Have you ever considered putting your feelings into words? Read to discover 4 science-backed benefits of keeping a journal.
In this digital era, people seldom write the old way –pen to paper. I have personally kept personal diaries since I can recall. When I was younger, I guess I used to write in a desperate attempt to stop time, to make those moments I cherished last forever. With age, I discovered that I actually write for other reasons too. I carry my notebook wherever I go, in case I experience that urgent need to put some feelings in words and I write frantically until I pour it all out. I can’t stop writing until my hand hurts and I’m finally able to purge myself from all my feelings.
Now I know that, although my urge to write was somehow an instinct, there was a physiological reason for my addiction to journaling and we are about to find out.
1. It works as a therapy
UCLA studies claim that writing your feelings down can decrease the intensity of your sadness, anger, and pain. Scientists have found that by writing we reduce the response in the amygdala –the alarm to activate protection systems when in danger– and activate the prefrontal region of the brain. Have you noticed how instinctive is your reaction when you see a red light? You hit the break in no time. Well, when we write, we seem to be hitting the breaks of our emotional response.
2. It makes you less anxious
Anxiety, believe it or not, takes up cognitive resources. This means that if you are anxious about something, you are all the time multitasking to try to make the worries go away. Studies have found that people who write down their worries can work using fewer brain resources as they are able to offload their worries in a paper. After reading about this, I realize that jotting down some of my deepest feelings allows me to organize them, to assess the importance and the extent to which I should worry and a sense of relief immediately overcomes me.
3. It promotes altruism
Creating the habit of regularly writing down feelings of gratitude inspires selfless generosity.
Research has shown that when people write about the things they are grateful for, the reward regions of their brain respond to more charitable giving rather than gaining something for themselves.
4. It can help sleep better
A great to offload thoughts before going to sleep is by writing down a to-do list. Contrary to what one may think, writing about upcoming tasks helps cope with anxiety and makes you sleep better.
I was a journaling advocate before even knowing. As a final personal reflection, another reason why I love to document my feelings is that I can go back to previous notes now and remember who I was then and where I am now. Little by little I’ve overcome difficulties in life and achieved my goals and if I hadn’t taken notes, I would have probably forgotten about it. Although I can say that I do remember vaguely what I did a few years ago, I tend to forget the way I felt, and journaling reminds me of how far I’ve come.
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