Journaling is a powerful habit to have and you might have heard this before.

You probably have your own motivation to keep a journal but if you are not sure yet let’s talk about some of the benefits of doing so and why so many people do it.

Improvements in both physical and psychological health

This is a very generic point but a very important one in that writing a diary helps not only the mind but in turn, the body.

This study by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm on the effects of expressive writing shows that writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events leads to objectively assessed improvements.

To get a bit more specific some of the outcomes observed by the study include:

  • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor,
  • Improved immune system functioning,
  • Reduced blood pressure,
  • Improved lung function,
  • Improved liver function,
  • Improved mood,
  • Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations,
  • Improved working memory,
  • …and a few more others.

These are in relation to conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.

Surprisingly the authors conclude that the physical effects are even more robust and consistent than the psychological benefits.

The point being here is that you can safely assume that, even though it might seem counter-intuitive the act of writing about physical traumatic events or illness can help your body better deal with the issue.

This is not to say that you can just rely on writing to heal.

Absolutely not, a diary is not a doctor replacement.

You could use it a supplement but in no condition as an alternative treatment.

On the psychological aspect, the authors compare the results as similar to actual psychological intervention.

The authors also make suggestions on how to approach writing to get the most benefits but we’ll talk about that more in the next sections of the guide.

Building self-confidence and helping habits stick

In the book Stick with it, Sean Young Ph.D. argues that at least part of the reason we act in certain ways is the fact that we see ourselves as “that type of person”.

Put in a different way, how we self-identify.

You keep writing because you see yourself a writer, you keep going to the gym because you see yourself a gym person and so on.

It’s a lot more deeply explained in the book so I highly recommend you read it. For a quick summary, it’s a book on forming good habits and getting rid of bad habits.

So what does this have to do with confidence?

Part of the issue with confidence is that is based on a feedback loop. The more you experience success the more confident you become.

But it goes the other way around too.

So how do you get out of a bad feedback loop when you are left with no confidence?

The main idea is to take a small action that goes towards your goal and then by reflecting on that you’ll have an easier time self-identifying based on that action.

The example in the book is as follows:

“…if you want to become a nicer person, instead of telling yourself you’re a good person, simply start helping people in need and then you’ll become a good person, and that self-identity will make it a lot easier for you to stay a good person.”

By doing the desired action and then taking some time to reflect on your successes or on the habits you have that you want to keep or even build up you’ll start to form that desirable self-identity.

Want to build confidence?

Think of the smallest thing you could successfully do and do it. And reflect on it to gain that little bit of confidence to start being a confident person.

Continue with slightly larger and larger tasks and you will start seeing yourself more and more like a confident person.

You might already be doing a lot of cool stuff and not even realize it. And here is where the writing comes in.

Writing in your journal about your habits, good or bad, small victories and such you can start to figure out how you actually self identify and start to mold that identity, hopefully for the better.

What have you been up to?

Would it be a good thing to continue? Would it need some adjustments?

Explore these questions.

Help recover from a breakup

A study focused on romantic breakups concluded that reflecting on the matter and adjustment afterward helps cope with the negatives of the event.

The authors suggest that expressive writing helps with self-identity reorganization and thus decreasing the emotional distress and loneliness associated with a romantic separation.

The idea here is that in a couple, the sense of identity starts to include the partners, which explains the dramatic distress when a breakup happens. The sense of self becomes vague.

By repeatedly reflecting on the events of the breakup over a period of time and monitoring your progress you can recover the sense of identity and better cope with the breakup.

If you are dealing with a breakup, writing privately about it help you better cope with it.

Develop better communication skills and career opportunities

Written communication the most important skill employers look for.

Communication itself is the main means of interacting with the world.

It is, for this reason, the single most important skill to master in order to have successful relationships with other people.

And “other people” is what makes or breaks your life if you think about it. Your teachers, employers, clients, spouse, kids, friends.

They are your life.

Communication is key in your relationship with each of those people.

Writing makes you put your thoughts in order. It helps you connect the dots and formulate coherent ideas.

In writing, you typically try to come up with sentences and paragraphs that express an idea in a way the reader can understand it.

Going even further into a complete story this again practices your ability to put an order to your thoughts in order to give structure to your story.

This helps you better put forward your ideas and help the recipient better understand what you are trying to convey.

You’ll be able to put forward better arguments to support your cause or request and you can imagine the value of that in your day to day negotiations.

Writing can be used for many purposes and for this goal you might adopt a style of writing that will not be very helpful for other goals but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Memory keeping

Our memory is unfortunately unreliable and as one study describes it, memory is a reconstructive process that is susceptible to distortion and loss of information.

In other words, your a memory is not something “recorded” but rather reconstructed.

The downside of that is that the memory can be significantly altered by the time it’s stored.

Not only that but studies show that people are unable to recall about 50% of the information after just one hour from the memory forming event.

What this means for you is that if you care to be able to recall certain events sometime in the future, the only proper way to do it is to keep that memory outside your brain.

Videos and photos do a good job of it but might not describe the full experience regarding your thoughts and feelings.

I would argue that for the best recollection you might want to preserve a mix of multimedia and written or spoken words that describe the event.

Why do you want to start a journal?

One of your first journal entry might just be that, a reflection on what you are hoping to achieve by keeping a diary.

This will guide you to maybe a certain style of writing in order to better gain the benefits of it.

It could help better define those goals, motivations, and steps that you need to take to achieve those goals.

It’s a quick and easy way to start so why not give it a try?

Author's Bio: 

Andrei is the founder of MusePeach, an online journaling app that aims to help people who don't see themselves as writers to get started with the activity. Among other things, the app makes it easy to put your thoughts in writing by using templates with predefined prompts to get your mind going.On the website, you'll also find tips and guides to help you get started and answer some of the questions you might have.