I would estimate that over the span of my life, I've bought and started upwards of 20 diaries. Growing up, I was obsessed with this image of Me, A Diarist — but it wasn't until I was an adult that I gained an understanding of the benefits of journaling, Because they exist. I promise. And they might inspire you to pick up a pen and a notebook yourself.
When I say that I started diaries, I mean just that, by the way. I didn't finish them. Most have less than 10 entries. I tried everything from treating "Dear Diary" as a person to whom I was writing a letter, to writing about myself in the third person, to creating entire alternate egos for myself. Shockingly (or, not so shockingly), nothing stuck.
Later, though — as an early 20s, recent college graduate struggling to carve out a place in the world — I returned once again to journaling. Ultimately, the absolute simplest option — holding myself accountable for writing at least a few sentences every night before going to bed and being honest with myself about things in my life I was struggling with — was the one that, after so many years, finally began to have a positive impact on my life.
So if you're struggling, or if you're curious, or if you just want to glow up a little bit more (I mean, honestly, who doesn't?), then check out some of these positive benefits of journaling.
1. It Can Have Long-Term, Positive Effects On Your Mood
As Science of Us recently brought back to light, James Pennebaker, a professor in the '70s who experienced his own journaling revelation as an adult, conducted a series of experiments regarding journaling and improved mood. He had participants journal for 20 minutes, three days in a row, about their actual feelings — not about the weather or what shoes they decided to wear. Almost immediately, people reported feeling lighter and freer. Long-term participants got new jobs and clawed their way out of depressive cycles. It's a win-win.
2. It Sparks Creativity
When you keep a handwritten journal, the act of putting your pen to paper engages the analytical left brain, leaving the right side of your brain — the more creative part of you — free to feel and intuit.
3. It Can Help You Realize Personal Patterns
In addition to engaging in stream-of-consciousness, free form-style writing, it can be helpful to note your mood each day when writing. If you don't know your triggers, whether they're mood or health related, this can be a great way to begin identifying them.
4. It Can Ease Anxiety
As anyone with anxiety, obsessive or cyclical thinking, or intrusive thoughts will tell you, dealing with an "invisible" illness can be incredibly isolating — and consuming. Externalizing your anxieties by writing them out can help you work through them. Return to your list once you're in a better headspace, and you might be able to work out, rationally, what's going on.
5. It Can Assist In Goal-Setting
In addition to a brighter, more positive mood, journaling can help you process stressful situations and move past them more quickly. The future begins to take shape. Possibilities begin to multiply. In fact, you might even look at the Ivy Lee Method or the Bullet Journal as variations on the journaling theme. They'll both help you Get Stuff Done.
6. It Makes Your Resilience Tangible
A journal provides a record of your good days and your bad days, the best and the worst things to happen in your life. And in having a physical, tangible document, it can serve as a reminder of your resilience. You're still here. You made it through all that.