When it comes to keeping a journal, we think of the stereotypical “Dear Diary,” reserved for emotional high-schoolers or the awkward recluse. Others see writing merely as a pragmatic tool, overlooking any value in keeping a journal. But science continues to dissolve skepticism—for those who are sitting on the fence, here are 10 researched-based benefits to encourage you to start journaling:
1. Stretching Your IQ
Journaling is an exploration of language, you’ll have the natural urge to search for new words and increase your vocabulary. The report goes on to say, “One of the best single measures of overall intelligence as measured by intelligence tests is vocabulary.”
2. Evoking Mindfulness
It’s the buzz-word for good reason. There’s a strong connection between happiness and mindfulness. Journaling brings you into that state of mindfulness; past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge in the present moment. It calls a wandering mind to attention, from passivity to actively engaging with your thoughts.
3. Achieving Goals
Journaling includes writing out your dreams and ambitions. While the idea that scribbled words will help you achieve your goals seems fanciful, just consider building a house without a blueprint.
Writing goals signals to your brain, “this is important to me!” Your reticular activating system (RAS) then flags relevant opportunities and tools to achieve your specific goal. Detailed goals provide a psychological blueprint and increases the likelihood of achieving them.
4. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to manage your own emotions and empathize with the emotions of others. Journaling—writing out what and how you are feeling, increases self-awareness. This internal familiarity becomes a bridge of empathy, you’ll better intuit and understand what others are experiencing.
Being able to get on the same page with someone is a mark of emotional intelligence and allows for a much deeper connection.
5. Boosting Memory & Comprehension
There’s a unique relationship between the hand and brain; that link is sparked and strengthened when you come up with new thoughts and ideas. Words are representations of ideas; so when you are writing words, your mind composes these ideas while journaling. This strengthens your memory and cognitive recall.
6. Strengthen Your Self-Discipline
Setting time aside to write, whether morning or evening, is an act of discipline. And discipline begets discipline. Like a muscle, the more you exercise your brain, the stronger it becomes. And habits formed in one area of life have a tendency to spread; keeping your office clean leads to keeping the bedroom tidy. Your daily practice of writing will domino onto other healthy habits.
7. Improve Communication Skills
“Writing has critical connections to speaking” according to a Stanford report. Journaling is a form of written communication, albeit to yourself. The subvocalization of your written thoughts will translate into actual vocalization. You are practicing what you want to be saying.
Use journaling to work on tidying up your written communication in order to see benefits in your verbal communication.
Expressive writing helps improve your emotional, physical, and psychological health. Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal has shown that people who journal have improved immune function. Stress often comes from emotional blockages and being tied up in your thoughts. Dr. Pennebaker explains, “When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable.” And in doing so, you free yourself from mentally being tangled in traumas.
Studies have also shown that the emotional release from journaling lowers anxiety, stress, and induces better sleep.
9. Spark Your Creativity
Julia Cameron’s journaling exercise, called the “Morning Pages,” has been praised as a panacea for unlocking creativity. Our struggle isn’t whether we’re creative, it’s how to let it flow.
Her powerful tool is simply to write without thinking, “stream of consciousness” writing. Stream of consciousness writing brings out thoughts and ideas you never knew you had in you and loosens up your expressive muscles. She recommends three pages, done first thing in the morning.
If you start doing just one page as part of your journaling practice, you’ll be able to get your creative juices flowing.
Journaling about a positive experience allows your brain to relive it. It’ll help give you a boost of confidence when the ugly head of self-doubt appears. The release of endorphins and dopamine will boost your self-esteem and mood. These reflections can become a catalog of personal achievements that you continue to revisit.
As you work to incorporate journaling into your life, remember that the elephant is best eaten one bite at a time. Patience and consistency are crucial in forming new habits. Start with journaling 3 days a week, first thing in the morning or before sleeping.