The Positive Benefits of Journaling

The Positive Benefits of Journaling


Research shows that journaling can improve both your mental and physical health―when it follows some simple rules. It's not about just recounting the facts of your life story. That kind of journaling doesn't provide the health pluses. You have to go deeper.

Journaling can help you digest the past, process the present, and plan for the future.

It can decrease negative emotions and increase positive ones.

Through my own experiences using journaling to improve my life, studying the research done by others to uncover the writing prompts that are the most useful, and decades of helping clients process pain and increase happiness, I've developed a series of "Silver Lining Journals and Workbooks." 


What's In This Post

Mental Health Benefits of Journaling
Physical Health Benefits of Journaling
Research-Based Journaling Techniques for Processing Emotional Pain
Silver Lining Journals, Workbooks, and Planners 
References for Benefits of Journaling, Best Journaling Techniques, Therapeutic Journal Prompts, Journal Writing Ideas, and How to Journal for Mental Health


Mental Health Benefits of Journaling

Journaling can help you make sense out of the world and your experiences. It can increase your happiness and reduce your stress. 

Journaling has the potential of:

  1. clearing your mind

  2. stopping negative thoughts rumination

  3. releasing painful emotions

  4. increasing feel-good emotions

  5. improving self-awareness

  6. enhancing your sense of well-being

  7. processing current and past difficulties, challenges, and traumas

  8. providing insight

  9. helping make sense of life experiences 

  10. building emotional intelligence

  11. revealing negative experiences' benefits or silver lining

  12. giving direction for the future 

  13. improving stress-resilience

  14. reducing anxiety

  15. lifting depression


A personal journal is an ideal environment in which to ‘become’.  It is a perfect place for you to  think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream. Brad Wilcox quote about the positive benefits of journaling


Physical Health Benefits of Journaling

While the psychological and emotional benefits of journaling may easily make sense to you, it may be more surprising to learn that research shows that journaling even improves journalers' physical health.  

Australian researchers, Karen Baikie and Kay Wilhelm, offered this list of positive physical health outcomes revealed through their examination of journaling studies done by others (1): 

  1. fewer stress-related visits to the doctor

  2. improved immune system functioning

  3. reduced blood pressure

  4. improved lung function

  5. improved liver function

  6. fewer days in the hospital 

  7. improved sporting performance

  8. improved working memory

  9. higher student grades

These physical improvements seem to be a positive side-effect of journaling's psychological and emotional benefits: relieving your stress, clearing your mind of cobwebs, and lifting your mood. 


Research-Based Journaling Techniques for Processing Emotional Pain


“Writing is medicine. It is an appropriate antidote to injury.
It is an appropriate companion for any difficult change.”
—Julia Cameron


The mental and physical journaling benefits mentioned in the lists above aren't connected to just any form of journaling. There are 3 key components to journaling that provide the most benefit.  

In the 1980’s, journaling research pioneer, James W. Pennebaker, found that people’s physical health improved after they wrote about stressful situations, but only if the writing included their emotions. Study participants who wrote about stressful events but did not include their emotional experience did not experience improved physical health. (2)


As the number of studies increased, it became clear that writing was a far more powerful tool for healing than anyone had ever imagined. James W. Pennebaker quote about benefits of journaling


Subsequent studies by Pennebaker and other researchers, such as Susan Lutgendorf, support that the mere recounting of facts related to stressful events isn’t as helpful as journaling that includes these 3 key components:

  1. emotions,
  2. thoughts, and
  3. insights.

When all three components are present in the journaling, the writers tend to improve physically and psychologically (less illness, less stress, less depression, better grades . . .). (3-8)

My experiences from a lifetime of dealing with my own traumas and challenges, and helping lots of my counseling clients deal with theirs, leads me to the same conclusions as these researchers.



Silver Lining Journals, Workbooks, and Planners 

I love journals, workbooks, and planners for their high value in making people's lives better. They are an inexpensive way to add tools to your mental health toolbox. I have published several of these types of books and plan to keep adding to the collection. Here are some of my offerings:

Learn, Let Go, Lighten Up Silver Lining Emotional Detox Journal/Workbook

Becoming Calm: Silver Lining Reduce Anxiety and Increase Stress Resilience Workbook and Journal

Increasing My Happiness Quotient: Silver Lining Joy Journal & Workbook

Roses, Thorns and Buds Silver Lining Journal for Daily Joys, Challenges and Inspirations

From To-Do to Ta-Done! Silver Lining 6-Month Daily To-Do List Planner

Discovering How Foods Affect Me: Silver Lining Elimination Diet Journal


Learn, Let Go, Lighten Up: Silver Lining Emotional Detox Journal & Workbook


 Becoming Calm: Silver Lining Reduce Anxiety and Increase Stress Resilience Workbook and Journal

 Increasing My Happiness Quotient: Silver Lining Joy Journal & Workbook




References for Benefits of Journaling, Best Journaling Techniques, Therapeutic Journal Prompts, Journal Writing Ideas, and How to Journal for Mental Health

(1) Baikie, K., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346. doi:10.1192/apt.11.5.338 

(2) Pennebaker, J. W., & Beall, S. K. (1986). Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95(3), 274–281. doi:10.1037//0021-843x.95.3.274

(3) Lepore, S. J., & Smyth, J. M. (Eds.). (2002). The writing cure: How expressive writing promotes health and emotional well-being. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

(4) Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8(3), 162–166. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.1997.tb00403.x

(5) Pennebaker, J. W., Mayne, T. J., & Francis, M. E. (1997a). Linguistic predictors of adaptive bereavement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(4), 863–871. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.72.4.863

(6) Smyth, J. M. (1998). Written emotional expression: Effect sizes, outcome types, and moderating variables. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(1), 174–184. doi:10.1037//0022-006x.66.1.174

(7) Smyth, J. M., Stone, A. A., Hurewitz, A., & Kaell, A. (1999). Effects of writing about stressful experiences on symptom reduction in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. JAMA, 281(14), 1304. doi:10.1001/jama.281.14.1304

(8) Ullrich, P. M., & Lutgendorf, S. K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244–250. doi:10.1207/s15324796abm2403_10

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  • Ann Silvers
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