Journal Your Way to Stress Relief
By Krisha McCoy, MS | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Keeping a journal is proven to be an effective, inexpensive form of stress relief.
Here's how to get started.
Keeping a journal or diary is more than just a way to document your experiences
and record your thoughts. Recent research shows that journaling is an effective stress relief exercise, and people who write in a diary or other notebook reap both physical and emotional benefits, potentially increasing their longevity.
One recent study published in Psychotherapy Research found that psychotherapy patients
who were told to let out their emotions through expressive writing experienced greater reductions
in anxiety and depressive symptoms and better progress in psychotherapy
when compared to a control group.
Journaling may help you reduce the amount of worrying you do, too.
Another study, published in Behavior Modification, showed that expressive writing
was associated with significant decreases in generalized anxiety disorder symptoms,
including worry and depression.
Keeping Your Stress-Relief Diary
Researchers are not exactly sure how keeping a journal helps with stress relief,
but it is thought that journaling:
Allows you to sort out and clarify your thoughts and emotions
Lets you reflect upon your life’s journey by looking back at past journal entries
Gives you time to reflect about your feelings and emotions so that you can better understand them
Provides an outlet for expressing difficult emotions, such as anger and frustration,
without hurting someone you love
Can be a way to release your negative thoughts and emotions
so that you can move on to a happier state of mind
How to Start a Stress-Relief Diary
If you are interested in journaling, it is easy to get started. All you need is a computer
or a pen and paper. Some people find the experience of putting pen to paper therapeutic,
but others prefer keyboarding their thoughts into their computer. There are even Web sites,
such as LiveJournal and Penzu, that allow people to journal privately online.
Take some time for yourself in a quiet, comfortable environment where you won't be interrupted. Depending on your personality, you may want to have a certain time each day or each week
set aside for journaling. Or you may just want to write whenever you feel like it.
Date your journal entry and just start writing. There are no set rules for journaling.
You can write about anything that comes to mind, and your journal entry can be as long or short
as you want it to be. Since no one needs to read your journal but you,
don't worry about grammar or punctuation; just write your thoughts as they come to you.
It can be difficult to know where to begin with a journal entry,
but writing about your daily activities is often an easy way to get your thoughts flowing.
Remember that expressing your emotions in your journal can be a great outlet for stress relief,
so try to write about your thoughts, hopes, fears, frustrations,
and any other emotions you are experiencing.
Other Methods of Expression
Not everyone will enjoy journaling.
If keeping a diary isn't for you, you can try other avenues for stress relief:
If there is someone you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with, talk about your feelings
with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist.
Join an online support group, or start your own blog.
For people who are musically inclined, music can be a great outlet for expressing emotions — playing it or listening to it.
If you enjoy art, you can draw, paint, or sculpt pieces that express how you are feeling.
The point is to reduce stress by finding creative ways to express your emotions and thoughts —
and for many people, this can be achieved by simply writing down your thoughts.
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