Intentional, personal writing is no longer reserved to aspiring writers and hopeful intellectuals. The benefits extend to a variety of demographics. Pen on paper or digital, it does not seem to matter. Journaling is so good for you it is now considered a life hack.
Alan Henry writes on lifehacker.com, “There’s so much data about the mental and emotional benefits of journaling that counselors, social workers, and therapists often encourage their patients to do it.”
But just how much exactly is “so much data” as our good friend Alan Henry puts it? Well, quite a bit.
Writing has been used in therapy for years. Doctors have used diaries and journals to help people who have experienced various trauma and stresses. A study at University of California Los Angeles took brain scans of volunteers while they wrote. The scans showed activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotion intensity, was reduced while writing.
The volunteers were calmer by jotting down anything. Some wrote song lyrics they knew; others wrote about their day to express their negative emotions. Researchers then compared these scans to those who were actively trying to control their emotions.
The scans were identical.
This means writing brings an unintended emotion balance to the brain, without the writer being conscious of it taking place.
I journal every day, and can attest to writing’s positive mental and stress relieving benefits. Seeing stressors on paper and the ability to sort them out in a physical way is calming. However, there may be reason to think writing can do more for us than relieve stress or improve our day.
There is ongoing research at Harvard and Georgetown Universities concerning journaling’s physical benefits. Prior studies have suggested cancer patients who keep up a journaling habit are happier and have a more positive outlook on the future than patients who did not. There is a slight correlation between positive thinking and cancer survival as well as healing from other physical afflictions.
Journaling is a simple activity that can have considerable benefits. It is well worth it to take a few minutes and jot down something, anything. It does not matter. Poetry, song lyrics, it does not even have to be yours. But it does have to be written. Write 20 words or 2,000 words.
Go ahead, grab a pen and write.