In a follow-up study 12 to 18 months later, 85 percent of participants reported that the writing exercise had been useful. Fifty-nine percent continued to use writing to cope with stress. Expressive writing, the technical term for writing a mental health journal, can be a very powerful tool. If you feel trapped in your life, this can help you release your frustrations, see yourself more objectively, and begin the healing process.
Like anything else, it may not be the answer for everyone. For example, studies have had conflicting results in participants with more serious mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress or chronic depression. While some research has shown little improvement in symptoms, others have shown positive results. And for now, let go of screens when keeping a diary writing by hand stimulates and trains the brain in a way that digital communication does not.
The best thing about the diary is that it doesn't judge you, so you don't have to be perfect, just keep exploring. Over time, you may find that keeping a journal leads to a greater personal understanding of your current relationships, problems, stressors, and coping mechanisms. Keeping a diary can also help improve relationships with others, lower blood pressure, and decrease symptoms of depression. If the recovery you're looking for is from the death of a loved one, one of the most traumatic and heartbreaking events of all, keeping a diary can also help with that.
As you might have guessed, the benefits of keeping a diary naturally extend to more general stress management as well as anxiety. Keeping a journal also allows you to deal directly with the things you've experienced instead of avoiding them and not taking the time to process them. Since the support of friends and family is one of the most effective ways to heal, keeping a diary can cause a domino effect, opening people to healthier habits. Keeping a diary helps us to listen, bear witness to these changes and, simply, to know each other much better.
Cangilla, PhD, psychologist based in Pittsburgh, avid magazine writer and member of the International Association of Journal Editors. If your journaling habits bring you a lot of feelings that you don't think you can control on your own, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for more support. A study by Hasanzadeh, Khoshknab, %26 Norozi found that the simple act of keeping a diary reduced anxiety in women suffering from multiple sclerosis. You can also anchor your diary to a well-established habit so you're more likely to follow it.
If you have gone blank, says Cangilla, “describe that experience until something else appears in your diary. After reviewing participants six months later, researchers found that expressive journalists had fewer doctor visits and better immune function than the other writers. I think that for some people, closing the diary and keeping it is probably, in itself, an act that helps create some distance between oneself and the problems that you may have been writing about in a journal.