Journaling is one of those things that we know has science-backed benefits, but we still don’t do it.
Who would want to sit around in their free time and actually write stuff down on paper?
Well, it seemed to work very well for some of history’s most influential people. Charles Darwin, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Frida Kahlo, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchhill; we could go on and on.
You could argue that those folks didn’t have access to a computer to store all their thoughts, research, and findings.
But then we look at some of the most successful people today, Arianna Huffington, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, Matthew McConaughey, and many more; all long-time journalers.
So what’s the deal? Is there a connection between writing down your thoughts and success? What are the proven benefits of journaling? Let’s take a look.
Not unlike gratitude, the science-backed benefits of journaling are pretty astounding.
We’re going to break it down into 5 main categories.
Studies show that people who journal are able to reduce stress, promoting healthier and longer-lasting sleep.
The participants of the study reported that writing down whatever was on their mind before bed allowed them to stop worrying and reduced the time it took for them to fall asleep. Better sleep comes with its own extremely important benefits.
Brain scans on journalers showed that putting feelings down on paper reduces activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions.
Frequent journaling also helps to build up emotional resilience which is our ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises.
A study done by Harvard Business School found that journaling improves an individual’s performance, increasing their productivity by over 20%.
The researchers suggested that the productivity benefits come from reflecting on past experiences. When we take a moment to notice what we’ve learned from the past, we can incorporate that newly found wisdom into future decisions.
Writing things down helps commit them to memory, that much makes sense. But studies also show that frequent journaling can improve all memory recollection, not just those we write about.
The co-author of the study, Dr. Adriel Boals, says “They [the findings] suggest that at least for fairly minor life problems, something as simple as writing about the problem for 20 minutes can yield important effects not only in terms of physical health and mental health, but also in terms of cognitive abilities, and working memory.”
Improved Physical Health
The mental benefits might not seem surprising, but the physical ones sure are.
A 2005 study conducted at Cambridge University found that individuals who write for 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times a week experienced improved immune system functionality and reduced blood pressure.
A 2013 study suggests that those who write heal from wounds and physical injuries at a faster rate than those who do not.
We incorporate a few journaling exercises into our daily routine. If you want to join us, here are a few prompts to get you started.