The Benefits of Journaling

By: Ellie Graham

“How do I want to be loved by somebody else? Describe in detail. (Do you love yourself in this way? Answer honestly).” Last year, I bought the popular “Were not Really Strangers” self reflection cards and journal kit after following their Instagram page. The kit sat on my desk at school for months before I decided to open the pack of cards. During the chaos of COVID, I found myself anxious more times than I could count,  but I didn’t know how to process my feelings. One day, I began reflecting in the shiny silver journal, brushing off its coating of collected dust after sitting on my desk for months. I began to write, “How do I want to receive love from others? My honest answer? I don’t know.” This response is not by any means a philosophical revelation. Rather, the question made me realize that, before I can answer how I want to receive love from others, I have to know how to love myself. The raw, unplugged me. Before I knew it, I had journaled for thirty minutes, answering this prompt in full, reflecting on my relationship with myself, my friends, and my family. Now, ever since, my morning routine feels incomplete without starting my day with a little self reflection. I found that journaling elevates my mood and helps me get in a good headspace. I used to think journaling was intimidating; I felt awkward and didn’t know how to start or express my thoughts. However, the provided prompts allowed me to easily write down my unedited thoughts and express the feelings I usually keep to myself. I now journal every day, sometimes with and other times without a prompt. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to start my day and clear my head. The effects of journaling on my mental health were so significant that I began to research the benefits discussed in medical journals. Through my experience and research, I quickly learned that “a pen coupled with paper can serve as a powerful life tool” (Purcell 2006). Remember, your journal is for your eyes only! 

Journaling helps reduce stress and anxiety through clarifying your thoughts and feelings. Whenever you feel unsure of your emotions, a quick journal session can help you understand your internal thoughts. Learning to trust your intuition and interpret your thoughts can even increase self-confidence (Hiemstra 2001). It is a tool to help you understand yourself better and eventually you will be able to find common themes, providing useful insight about what impacts your happiness. In a study conducted by Philip M. Ullrich, M.A. and Susan K. Lutgendorf, Ph.D they found that verbalizing traumatic events has been linked to “decreased distress and depression, fewer illness-related visits to physicians, and positive changes in immune function” (Lutgendorf, Ullrich, 2002). These benefits are not just mental, but also physical! Next time you are lying in bed watching TV, close your laptop and pull out a notebook. I promise you won’t regret it!

Were not really strangers Self-reflection journaling kit: 

Reference List: 

Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical Health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11, 338–346.

Hiemstra, R. (2001). Uses and benefits of journal writing. New directions for adult and continuing education, 2001(90), 19.

Purcell, M. (2006). The health benefits of journaling. Psych Central.

Ullrich, P.M., Lutgendorf, S.K. Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. ann. behav. med. 24, 244–250 (2002).

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