People are emotional creatures. You can be happy, sad, angry, confused, scared, excited, and everything in between. Managing your negative feelings can be incredibly difficult. Your bad moods will hamper your productivity and even health as stress compromises your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to high blood pressure, obesity, migraines, heart problems, and more.
Talking to a friend, family, or psychiatrist can help, but you sometimes need to rely on yourself. A journal can work as a personal therapist. It will always be there to listen whenever you need it. Just taking a few minutes each day to jot down your feelings can significantly improve your mood and mental health.
One of the most extensive studies on journaling, conducted by University of Texas professor James Pennebaker, describes how he started to experience turmoil in his marriage and fell into depression. He began writing out his feelings on a typewriter. Soon enough, his mood improved, his relationship blossomed, and he was able to get a better understanding of his life goals.
Pennebaker conducted experiments where participants would spend 20 minutes a day writing about emotional experiences in their lives. These entries ranged from sexual abuse to guilt over accidental deaths. Months later, the journalists began to show signs of improvement. They had better mental and physical health, lower blood pressure, and fewer doctor visits.
Pennebaker’s method is to just write non-stop for 20 minutes. You could write about something that happened today or even something that occurred years ago. Punctuation, grammar, and spelling don’t matter; just get your thoughts out. Then, delete the document or throw away the paper. Rip it up and toss it in the fire if you wish. These ideas and feelings are no longer a part of you.
Another method is to use an emotional journaling technique divided into four steps:
• Write down an emotional experience you’ve had
• Say how you responded to the situation
• Write down your analysis of the situation, digging deep to determine the causes of your emotions and reactions
• Conclude with self-reflection. Ask yourself what you learned and what you would do if you reencountered the situation.
Journaling also helps when trying to make decisions. You might feel conflicted when deciding to start a new class, move to a different country, enter a relationship, or make a significant purchase. Writing down your multitude of thoughts can help organize them into coherent statements. You can quickly weigh pros and cons of each decision.
Writing is an incredibly therapeutic process. Taking a few minutes each day to jot down your thoughts help put them into words and distance yourself from your emotions. It helps you critically analyze yourself and your feelings. Once you start journaling, you’ll notice significant differences in your mood and health.