6 Benefits of Journaling Backed by Science

woman writing in a journal
** DISCLAIMER: I am not a nutritionist, physical trainer, or fitness nor mental health professional of any kind. All thoughts expressed in this content come from my personal opinions and experiences only. **

When it comes to the benefits of journaling, there are as many possible benefits as there are things to write about. Journal writing is a highly personal and subjective practice, which means the benefits you experience will be, too. 

However, there are some common benefits that journal-writers experience. These will be our main focus in this post.

Just know that if you want to find a specific benefit in journaling — whether it be a closer relationship with your spouse, better insight into part of your life, or a way to remember the important, little moments of each day — you can likely achieve these things through journaling, as well.

The benefits of journaling are all what you make of them. 

For now, though, we’ll jump into some of the most common positive side effects of journal writing.

What are the benefits of journaling?

The documented benefits of journaling range from improved physical health, to how we regulate our moods, to how we cope with and heal from stress and trauma. Below are just a few of the benefits of journaling, backed by research and science. 

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6 Benefits of journaling backed by science

1. Improved memory

Perhaps unsurprisingly to some, journal writing has been scientifically proven to help people improve their memories. Multiple studies over the years have shown that journaling can improve both emotional and working memory in those who engage in this practice. 

Why does journaling improve memory? Well, simply put, when you write about something, you have to reflect on it, at least to some extent. Doing so seems to help your brain better retain and process that information, thus making it easier to recall in the future. So, the more your journal about something, the better your recall of it is likely to be.

2. Strengthened immune system

One of the most astounding benefits of journaling (to me, at least) is that research has found that writing in a journal can actually improve your immune system.

Research published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2013 found that people who journaled about their emotions every day healed faster from minor surgery than those who did not. Other studies have also found that journaling can reduce your risk of illness, lower your blood pressure, and improve liver function. 

These benefits are believed to all be the result of reduced stress caused by the cathartic nature of journal writing, specifically emotionally focused journaling. The lack of stress on your immune system allows your immune system to function better, thus improving recovery from and susceptibility to illness.

3. Easier coping with a breakup

Though many of us are told the best way to get over a breakup or fight with a romantic partner is to just “move on,” research says the opposite is true.

Analyzing and ruminating on a bad relationship or breakup can actually help us cope with this emotional turmoil better, and journaling is a great way to productively do this. Specifically, writing by hand is the best way to journal about romantic problems and heal from them faster:

“Especially for the 20- and 30-somethings,” psychotherapist and journaling expert Maud Purcell told Fast Company,“when I can convince these folks to give good old fashioned cursive a try they’re amazed by the results; how much more quickly their handwritten journaling brings them peace and problem resolution.”

4. Better sleep

Because journal writing allows us to better process our experiences and think through the things that are bothering us, this reduction in stress can help us sleep better at night. 

Research from 2018 found that even something as simple as writing out a to-do list five minutes before going to bed helped study participants fall asleep faster. Even more interesting, the more specific and detailed the lists were, the faster the participants fell asleep. 

Additionally, keeping a sleep journal can help you recognize and address underlying health conditions that might be contributing to your poor sleep, as writing about how you’re feeling before bed each night could be valuable information for your healthcare provider. 

5. Improved confidence and self-esteem

Journal writing is a great way to reflect on your thoughts and feelings which, in turn, can help you better understand and know yourself. When we feel aware and knowledgeable about who we are and what we want in life, it’s easier for us to feel confident and secure in ourselves. 

Having a daily journal practice can help you stay in touch with your inner self, allowing you to go out into the world feeling more confident and in touch with who you are. (And who among us wouldn’t like more of that?)

6. Reduced anxiety and depression

One of the most powerful benefits of journaling is its ability to drastically reduce the impact of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. 

Journaling, especially about your feelings, allows you to express yourself. This catharsis in turn helps you to clear your mind, let go of negative thoughts, reduce stress around potentially triggering events, and so much more. If you suffer from a mental health disorder, its very likely that journaling can benefit you.

How can journaling change your life?

If the benefits of journaling discussed above aren’t enough to convince you that journaling can change your life, there’s also this to consider: journaling allows us to look at our lives from a new perspective. 

We have to consider what we want to write about and discuss it in a way that goes beyond simply feeling. We have to describe and discuss what we want to write about. 

This kind of writing can be extremely valuable for helping us see our lives and our actions from a new perspective. And perspective is everything. 

When I’m feeling completely lost or confused in my life, writing about it is the single most genuinely helpful thing I can do for myself.

Journaling, especially guided journal prompts, can help you regularly consider what is important to you in your life, and where you want your life to go in the future.