The science of journalling and why it is so beneficial

The science of journalling and why it is so beneficial

Many people haven’t written in a diary since childhood, yet many wellbeing professionals are now promoting the positive health effects of keeping a journal, including improved mental health, better stress management and a stronger immune system.

Whether you want to keep track of your goals, create better habits, or create space to reflect on your values and beliefs , a journal can be a powerful and useful tool.

But what exactly is journalling, and how can you start to reap the benefits?

There are many styles and methods to choose from, however journalling is essentially creating time in your day to think about your life and writing down what comes to mind.

This can be on scrap paper which you then keep or discard, the notes section on your phone, or a notebook dedicated to your journal entries.

The content of your journal will be personal and different for everyone so allow yourself to write freely with the knowledge that no one ever needs to read your entries.

Notice what time of day you enjoy journalling most, the physical space where your thoughts flow most easily, and what you get the most out of writing about so that you can curate a practice that works for you.

Journalling is good for maintaining mental health

While journalling can benefit everyone, it is especially recommended for those who experience anxiety, depression, or stress.

The act of acknowledging and recording your thoughts can improve your mental health by creating space to work through fears, doubts or worries, and identifying your stressors so that you can address them.

Try not to place any pressure on the outcome of your journalling, and rather appreciate the experience of observing your thoughts and emotions without judgement.

Importantly, if you are struggling with serious mental health challenges, keeping a journal should be viewed as a complimentary, not substitute, solution for seeking the support of a mental health professional.

Journalling allows you to clarify your thoughts

If your head sometimes feels full of loud, competing thoughts and demands, you’re not alone. The relentless fast pace of modern life leaves many people feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.

A journal provides a safe place to unpack your inner dialogue and reflect on important issues, without the pressure of an audience.

Particularly when discussing sensitive topics, the act of freely writing down how you feel can be transformative, fostering the confidence to speak your truth in other settings.

It can also be a cathartic experience, where you allow yourself to feel emotions, like anger, fear or resentment, that can be stigmatised in our society rife with toxic positivity.

Try not to resist any challenging emotions that arise, and instead try to notice and accept them with curiosity and compassion.


RELATED: 5 ways journalling heals the soul and mind

The science of journalling and why it is so beneficial

Journalling helps you connect to gratitude

Fostering a sense of gratitude can lead to better relationships, greater job satisfaction, and improved physical and psychosocial wellbeing.

However, human brains are hardwired with a negativity bias, which makes negative experiences register more strongly and linger for longer than positive ones.

This inherent bias developed as an evolutionary survival mechanism and can explain why happy moments can be quickly forgotten, yet failure, rejection or humiliation can play on the mind for years.

Journalling can counter this negatively skewed worldview by encouraging the conscious seeking out of the positive moments in life.

Some tips for an effective gratitude journalling practice include starting small, as small as giving thanks for the pen you are using to write with, and being as specific as possible about what you are thankful for.

For example, if you are grateful for your friends, list each individual friend and why you are grateful for them.

This helps create a stronger emotional response and raise your awareness of just how many great things exist in your life.

How to build the habit of journalling

Building new habits can be difficult without a plan to help you succeed.

Prepare your materials, which may be a notebook and a pen, or simply a word document or note in your smartphone. Then commit to the practice by setting a goal, such as journalling for five minutes every day for a week.

Your focus should be on forming the habit itself, so avoid any expectations or attachment to the outcomes of your practice.

Build prompts to journal into your day, by setting calendar reminders or alarms, or linking this new habit to something you already do each day, such as sitting down to write for five minutes immediately after brushing your teeth.

Be kind to yourself if you feel unsure what to write or like you’re repeating yourself at first. Sitting with your thoughts and emotions can be a new and uncomfortable experience, which is why it feels easier to push them away or seek distractions.

Yet with patience and practice, journalling can create a sense of calm and self-compassion, empowering you to remain in control and safe in the knowledge that you have all the tools and wisdom you need to handle any challenges life sends your way.

Emma Lennon

Emma Lennon


Emma Lennon is a passionate writer, editor and community development professional. With over ten years’ experience in the disability, health and advocacy sectors, Emma is dedicated to creating work that highlights important social issues.