Writing down thoughts can improve memory function and help with trauma, depression, and anxiety. In this Taonethealth article, Mindpath Health’s Leela Magavi, MD, talks about steps to incorporate a journaling routine.

The health benefits of journaling.

This may come as a surprise, but journaling has also been proven to improve overall immune function and decrease your risk of illness. As researchers Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm report, those who journal for 20 minutes per day on 3-5 occasions saw the following benefits:

  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved lung function
  • Improved liver function

Journaling allows a person to develop what’s called a “coherent narrative” of their life. In other words, it enables a person to take the events they experience and integrate them into their overall perspective on life.

This, in turn, enables a person to think more positively about their lives and create a holistic picture of themselves in relation to the rest of the world. It follows that a person with a positive, holistic view of themselves is less prone to things like depression and anxiety, both of which can cause a variety of physical health problems.

The benefits of journaling may be impressive, but to snag them you have to actually journal and ideally, daily. “Completing at least a short journal entry every single day is best,” says Leela R. Magavi, MD, a psychiatrist and regional medical director for Mindpath Health.

Improve memory function

When you journal, you are both recording and processing the events of a particular time period. As you do this, you are remembering and reflecting upon the details of the events, which then helps you retain those memories for a significantly longer amount of time.

Additionally, journaling allows you to analyze past events for patterns. As you look at your journal over time, you may begin to see particular patterns emerge, whether in your own behavior or in the behavior of others. Once you spot these patterns, you can respond appropriately.

Recovery from trauma

It has also been shown that journaling can help a person recover more quickly from traumatic events. Writing things down allows you to process what has occurred and see the good side of life, even when things are difficult. Journaling also allows you to directly confront the things you’ve experienced instead of avoiding them and not taking the time to process them.

If you’ve experienced the death of a loved one, journaling can enable you to effectively grieve in a manner that’s both healthy and healing. As you journal, you can take the necessary time to remember your loved one, process the loss, and begin to move forward.

Depression and anxiety

Numerous studies have shown that journaling can reduce overall levels of depression. A 2006 study by Stice, Burton, Bearman, & Rohde showed that writing in a journal can be as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy when it comes to reducing the risk of depression in young adults.

There are also benefits of journaling for anxiety symptoms. One study by Hasanzadeh, Khoshknab, & Norozi found that the simple act of journaling reduced anxiety in women who were suffering from multiple sclerosis. Another study found that journaling could help students effectively manage stress and anxiety, as well as improve overall classroom engagement.

How to journal to reap the most benefits

1. Make it a daily routine.

2. Put it in your schedule.

3. Don’t stress about grammar.

4. Ask yourself questions as you journal.

5. Try a variety of journal formats.

Some people enjoy using journals replete with prompts. Others prefer using graph paper for bullet journaling. When you first dive into a journaling practice, try exploring different formats to figure out which is best for helping you navigate sticky emotions and situations.

Read the full Taonethealth article with sources.

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Leela Magavi, M.D.

Newport Beach, CA

Dr. Leela Magavi is a native Californian and Hopkins-trained psychiatrist committed to providing compassionate, evidence-based care to individuals of all cultural, political, religious, sexual, and socioeconomic backgrounds. She completed her adult psychiatry residency at Georgetown University Hospital, during which time she also had the invaluable experience of caring for veterans at Washington, D.C. VA. As a resident, she was awarded ... Read Full Bio »

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