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Why Journaling Can Help with Stress Relief

by Jacki Andre November 07, 2018

Why Journaling Can Help with Stress Relief

Dear Sparkly Unicorns:

Ugh. Stress.

Seriously. That idiom about nothing being certain except death and taxes? That needs to be revised. I’m thinking: “Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and stress.” Amirite? Although, maybe it’s not true for everyone. After all, according to Gallup, 4% of the American population say they never feel stressed.Then again, perhaps 4% of the American population is engaged in a little bahooey. Ya think?

Stress is a sad fact of life but there are all kinds of things that you can do to manage it. Popular suggestions include increasing your physical activity (hello yoga!), eating healthier stuff (blech, kale), and getting appropriate amounts of shut-eye (give me call when you figure out how to do that - I need tips!). But, because I’m here on behalf of SohoSpark I’m gonna pitch journaling.

And I’m not even engaging in bahooey. Honest. Writing in a personal journal is a proven and effective method of managing stress.

How Journaling Helps to Manage Stress

No one knows for sure why journaling is an effective stress-buster. But there are several theories that make a lot of sense.

  1. When you write in detail about events and feelings, it’s a lot like talking to a therapist.It’s an emotional release to get those thoughts out. It’s also a way to process things and understand why you’re feeling the way you are. Bonus points if you use your lined journal to reflect on possible solutions.
  2. Journaling gives you the chance to reframe your narrative. Don’t like the way your story is unfolding? Change it! As you jot your words down in your personal journal, choose them carefully. Give your stories a positive spin. This helps to relieve stress because it makes you feel like you’re in control. It can also get you out of a negative, ruminative mindset. If you need some guidance to get started, check out this blog piece by moi.
  3. The safe, private space allows you to release your deepest, darkest worries and fears. As I explained in a past blog, personal journals “provide a safe space where we can express ourselves openly and honestly, without fear of judgment. They give us a place to say those things that we would struggle to put into words or have difficulty saying.” Your journal should always be for your eyes only, so that you resist the urge to filter and edit.
  4. As a terrific piece at The Huffington Post points out, “sometimes there's nothing better to quiet a busy mind than to unplug your phone and computer for an hour and sit alone with your thoughts.”

As an added bonus, journaling is highly accessible. While you should always seek professional care for mental health concerns, a journal is a terrific auxiliary tool. And it’s a tool that’s available to virtually everyone. If geography, income, or disability limits your access to professional health care, keep your journal on standby. And, if you have difficulty expressing yourself through the written word, turn to an art journal for the same benefits.

How to Max Out the Stress-Busting Benefits of Journaling

Just the act of unplugging, sifting through your thoughts, and brainstorming solutions provides immediate stress relief. But, there are a few things that you can do in your writing journal for extra benefit.

Gratitude Journal

Whether you keep a journal specifically for gratitude or you incorporate gratitude entries into a personal diary, focusing on gratefulness is a great way to lighten the load of stress. As Yoni Cohen points out over at Happify Daily, studies show that “focusing on feelings of contentment and satisfaction naturally counters stress, and leaves you feeling much more grounded and able to deal with whatever life throws at you.”

As you practic gratitude, you’ll find yourself seeking the bright side of things. As well, you’ll be recording positive thoughts that you can look back at later. Both of these things set you up to increase happiness and decrease stress.

For tips and inspo on gratitude journaling, check out my blog, “The Joyful Benefits of a Gratitude Journal.”

Stream of Consciousness Writing

Tamara Rahoumi makes a great point over at Rise and Shine: stream of consciousness writing is quite similar to meditation. She explains: “when you journal this way, you give your mind a total break from thinking, let alone stressing, as it instead focuses all of its (literal) brain power on keeping the words flowing. In a sense, this kind of journaling allows you to get lost in the words.” Meditation alone is a proven stress reliever. The act of releasing your thoughts to the page offers stress release as well. Kind of a two-for-one deal. #TotallyWorthIt

Writing Prompts

Sometimes writing prompts can help you dig a little deeper or look at things from a new perspective. This can lead to the discovery of more effective solutions. If this sounds appealing, go ahead a google up “stress relief journal prompts.” There are lots of great suggestions out there; some of the ones that speak to me are:

  1. What do you think is the worst thing that will happen? How likely is it that this will actually happen?
  2. List three of your personal strengths.
  3. How could your anxiety be helpful?
  4. What kind of self-care activities are you doing? Are they effective?
  5. Imagine yourself in the most peaceful and stress-free situation EVER. Now write about it.

Stress can get overwhelming at times, but journaling can help, especially if you use certain methods to max out the benefits.

If you already journal specifically for stress relief, what tips and tricks work best for you? Drop me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

This blog post was written in recognition of Stress Awareness Day, which is celebrated annually on the first Wednesday each November.

 Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

Jacki Andre
Jacki Andre

Jacki Andre has been journaling for over 30 years and still has her jam-packed Judy Blume Diary to prove it. Somewhere along the way, she started writing for reals, and is now a published author and Huffington Post blogger. In her spare time, Jacki supports dog rescue, advocates for disability rights, and educates other drivers via hand gestures about the importance of using turn signals. She keeps in shape by chasing joy (and her ‘80s teen idols) in earnest.


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