5 Ways Journaling Improves Your Mental Health

Maybe you have haunting images of sticker-covered notebooks filled with your daily childhood recitations dancing in your head. Or maybe you were more of the lock-and-key type, burying journals you hoped your siblings would never find. 

Either way, you could have a love-hate relationship with journaling. 

Well, journaling is no longer old-fashioned or just for people of a certain older and wiser age. It's something you have to do - now. Yes, it's right. Journaling doesn't just help you record your memories or express yourself. It's good for your health. 

What are some of the short- and long-term health benefits of putting pen to paper? Here are five positive virtues of journaling: 

Reduces stress. 

Excessive stress can be detrimental to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It's proven. Journaling is an incredible stress management tool, a good habit that reduces the effects of physical stressors on your health. In fact, one study showed that expressive writing (like journaling) for just 15 to 20 minutes a day three to five times over a four-month period is enough to lower blood pressure and improve liver function. Also, writing about stressful experiences can help you cope with them in a healthy way. Try to establish journaling as a meditation habit before bed to relax and reduce stress. 

Improves immune function. 

Believe it or not, expressive writing can boost your immunity and reduce your risk of disease. Those who keep journals boast of improved immune system function (it boosts immune cells!) and reduced symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Expressive writing has been shown to improve liver and lung function and fight certain diseases; It has even been reported to help wounded people heal faster. 

Keeps the memory sharp. 

Journaling helps keep your brain in tip-top shape. Not only does it improve memory and comprehension, but it also increases working memory capacity, which may reflect improved cognitive processing. 

Boosts mood. 

Do you want more sunshine in your life? Try journaling. A unique social and behavioral outcome of journaling is this: It can improve your mood and provide you with a greater sense of overall emotional well-being and happiness. 

Strengthens emotional functions. 

Related to mood is how journaling benefits overall emotional health: as journaling habits develop, the benefits become long-term, meaning journalists become more aligned with their health by connecting with inner needs and desires. Journaling evokes mindfulness and helps authors stay present while staying on top of things. It provides an opportunity for emotional catharsis and helps the brain regulate emotions. It conveys a greater sense of confidence and self-identity. Journaling can help with personal adversity and change, and emphasize important patterns and growth in life. Research even shows that expressive writing can help individuals develop more structured, adaptive, and integrated schemas about themselves, others, and the world. In addition, journaling unleashes and activates right-brain creativity, giving you access to your full brainpower. Journaling really encourages growth. 

So great. You get it: journaling is good for you — physically, mentally, and emotionally. But what if, like many of us, you're stuck and staring at a blank page without success? Well, first let go of the guilt of not being consistently or immediately motivated. Just start where you are. If all you have to do is write a single line, to begin with, or describe the details of your breakfast, do it. Don't bother managing perfect punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Just write and don't censor yourself. This is for you. Remember: you don't have to be Shakespeare. 

Go ahead, grab one of those four-for-a-dollar marble composition books, or some other quirky option, and reserve a dedicated space and time for journaling. And put the screens aside for now if you're journaling—handwriting stimulates and exercises the brain in ways digital communication doesn't. 

Our lesson? If you want to improve your health and well-being, keep a journal.