Feeling a little lonely, depressed, or frustrated? There’s a quick and easy cure—write down your feelings. The practice of journaling dates back to at least 10th century Japan. While daily journaling provides an interesting history for your family or even the world—like Anne Frank’s and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journals—private writings that no one else ever sees can also provide you with some surprising benefits.
- Reduces stress—People who journal every day cope much better with stress. While they don’t experience less stress, they are better suited to handle it when it occurs.
- Restores feelings of control—Journaling bridges internal thoughts with external events and allows you to see patterns in life and results of action.
- Aids problem solving—We generally solve problems from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks right-brained capabilities, making way for unexpected solutions.
- Increases memory—The daily act of remembering and writing about events leads to a stronger memory and sharper cognitive skills.
- Improves health—University of Texas psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker asserts that regular journaling strengthens immune cells for better overall health. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Helps with weight loss—A study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that women who wrote about their values in a journal every night lost an average of 3.4 pounds in four months while women who didn’t journal gained weight. Writing about values appears to give women a sense of self-integrity so they are less likely to eat to feel better. This focus on values and self-worth is believed to help with many obstacles in life—not just weight loss.
Not all journals involve a pen and paper. In the last decade, blogs (a portmanteau of “web logs”) have become wildly popular, especially among mothers. Blogging seems to offer the same benefits as personal journaling with the added perk of peer support and staying connected with loved ones.
A study performed by Penn State graduate student Brandon McDaniel, showed that new mothers who are active in the blogging community—whether they blog themselves or just read other “mommy blogs”—were happier.
Blogging helps new mothers with the transition into parenthood, which can often leave women feeling isolated and depressed. McDaniel says the benefits of blogging extend even further, creating better marital relations, less depression, and less stress.
Other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter do not offer the same benefits. Check out free blog hosting sites like Blogger, WordPress, or Tumblr to get started.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a pen and paper—or a laptop—and pour out your soul. You’ll be a better, healthier, happier person for it.