The Science Behind Journaling

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The Science Behind Journaling

How the pen is oh so mighty

Imagine for a moment you are sitting at a table, it could be in your house or in a boutique coffee shop, perhaps it's on the train to work. You are staring at a blank lined page of a note-book, twirling your pen around your fingers, wondering for the life of you what to write. Nothing except starting with ‘Dear Diary’ comes to mind, but you don’t want to write that because it’s too corny, that's what you wrote in your diary a kid during that one summer you were forced to write one as a homework assignment by your school. So you clap the book shut and think to yourself this is a waste of time, grabbing your phone to check the latest text you got on your friend group chat tossing the book aside until the next time you need to vent out your problems. Does this sound familiar?

Getting to know yourself

A pen coupled with paper can serve as a powerful life tool.

Journaling (or keeping letters or diaries) is an ancient tradition, one that dates back to at least 10th century Japan.

There’s a lot of noise in our lives, drama in relationships; making plans for the weekend; Sunday breakfast with the family; what to eat for dinner; what trades our sports team is making. In the gaps, we fill it with a ridiculous amount of content consumption, well at least I do.

I found my a while ago asking myself so at what point in all the chaos that is daily life do we get to spend ‘time’ getting to know ourselves?

I did some research and realised, though some will say it's overrated but the simple act of journaling, putting pen to paper and expressing one’s thoughts in real-time is an overlooked superpower not just for the online generation but for anyone.

It's the freezing of thoughts in time, physically writing them down to have something tangible that you can read, allows us to begin building up a coherent narrative of how we perceive the world. By taking the emotions of experiences integrating them into our overall perspective on life. A perspective that is hard to truly deal with when we keep everything locked upstairs, in the attic of unbounded lawless space that is our minds.

Depression and Anxiety

Mental Health is a rife topic in the current landscape of society, and rightfully so. We are the most unhappy generation that has ever existed in the history of humankind. The constant need for feedback from others has rewired us to the point that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.

Journaling is by no means a one-hit-wonder, if you feel like the world is mounting against you, life is falling apart, each time you try to piece it back together, it turns to sand, slipping through your fingers then journaling may help. A 2006 study by Stice, Burton, Bearman, & Rohde, showed that writing in a journal can be as effective as cognitive-behavioural therapy when it comes to reducing the risk of depression in young adults.

Another study by Hasanzadeh, Khoshknab, & Norozi found that the act of journaling decreased anxiety in women who were suffering from multiple sclerosis, a lifelong condition that affects the brain and nerves.

It also can reduce intrusive thoughts & increase emotional regulation. Meaning it helps with clarity of mind, not letting those thought degrading thoughts pop into your head at unwanted times in addition to improving the ability to exercise control over your emotional state. (Davidson et al., 2002)

If someone assured you the simple act of spending 15 minutes a day for the week would result in:

Improved immune system functioning

Reduced blood pressure

Improved lung function

Improved liver function

Improved mood/affect

The feeling of greater psychological well-being

Reduced depressive symptoms

Reduced post-traumatic intrusion & avoidance symptoms

Positive social and behavioural outcomes

Improved working memory

Improved sporting performance

Altered social and linguistic behaviour

And potentially many more, wouldn't you at least give it a try


Depression and Anxiety are usually, when left to compound over years, accompanied by negative thoughts feasting on the last drops of joy that one has in their life. It's a soul-destroying experience that I would not wish upon anyone.

Though the process of journaling, the development of a coherent narrative helps you reorganise and re-structure old memories, making them less traumatic. In short, when repeatedly exposed to the memories it helps to dampen their impact but allows the ability to look back on the written emotion mean you are not a slave to the mind games the mind can play.

Personally, I believe journaling is overlooked as a form of dealing with the chaos of life because people in society consider the act to be too old-fashioned, instead, they want trend-hop staying with the latest and greatest of the time.

So next time you feel like you're losing the plot and need to make sense of the what is going on in and around you, try starting off with dear diary. Only you control this narrative!

Do you think you’ll give journaling a go? Let me know in the comments or drop me a message on any of the following social networks. I would love to hear from you! — Facebook