Want to stay healthy? Start journaling

Want to stay healthy? Start journaling

Benjamin Franklin, Anne Frank and Ronald Reagan are just a few of the many famous people known for keeping handwritten journals before technology boomed. Pen and paper may be old-fashioned, but recent studies show these tools are able to improve one’s physical well-being in a way a computer can’t.

The American Psychological Association has found increasing evidence that writing about emotions and stress can boost immune functioning. Their studies proved that this is especially true in patients with such illnesses as HIV/AIDS, asthma and arthritis.

“Writing is a simple way to personally come to terms with a traumatic or taxing event,” says Dr. Brian Waxler, a psychologist on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “By regularly tracking experiences and personal thoughts, you can reduce the negative impact of stressors on your physical health.”

Journaling is also beneficial to the health of your brain. As you write, the left side of your brain is occupied and focused on the physical action while the right brain is available to feel and create. This simultaneous brain activity helps to remove mental blocks and utilize more brainpower.

“This can lead to better understanding yourself, others and the world around you,” Dr. Waxler says.

“Consistent writing will also allow a person to think more clearly and rationally so that he or she may be able to relax or resolve problems calmly and efficiently,” Dr. Waxler says.

The world may be a busy place, but all you need is a pen, paper, and five minutes to get started. Still not sure? Here are three simple tips to get started:

  1. Shortly after waking up, grab a pen and write down a few thoughts. This can set a positive mood for the entire day.
  1. If you happen to be a night owl, before turning off the light jot down a couple reflections from the day.
  1. Choose expressive and meaningful words to interpret your personal experiences. This way, the writing is more therapeutic and beneficial.

Begin to journal and see just how quickly you are able to clarify your thoughts, reduce stress and boost your immune system. In addition, you will create a collection of memories to look back on or to be passed down from one generation to the next. Who knows? Maybe someday your journal will be added to the famous collection.

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Comments

4 Comments

  1. very interesting! my friend writes in her journal every morning and she says he always makes her feel better

  2. Rebecca Taylor July 10, 2014 at 1:22 pm · Reply

    I have started writing in journals so many times but I can never seem to keep up with it.

  3. Wow. I used to journal, especially through difficult times in my life. But I never realized the impact it could be having on my health. I’ll have to starte making time for that–along with the gym. One thing I wonder–why is writing with pen and paper more valuabel than electronically?

    • Thanks for the question! Physically writing grabs the attention of your brain more aggressively than typing on a keyboard, therefore, stimulating more parts of the brain: the Reticular Activating System (RAS), Broca’s area, and the bilateral inferior parietal lobules. If you notice when you type, you can do it almost mindlessly if you really try or are distracted. Longhand allows you to go slower, think things out, and utilize more brain power. This is why teachers many times say to write your notes rather than type. Not to say typing a journal doesn’t do anything, because it does! But if you want the full effect, physically writing is the way to go!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.