The Stress Relieving Benefits of Keeping a Journal

As someone who has kept a journal for years since I was a teenager, I know first-hand just how powerful putting pen to paper can be. If something is on your mind, or you're looking for a way to relax and feel calmer, journaling is scientifically proven to reduce stress levels and give you more clarity and peace away from your busy day. Along with the recent explosion of stories in the media regarding the damaging effects of using our smartphones and the impact this is having on our mental health, journaling is the perfect way to offset the impact of spending so much time online.


As a result, we’ve put together the top five benefits of keeping a daily journal so grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy...

1) Become more connected 

It might seem a little strange, the thought of separating yourself from your phone from anywhere between five to ten minutes to an hour, but research has found that journaling can help you to reconnect with your own thoughts and feelings. Scientists have even discovered that journaling can help you beat brain fog and improve your memory which will allow you to feel more in tune with your daily life. 


A recent news article in The Guardian named the action of unconsciously using our phones as a “chameleon effect” where we effectively copy our friends and family members' habits'. It seems almost impossible to create completely unique habits to those around us without being influenced or shaped by what we see on a daily basis online. To be more present and build on your experiences and connections with other people, try putting your phone down and reach for your notebook instead.


According to the APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, expressive writing can also help to reduce intrusive and avoidant thoughts about negative events, improving working memory and helping to effectively reduce stress. Making time to de-stress and reconnect with yourself is increasingly important and a way of processing your emotions and day to day experiences. Staying connected with how you’re feeling is really important especially in making decisions, feeling more relaxed and being at ease.

 

2) Improve your sleep 

Given that the average Briton gets six hours and nineteen minutes of sleep every night, it's clear that we are a sleep deprived nation who are not getting their much needed eight hours sleep for optimal cognitive function. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, or perhaps you're restless when you go to bed, journaling before sleep is proven to help you unwind and de-stress from your day. 


Dr Sabina Brennan, author of Beating Brain Fog points out that changing your habits in just four areas of your life can help to reduce brain fog and improve the functioning of your brain. Stress, nutrition, sleep and exercise all play a significant part according to Dr Sabina Brennan. By improving your mood and developing a happy state of mind through journaling, you will also feel less stressed and able to focus your attention in a positive way. 


Try setting aside ten minutes every evening to journal and unwind before you go to bed to help switch off and process the events of the day so that you have a clear mind before going to sleep.

3) Feel calmer

Whether you’re a student, a working professional or even retired, it’s really important to take time out for just you during the busy week. Journaling is a great tool to help you stay calmer for longer and build up mental endurance. By processing information and putting pen to paper, you will be able to offload your thoughts so that they don’t build up and take up important space in your mind or day to day life. In fact, some of the most influential leaders including Barack Obama and Winston Churchill kept journals which arguably helped them to remain calm, relaxed and focused whilst making decisions.


If you are someone who doesn’t like to slow down and unwind, or perhaps you find yourself watching too much television and struggle to relax without distractions, why not try making some time for yourself in the morning before you start to work to write a few sentences, or even paragraphs depending how you’re feeling about what you’ve been up to and what you’re thinking about? Dr Pennebaker further suggests that you could try setting aside three to four days to write for about fifteen to twenty minutes. He suggests that if you don’t find a benefit, “Stop doing it, go jogging, see a therapist, go to a bar, go to church!” So the moral message is do what’s right for you. There’s no harm in trying something and seeing if it works for you! 

4) Be more organised

Along with feeling calmer and more relaxed, keeping a journal is an excellent way of becoming more organised! Whether it means you can plan your week out in advance, schedule in meetings and appointments, or even give yourself some additional motivation, journaling can help you to keep on top of your work and manage your time effectively. Also, check out our cork pen holder so that you can store your pens in one place and feel more organised!

According to research, journaling can help us to deal with stress and even improve your immune system. In a 2006 study, approximately one-hundred young adults were asked to spend fifteen minutes journaling or drawing about a stressful event twice a week. The results found that people who had journalled saw a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression despite never having regularly journaled before. Additionally, Keith J Petrie from the University of Auckland has pointed out that “Expression of emotions concerning stressful or traumatic events can produce measurable effects on human immune responses”, therefore indicating that by writing and expressing oneself, you can reduce stress levels and even increase your body’s production of antibodies. 

5) Feel less stressed

Reducing your stress levels is a gradual process which takes time, energy and practise. Just like you would go to the gym to build muscles and stamina, writing in your journal is a process in which over time you will feel calmer and have a clearer state of mind. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected us all, both in a collective sense but also individually. It is often easy to overlook our own personal experiences and forget that it is very likely that there are other people also going through the same thing and that you aren’t alone

Be sure to check out the Pandemic Project, an online resource created by psychologists who are encouraging more people to open up and talk about their experiences of the pandemic. This initiative is about encouraging people to write for as little as five to ten minutes so that they can change the way they think, feel and even sleep.

Conclusion

So whether you’re new to journaling, or perhaps you’ve been doing it for years, making time just for you and your thoughts is important in helping you to relax, process thoughts and feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation. Allowing yourself to reach a meditative state before you start journaling is also critical in your mental preparation for journaling; allowing you to get the most out of your writing so that you can destress and manifest your goals on a daily basis. Moreover,  in the words of Dr Pennebaker, if journaling isn’t working for you, “Stop doing it, go jogging, see a therapist, go to a bar, or go to church!”


We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article! If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to send an email to katie@harmoni.design - we would love to hear from you!

 


Sources

‘Can’t leave your phone alone? You’re just trying to blend in’ <https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/may/04/cant-leave-your-phone-alone-youre-just-trying-to-blend-in>

‘10 Ways Keeping a Journal Will Genuinely Improve Your Life’ <https://www.grammarly.com/blog/10-ways-keeping-a-journal-will-genuinely-improve-your-life/>
‘A New Reason For Keeping a Diary’ by Siri Carpenter <https://www.apa.org/monitor/sep01/keepdiary>
‘What’s all this about journaling?’ by Haley Phelan <https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/style/journaling-benefits.amp.html>
‘Average Briton gets six hours and nineteen minutes of sleep a night, study finds’ by Astrid Hall <https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/sleeping-number-hours-night-british-average-6-hours-poll-stress-work-a8336081.html>
‘Expressive Writing: A Tool for Transformation, with Dr James Pennebacker, PhD.’ by Rebecca Kochenderfer <https://journaling.com/articles/expressive-writing-a-tool-for-transformation-with-dr-james-pennebaker-ph-d/>
‘How to write in your journal to improve and achieve your goals’ by James Hardy <https://medium.com/mind-cafe/how-to-write-in-your-journal-to-improve-yourself-and-achieve-your-goals-7a8171aabad3>
‘How Journaling Can Help You In Hard Times’ by Kira N. Newman <https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_journaling_can_help_you_in_hard_times>
The Pandemic Project <http://exw.utpsyc.org/#tests>
Cork Pen Holder <https://harmoni.design/collections/harmoni-products/products/harmoni-cork-penholder>