I’ll admit it – I always thought ‘journaling’ was kind of cheesy and ineffective. I imagined that if I did journal regularly, I’d have lots of entries beginning with “Dear Diary…” and going on to detail boring day-to-day exploits including the pizza I consumed and which Netflix show I watched that night. I have journaled occasionally, and I have several books filled with my entries dating back to junior high school. Most of these entries are about boys – the boys I liked, the boys I dated and why those boys I dated were being so damn hard-to-decipher. Since I’ve been in a serious long-term relationship, I haven’t journaled as much. In fact, the current notebook I use has entries that date back to 2008, so clearly I haven’t been journaling much. But I do experience a lot of day-to-day anxiety about things in my life: my career, friendships, moving to a new city – all good subjects to journal about.
After reading this article, Writing Your Way to Happiness, in the NY Times, I really felt like it was time I journaled more. The article was the “most emailed article” on the NY Times website for about a week, so clearly people are excited about this research. Basically, the gist of the study is that if you write about your problems, you can more easily tackle them, which leads to better overall health. Essentially, the study is saying that if you write about your problems, you can more easily “edit” the problems in your life.
Here’s a quote from the article that encapsulates the study well:
Much of the work on expressive writing has been led by James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. In one of his experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics. Afterward, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center.
“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.” – Tara Parker-Pope
Maybe there’s something about purging your thoughts onto paper that helps. Like a mental detox. Or maybe it’s being able to get a new perspective on your problems that helps you make more effective choices.