As I mentioned in the previous section of this journaling how-to guide, there are so many different ways you can use journaling. So it of course makes sense that there are many different kinds of benefits it can offer as well, depending on how you approach it.
I've shared previously about how journaling has saved my life — both literally and figuratively.
It has also helped me find my calling and create work that I love. To gracefully navigate loss and make meaning of difficult experiences. It's been my way to move past blocks in my work. The source of some of my best ideas. And it regularly helps me reduce stress, clarify priorities, regain perspective — and generally manage myself and my life in ways that are aligned with who I am and what matters most to me.
But don't just take my word for it!
There's so much evidence out there about the MANY benefits that can come when you engage intentionally with this kind of reflective writing.
So I've compiled two lists for you — one highlighting results of scientific research, and the other summarizing some of the benefits others have described in written testimonials.
Keep in mind that neither of these lists is comprehensive...
It's hard to make a blanket statement about the benefits of journaling, because there are so many different ways to do it.
Lots of research about writing interventions have used methods that would likely fit with my definition of journaling, but the exact writing topics and techniques studied have varied widely (not to mention the duration and frequency of the writing, as well as the populations being studied).
With that in mind, here are some of the many benefits that research tells us may be possible for you...
There's evidence to suggest journaling can help you think better, feel more motivated, and make better progress on your goals. Here are some specific outcomes that have been identified:
Can journaling help you see yourself in clearer, kinder, and more positive ways? That's what it seems like. Here's what some studies found:
Can you feel happier after journaling even if you're writing about a difficult topic? Yes. But give it a little time. Journaling researcher James Pennebaker says writing about a traumatic topic can be like going to a sad movie: It can dampen your mood for an hour or two, but it leaves you wiser — and longer-term can actually produce benefits such as...
Even when the topic you're writing about is a traumatic one, journaling can lower your stress levels. Here are some of the research findings:
The benefits of journaling can go beyond just you. It appears it can also have positive effects on your relationships with others:
An astonishing number of studies have demonstrated that journaling can improve physical health — beyond the immediate stress reduction benefits mentioned above. Examples include:
Do a google search on journaling, and you'll find countless articles in which the authors talk about the positive impact journaling has had on them.
But for an in-depth compilation of journaling testimonials, I don't think you can find a better source than Dialogue House — the go-to site for information and workshops on Ira Progoff's "Intensive Journal" method, which has been around since the 1970's.
Here are some of the many ways that students of that process have found it helpful:
With all this evidence and enthusiastic support for journaling as a powerful tool, I hope you're convinced to give it a try — or, if you're already journaling, to take your practice even deeper.
In the next section of this journaling guide, I'll start outlining the specific ingredients/techniques for HOW to achieve the kinds of benefits listed here.