Journaling is the practice of writing about your thoughts and feelings to gain a deeper understanding of events and your emotions. Sometimes, Christians use journaling to help them reflect on their Bible study and prayer sessions and gain a deeper understanding of scripture.
Whatever your reasons for journaling, science has shown that it could offer certain mental and physical health benefits. If you're considering starting journaling in your assisted living apartment in the Hickory Villa assisted living community in Omaha, you can find some great reasons to start below.
There's a significant body of evidence to suggest that journaling can help people who are experiencing depression. A 1997 study by Stephen Lepore concluded that adults with depression who wrote about their deepest emotional experiences experienced a reduction in symptoms compared to participants who wrote about non-emotional subjects. Furthermore, the study found that journaling activities lessened the impact of intrusive thoughts on depression symptoms. However, it didn't reduce the frequency of these thoughts.
Regular journaling could also reduce your chances of developing depression if you're naturally prone to rumination. Rumination means the act of repeatedly and excessively thinking about bad experiences and emotions. A study in 2006 found that daily expressive writing helps reduce brooding behaviors. Furthermore, the practice was shown to significantly reduce symptoms of depression after six months.
Journaling could also be a productive outlet if you're experiencing stress and anxiety. A 2011 study found that students who practiced gratitude journaling engaged better in classroom activities, indicating a reduction in stress and anxiety. Although this study examined the effects of journaling on younger participants, gratitude journaling may well be worth considering for older adults experiencing anxiety or stress.
You may also benefit from regular journaling if you're feeling stressed or anxious as the result of a medical condition. Researchers carried out a study in 2012 to see if journaling could improve anxiety symptoms in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS). They discovered that people who wrote about their negative thoughts and feelings experienced a significant reduction in stress and anxiety symptoms after four weeks. This study is particularly encouraging for older adults with anxiety because the intervention was effective regardless of age or sex.
Although it seems logical that putting pen to paper could offer mental health benefits, you may be surprised to learn that writing can also improve your physical health. A 1999 clinical trial discovered that individuals with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis showed a significant improvement in symptoms compared to a control group after journaling about stressful experiences for four months.
Individuals were evaluated by specialist doctors before and after the trial. Doctors noticed improved lung function in people with asthma and reduced disease activity in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Although researchers don't yet know exactly why the exercise worked or whether the results apply to other illnesses, the study's findings support the hypothesis that journaling about your feelings and experiences could improve physical well-being.
In 1990, James W. Pennebaker published the results of his research into the link between writing and immunity in his book Opening Up. He concluded that deliberately holding in thoughts and feelings causes physical stress that could impair proper immune function and even lead to disease.
Pennebaker carried out various studies to support his conclusion that self-expressive writing was beneficial to physical health. He discovered that people who write about their thoughts and feelings immediately experience reduced blood pressure, changes in brainwave patterns and better immune system function.
A 2004 trial further backs Pennebaker's assertions. This trial discovered that individuals with HIV who wrote about their emotions experienced reduced viral load and better lymphocyte counts than those who wrote about emotionally neutral topics, suggesting an improvement in immune function. Therefore, using a journal to express difficult emotions could help you maintain good cardiovascular and immune system health by reducing stress.
There's no single accepted explanation for why journaling can help improve physical and mental wellbeing. However, researchers Baikie and Wilhelm suggest a few reasons for the scientifically proven benefits of regular writing:
However, whether journaling is an effective tool for you is highly individual. Researchers have observed that journaling works better for some people than others, but there's no consensus on why certain people find it more beneficial.
How to journal is a deeply personal matter, and you should put your thoughts to paper in whatever way works best for you. However, Baikie and Wilhelm offer the following tips for getting the most out of your journaling practice: