Home Mind Stress Management How Journaling Can Reduce Stress

How Journaling Can Reduce Stress

and Reviewed By Mira Djakov, MMFT

Among various stress-coping strategies, journaling stands out as one of the less physically demanding techniques, yet equally beneficial. If you haven’t tried it yet and wonder precisely how journaling can reduce stress, now’s the time to start. This is the most creative outlet through which you’ll see all of your worries dissipate.

What you’ll need for this activity is an open mind and willingness to let go of any preconceived notions of writing or keeping a journal, and approach it as a tool for reconnecting with your inner self.

Preamble

First and foremost, the most important thing to know about journaling is that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, at least when stress is concerned.

Use whatever strikes your fancy – pen and paper, your computer, or a blank page. Write in any way you want, skip pages, jump rows, and don’t worry about handwriting. There aren’t any downsides to journaling.

A Release

Journaling is about keeping track of your thoughts, activities, successes, failures, or simply chronicling your present circumstances in a more consistent way.

Journaling is a spiritual, physical, and mental activity at the same time, improving your overall well-being through emotional release and consistency. While it’s often said that it doesn’t matter how often or when you do it, which is partly true, it still matters to do it consistently in order to reap the most benefits out of it as you can. Daily, weekly, or monthly – it doesn’t really matter as long as you keep at it.

Journaling Against Stress

While it’s reasonable to have your doubts about different methods or even fear attempting something like this, it’s best just to try to make the most of it.

Not only does journaling help us stay focused and organized, but it also helps reduce stress. The type of emotional release that happens as you write down your thoughts significantly lowers the number of negative thoughts and helps us distance ourselves from them. It clears your mind and regenerates the disturbed balance. Most importantly, it helps us “[monitor] changes in self-esteem, [address] loneliness, and [provides] a means for recording milestones in a person’s life.” (Murnahan 2010)

Dropping the Negativity onto the Sheet

Much like meditation or yoga, you can use journaling to channel the negative thoughts out in the open.

Moreover, people who dread going to psychotherapy have found journaling, a form of focused expressive writing, to be a viable alternative. Journaling gives you tools to handle issues on your own and become more self-aware (Smyth & Helm 2003).

When you expel negative thoughts on paper, you make more room for the positive ones to fulfill you. This has an immediate destressing capability; everything that bothers you has slithered onto the paper sheet. This is exactly where another amazing benefit of journaling surfaces – this is not a temporary situation. It is right there in front of you on a piece of paper, allowing you to observe it more objectively and resolve it more easily.

Cognitive and Emotional Journey

This is the greatest blessing of journaling – the ability to perceive your problem from a more neutral and distanced standpoint, allowing you to pinpoint the underlying causes of your problems and even identify solutions.

While this won’t make the emotional stress disappear, it will get you closer to dealing with your pain rather than succumbing to it. However, it is important to not limit yourself to just the emotional relief that usually comes with letting go of any kind of negativity, but instead apply your cognitive process as well. An article on behavioral medicine has compared the results of two journaling interventions and has come to the conclusion that the group which applied both cognitive and emotional processes had done far better than the group that solely focused on their emotions as they were writing (Ullrich & Lutgendorf 2002).

To sum it all up, try to work out solutions and find sources for your problems as you’re writing them down. Get it out of your system, and it will make it that much easier to solve.

Crystalize

What we’ve discussed so far is how journaling is beneficial for stressful situations or problem-solving. Writing it down can make extra room for both positive thoughts and potential solutions.

But what if you’re having so many thoughts that you just don’t know what to do with them? Again, you can use journaling to write them all out onto a safe place where they’ll be easier to organize – like a piece of paper or a computer screen.

Organizing your thoughts in such a manner will make them much more crystalized and transparent. You’ll be able to clarify where each thought is coming from, how important it is, and what you should do to resolve it.

Get More Sleep

Finally, journaling can take care of your insomnia just like it can deal with any other emotional problem you might have.

Just reschedule your journaling and do it at night. The aptly named “nighttime journaling” is doing all the activities mentioned above, but before you go to bed. Some people report having higher quality rest after emptying their worried minds into a vessel such as a diary. More sleep will net you less stress in general, so give it a go.

Closing Thoughts

Journaling is an excellent passion for nurturing and providing better understanding and self-awareness that only you can achieve. There is not a wrong way of doing it and there are no limits to it, except for those you impose upon yourself. With just a bit of consistency in writing down your thoughts, you’ll be able to connect with your inner self more and come to realize and resolve what it is that causes you so much grief.

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