Journaling can be beneficial for mental health

Photo courtesy of Ellie Ables

By Ellie Ables | Guest Contributor

Like most college students I know, I get stressed out during the semester. Keeping up with classes while maintaining everyday responsibilities can sometimes feel overwhelming.

“Writing is medicine. It is an appropriate antidote for injury. It is an appropriate companion for any difficult change,” Julia Cameron, American author and teacher, said.

Writing in a journal for a few minutes a day is an easy way to reduce this stress and provides a place to express your thoughts and emotions. You can also use this journal to track your habits, goals and behaviors.

This easy activity can also declutter your mind and shift your awareness toward positive thoughts and emotions. By journaling, you can change your mindset, better your habits and grow significantly as a person.

In a study conducted by James Pennebaker, a social psychologist, 50 college students were assigned to write in a journal about their experiences and conflicts. At the end of the study, these students reported lower levels of anxiety, better immune function and even a decrease in asthma.

In his final results, Pennebaker concluded that “actively confronting a trauma allows for the understanding and assimilation of that trauma.” Essentially, trauma and life experiences can only be dealt with when properly confronted, and without that confrontation, anxiety and depression can worsen.

Journaling also allows for an increase in self-awareness. Self-awareness is being able to focus your attention on your inner self. When we become self-aware, we see our actions, habits and attitudes more clearly. This helps us consider our actions more clearly, thus helping us make better decisions when encountering future trauma.

You may be wondering how you should begin writing in your journal. First, you should pick a time of day that fits your schedule to sit and write without distraction. Personally, I think journaling right before bed is the most beneficial, as it helps the mind stop racing before going to sleep.

Our schedules are already busy, so you may see journaling as just another task you have to complete, but be wary of this thinking. Also, this activity is not time consuming. According to CNBC, “researchers say that journaling for at least 15 minutes a day three to five times a week can significantly improve your physical and mental health.”

For some, writing may seem like a struggle. The good news is you can write about whatever you please in your journal. For instance, what you did that day, who you spent your time with or something in your life that you’re looking forward to. Because there are no rules or limitations in this activity, the possibilities of your personal journal are endless. If you write about something you enjoy, you might enjoy journaling more.

Journaling can be beneficial for any person struggling with anxiety, self-reflection or depression. There is an array of evidence showing the positive benefits that can come from journaling for just a few minutes a day, so think about making it your new habit.