Does journaling make things worse?

Sometimes keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences helps, but it often makes things worse. In general, it is likely to hurt if you try to help you “know yourself in isolation and it helps if it leads to greater understanding and behavior change in your interactions with others. When you're going through a rough patch, keeping a diary can cause your mind to fall into a chain reaction of negativity. I'm not saying this is going to happen to you by definition.

In fact, most people find tremendous support when writing negative thoughts in a journal, as it allows them to erase these things from their minds. I started writing a diary about three months ago, and it was certainly cathartic to me. That said, I'm a veterinarian, with PTSD, I was recently diagnosed with autistic, it explains a lot, and my wife is going through a health crisis. So all these things start to spill out, on the pages of my diary, reliving old memories of times better left in the past, fears of the future, you already get the idea, but I had made a promise to myself that I would write a diary every day no matter what I wanted.

At first it was painful, then it started to help a lot, I check my diary several times most days. So the short answer is yes, it might make you feel worse before it gets better, but I thought a perspective would help you more than just an answer. We all have a past, some good, some bad and others that don't justify our time, but we all need a safe place to face it, that's what my diary is for me, I hope you find the peace you're looking for. This might be a silly example, but it's possible that a compulsive habit of keeping a journal could cause you to constantly overthink your life.

I would consider giving the internal critic his own journal entry, listing what criticizes you for being so negative, even though I had a good day, I would let him say it's peace and then move on. There is no shortage of scientific evidence that proves that the practice of daily journaling is incredible for your mood, your stress levels, and your physical and mental health. There's probably a reason you've been attracted to keeping a diary and it can be helpful to keep that in mind as you go through the early stages. That's what the “Keeping a Journal for Happiness” section in the larger (freely available) guide on how to be happy is all about.

Keeping a journal seems to be less disruptive and more useful when what you write is already on the surface. Another study, published in the journal Stress Medicine, found that keeping a diary can help the immune system. I would suggest doing a more rigorous journal, perhaps as a brain dump, when you find yourself feisty about something. I have been furious and screamed in my diary for decades (although much less so in recent years), usually with good results.

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