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Balanced: Journaling for Stress Management

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Sarahndipitea)
at 9:44AM Tuesday April 6, 2010
under Stuff We Like

One of the most inexpensive health benefits I've found is journaling. Writing daily, whether it be on my blog or in private, I am a habitual writer. This powerful tool has helped me through some of the roughest points in my life: a rocky marriage, a stressful divorce and a move away from my family. Journaling has been an ancient tradition dating back to the ladies of the Old Japanese courts and continuing through time as letters during the Civil War, personal diaries of Presidents or even now, as journaling publicly on a blog.

For me, journaling is the cheapest therapy I can find.
There is evidence from the University of Texas at Austin on the healing powers of journaling. Psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker has shown that it can strengthen your immune cells (T-lymphocytes), decrease the symptoms of asthma as well as rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that "writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them... reducing the impact of those stressors on your physical health." I agree. Science also shows that the act of writing allows your left brain (analytical and rational) to be released and the right brain is released to create and feel. Writing allows the use of your full brain helping you better understand both the world around you and yourself.

100 Benefits of Journaling lists some of the exact reasons I made writing a daily habit:

  • Releases pent-up thoughts and emotions - You can vent all you want in your own journal, no one has to see how angry you are.
  • Reveals and tracks patterns and cycles - I was able to track my cycles of anxiety and depression thanks to journaling.
  • Helps you identify your values - I journaled about taking a friend for her own abortion and realized where I stood on the issue.
  • Soothes troubled memories - Writing about old situations gives you a way to take them apart and really understand what was going on in the past.

If you're new to journaling, I first suggest a $3 investment: a notebook and a pen. If you want a fancy notebook, check out Letts of London's journals. Interested in functionality over form? Look at your local Office Max for a spiral notebook and begin the journey. If you're more interested in starting a blog, there are hundreds of free blog hosts on the internet. Mashable.com has a list of 40+ Free Blog Hosts that I was particularly impressed by. (Personally, I recommend using WordPress to get started.) Do you journal or keep an online blog? Share the link for some comment-love!

Remember, journaling doesn't have to be perfect, spelled correctly or even structured. Doodle on the pages of your notebook, write down song lyrics that move you, paste newspaper cuttings on the pages and remember to just let it be you.

Have you seen mental health benefits from writing down your thoughts?

When she's not writing for Savings.com, Sarah teaches health and science to high schoolers. You can also find Sarah at WEGO Health, where she is an advocate of improved health conditions for women and children of both the United States and globally and on her personal blog, Sarahndipitea.