Writing in a personal journal can and should be used as a personal stress-reduction technique. It's been proven by researchers, doctors, and counselors for decades - the power of writing in a journal (longhand) can improve your outlook, help you deal with challenging emotions, and oh yeah - reduce stress.

Therapists and counselors have used journaling as one of their time-honored tools to help artists and thinkers, as well as creative, innovative, and successful people from all walks of life.

You've heard of the stress hormone cortisol, haven't you? Cortisol's negative effects don't stop at your physical health - the damage high levels of cortisol can do to your mind is well-known throughout the medical community.

Some of the benefits of writing in a journal include improvements in cardiovascular health, memory enhancement, boosting your concentration, and strengthening your immune system to help you fight off illnesses and diseases.

In lowering your stress levels, journaling opens the door to some significant psychological benefits - there are three very important ones we'll discuss here, along with some activities you can incorporate into your daily life to extend the benefits.

Three Important Positive Benefits of Daily Journaling

Benefit 1: Increase and Deepen your Self-Knowledge

The more you know about yourself, the less effect worry, and anxiety will have on you. When you're secure in what you know about who you are and what you're capable of, the fewer times you'll succumb to uncertainty and lack of self-esteem. 

Gaining insight into yourself helps you to be clearer and more certain about your choices, and you'll also understand your emotions better. Your increased level of self-knowledge lowers your stress because you stop worrying about those emotions you have.

You'll stop (or greatly reduce) questioning decisions that you've made, because your journaling practice has given you the answers and information you need to confirm that your mind, heart, emotions and your spirit are all aligned with your decisions.

Benefit 2: Increased Ability to Solve Your Own Problems

Whatever you're facing in life, journaling can help you figure out solutions to your problems. The process requires you to slow down and translate your emotions and your thoughts into words on a sheet of paper or in a notebook.

Writing the entries by hand requires TIME. Time to think, to analyze, to feel the emotions and to express yourself. Your entries contain essential information that helps you recognize what's important to you and where your reserves of strength are - both of which can inform the decisions you make to solve challenges.

Reviewing past entries can help you identify and work through obstacles and triggers that have affected your choices in the past. What past influences have you been subjected to that shifted your thought processes? What past experiences have colored your problem-solving ideas and principles?

If you begin a daily journaling practice, all those answers will be contained in our journal - and they'll be your thoughts, your emotions, and when you pay attention to them, your solutions. Creating better solutions to your challenges now and in the future will lower your stress levels and boost your self-confidence.

Benefit 3: Process your Emotions to Enhance Your Emotional Health

Feelings...we all have them, and yet, we're not all equipped to deal with them on the same level. Some people hide them and stuff them down, others let them all "hang out" and show them to everyone...even those who simply don't care.

Journaling about your feelings is an effective way to process and deal with your feelings. The better able you are to identify what's on the surface as well as what's beneath the surface and their causes, the better you can manage your reactions. Simply reacting out of blind emotions isn't always the answer - far better to take some time and consider the effects and the ramifications of your actions when they are driven solely by emotion.

When you have less emotional turmoil - when you can exercise more control over your feelings - you'll experience less stress in your life. Who couldn't use a little (or a LOT) less stress in their life?

Extend and Amplify the Benefits of Journaling with these Stress Reducing Journal Activities

Let's talk about practicalities and examples, shall we? There are lots of ways to use a daily journaling habit to relieve and reduce your stress - check out these options and variations. Try one or more of them - starting with the ones that feel most do-able for you and graduating to those that feel a little more challenging as your need arises.

  • Track your To-Dos: Your journal can help you remember what tasks are ahead of you for the day, document important milestones, and your progress toward your goals. Developing or adopting a system to manage the many details of your perfectly imperfect life helps you lower your stress around your life and experience less worry about unfinished business.
  • Focus on Gratitude: Keeping a daily gratitude journal (or writing about what you are grateful for in your daily journal) helps you recognize and focus on the positive aspects of your life. This will certainly help to reduce anxiety and improve your outlook. Recognizing what you have to be grateful for encourages celebration of those parts of your life and can help increase your appreciation of them.
  • Recognize Your Emotional State: Releasing your feelings onto the pages of your journal by writing about them helps you cope. The release of sensitive emotions requires you to process what you're feeling and can help to let go of the negative feelings. Dumping the negative out onto paper will help you move on in a less stressed state of mind - clearer and less cluttered.
  • Better Solutions to Challenges through Journaling: Writing about pesky problems or issues in life helps to reduce stress because the clarity you gain helps you lower your stress levels, allowing better solutions to come to mind. When you're stressed, your brain can't process information and input as effectively - a technique like reflective journaling, where you intentionally take time to look back at past events and experiences along with the emotions and thoughts you had at the time. Looking back allows you to grow and learn from what's happened, and your journal entries will help lead the way to helpful solutions.

Don't let yourself be consumed with worrying about what you should write - open your heart and mind, be honest about your feelings, and when you open the door, your brain will go to work and help reduce your stress levels.

About the Author Dianne Daniels

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and currently residing in Norwich, Connecticut, Dianne M. Daniels' mission is to empower women 50+ to Amplify their Self-Confidence, Deepen their Self-Knowledge, Inspire Creativity, and Glide into the next phase of their lives with the Power of Journaling, Affirmations, and Assessments.

You can learn how to use these time-tested proven practices to create and manifest the life you want (and deserve) to live.

Dianne is an ordained Unitarian Universalist Minister and holds a Master of Divinity degree from Starr King School for the Ministry. She's an avid reader, a lover of old houses (she renovated an 1850s vintage Greek Revival home with her family) and has been journaling since the age of 9.

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