Most of us stopped keeping a regular journal in grade school. As we grew older, many of the secrets we confessed to our diaries were instead whispered to friends.
But could the urge to write down our thoughts be as helpful to adults as it is for kids? Experts say yes. If you’re hoping to process your emotions and monitor your habits, going back to pen and paper can be surprisingly valuable.
Wordsworth said that poetry is a “spontaneous overflow of emotion, recollected in tranquility.” A journal is the same: the writer relives their highest highs and lowest lows from a quiet, safe place. This sense of security allows people to process the events of their life – no matter how challenging – in ways they couldn’t in the heat of the moment.
When you reflect back on your day, you also build empathy with others. Say that you argued with a significant other. In the middle of a fight, it’s easy to demonize them for the sake of coping. Journaling about it can help you do more than vent: writing out an imagined dialogue with them can help you see their perspective. You’ll gain a greater understanding of what caused the argument and be better prepared to work through it together.
Journaling doesn’t have to focus solely on the stressful parts of life. Writing down the positive things that happened throughout your day can make you more grateful for the people around you. After a tough day, reflecting on the positives can do wonders for your well-being. From a preventative perspective, it also points out positive patterns in your life that you can replicate.
Mental health and physical health are often intertwined, and journaling is no exception. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered a link between journaling and the strength of immune cells. Other studies show that regular journaling can decrease the effects of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Whether you blog, jot, or journal, writing can be a valuable tool to process the ebbing and flowing of our own emotions. More than anything, journaling allows us all to create the story of our lives – one with a happy ending.