symptoms and warning signs of depression and depressive disorders in children and adults. With proper diagnosis, treatments and medications are available. Take this quiz to learn more about recovery from depression.
How Do You Give a Mental Nerve Block?A mental nerve block is a type of anesthesia used for numbing parts of the face. This type of anesthetic nerve block is mainly used for wound repair to the lip and chin, but also for surgery to correct nerve pain in the face.
How Does Blue Light Affect Mental Health?Blue light can affect mental health by interfering with the way our brain regulates mood, emotions and sleep. Excessive blue light can cause sleep and mood disorders, leading to depression.
How Does Depression Affect a Person's Behavior?Depression — a serious mood disorder — is the most common mental health disorder. It can interfere with your thoughts, your feelings, and daily activities like sleeping, eating, and working.
Mental HealthMental health is an optimal way of thinking, relating to others, and feeling. All of the diagnosable mental disorders fall under the umbrella of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders are common types of mental illness. Symptoms and signs of mental illness include irritability, moodiness, insomnia, headaches, and sadness. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
Mental Health: Signs You're Mentally ExhaustedAre you irritable, tired, and finding it hard to focus? You may be mentally exhausted. Learn the signs and how to feel better.
Panic Attacks QuizCould you suffer a panic attack? Take this Panic Attacks Quiz to learn causes, symptoms, and treatments for panic disorder. Use this quiz to learn to recognize the main elements of this serious, yet common disorder known as panic attacks.
Teen DepressionDepression in teenagers may be caused by many factors. Symptoms of teen depression include apathy, irresponsible behavior, sadness, sudden drop in grades, withdrawal from friends, and alcohol and drug use. Treatment of depression in adolescents may involve psychotherapy and medications.
Depression Therapy MythsFalse ideas scare many depression suffers away from therapy and the quick relief and help these pros can provide. Let our experts help you understand the truth about therapy.
What Are the Top 10 Mental Health Issues and Illnesses?Mental illnesses can affect how you think, feel, and understand the world. The top 10 mental health issues and illnesses include anxiety disorders, bipolar affective disorders, depression, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, paranoia, PTSD, psychosis, schizophrenia and OCD.
What Are the Root Causes of Anxiety and Depression?What causes anxiety and depression? Learn about symptoms and potential root causes that may increase your risk of developing mood disorders.
What Color Light Is Best for Depression?Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, involves the use of artificial bright light or blue light to improve mood and reduce depression symptoms. Research indicates that blue light is superior to other lights in the spectrum for treating depression.
Mental Health: Where to Get Mental Health HelpWhen you think of mental health, lying on a couch in a therapist’s office may come to mind. But there are other options, and some are low-cost or even free. Here’s what you need to know.