21 Benefits of Journaling: Write Your Way to Better Health

Journaling can help enhance your mental and physical wellbeing by encouraging self-reflection and emotional expression. It may also have other health benefits, including boosting immunity, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep.

Benefits of Journaling

Journaling has become a huge trend in the US, with sales of journals growing year on year.

Some see this rise as a response to people’s need to escape from the never-ending stream of digital content.

However there are many journaling health benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing:

Benefit 1: Makes You Happier

1: Makes You Happier

When life is getting you down and you need a little boost, journaling can make you feel happier.

A widely-referenced study by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, encouraged 411 respondents to complete a number of writing exercises.

These included writing about early memories, gratitude journal prompts and reflecting back on a time you felt at your best.

Results showed that happiness levels were increased, and that beneficial effects were still seen one month after the test even for those that didn’t carry on journaling.

Benefit 2: Increases Your Immunity

2: Increases Your Immunity

The Royal College of Psychiatrists published findings in the Cambridge University Press, highlighting the emotional and physical benefits of expressive writing, such as journaling.

They evidenced multiple studies showing how journaling can improve your immunity.

HIV patients were encouraged to write about emotional topics, in one such piece of research in New Zealand.

Incredibly, the simple act over the course of six months led to an increase in their CD4+ lymphocyte cell counts, which help to improve immunity.

Benefit 3: Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety

3: Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety

There are anxiety journals created specifically for people who are looking for new ways to manage symptoms of the condition.

And journaling is scientifically proven to help:

In 2018, a research study was carried out on 70 patients in Pennsylvania with elevated anxiety symptoms.

After just 12 weeks of using journal prompts for anxiety, respondents were shown to have decreased mental distress and improved overall wellbeing.

Benefit 4: Improves Your Physical Fitness

4: Improves Your Physical Fitness

You see journaling as benefiting your mental health, but did you know a fitness journal can impact on your physical health, too?

Health and Wellness expert, Gabrielle Kassel, blogged about her own experience of journaling her workouts.

She noted different benefits, including how it held her accountable, increased her flexibility and boosted her motivation.

Benefit 5: Helps Manage Chronic Pain

5: Helps Manage Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain can be difficult, leading to angry or anxious feelings.

David Hanscom, M.D. recognizes the link between these emotions and chronic pain, and explains how journaling can help:

They are just chronic emotional circuits tied in with your pain… Writing down these thoughts creates an awareness of the source of your anxiety and frustration.

He goes on to describe how:

You now have a chance to choose a different response to a given stressor. As you continue to make more thoughtful, skillful choices, your brain will grow new neurons and form more functional connections.

Benefit 6: Reduces Symptoms of Depression

6: Reduces Symptoms of Depression

If you’re struggling with depression, writing in a mental health journal can have many benefits.

Forty people with major depressive disorder participated in a study in 2013, to understand how expressive writing could help.

Each day for a month they wrote for 20 minutes in a journal, focusing on their thoughts and feelings around an emotional event in their life.

Significant decreases in depression scores were seen, with researchers drawing the conclusion that it should be considered as a complementary therapy for the condition.

Benefit 7: Improves Memory

7: Improves Memory

There are a range of mind and body therapies that can improve your memory, such as yoga and meditation.

However journaling also works!

Rather than working directly on your ability to remember, journaling helps to reduce some of the things that interrupt our working memory capacity.

The Department of Psychology at the North Carolina State University, showed that seven weeks of regular journaling led to a reduction in avoidant thinking and intrusive thoughts.

By journaling-away their anxious feelings, participants were able to free up working memory capacity.

Anxiety journals encourage you to develop new behaviors and coping mechanisms.

Benefit 8: Helps with the Grief Process

8: Helps with the Grief Process

Researchers in Norway found that journal writing could be a valuable tool in the grief process, helping the bereaved make sense and come to terms with their loss.

Their study encouraged writing in groups as well as at home each day.

Journal prompts included, writing a letter to the person you lost, and writing about an event or moment you have experienced that was important in your life with the person who has passed away.

One barrier they identified was that it was hard for people to know where to start, and that journal prompts could be useful.

Benefit 9: Reduces Stress

9: Reduces Stress

Harvard Medical School compiled various studies to show how writing about your emotions, can help you cope with stress.

One set of findings they focused on in particular, looked at 77 gay male college students coping with stress related to their sexuality.

Stressful feelings were shown to be reduced, particular for those who had lower levels of support from friends and family.

Benefit 10: Helps With Recovery From Trauma

10: Helps With Recovery From Trauma

While Harvard Medical School were looking at the impact of journaling on stress, they also studied the evidence on how it can help people deal with trauma.

A project at the University of Texas was highlighted:

It concentrated on 46 college students, who were asked to write about traumatic life events for 15 minutes on four consecutive days.

Results from this group were compared to another group, who were simply asked to reflect on superficial topics.

Amazingly, those who wrote about traumatic events were less likely to use medication and visited the campus health center less often, compared to the other group.

Benefit 11: Improves Your Sleep

11: Improves Your Sleep

If you’re not getting the sleep you need, there are things that are proven to help.

Journaling is one of them:

Psychology professor, Nancy Digdon, looked at gratitude journaling and how it could help university students with persistent sleep problems, brought on by stimulating thoughts before bed.

Sleep journaling for just 15 minutes at nighttime not only helped to improve their sleep, but was also shown to reduce worry.

Benefit 12: Reduces Inflammation

12: Reduces Inflammation

Reduced inflammation is another reason why journaling is good! It has to be one of the most amazing benefits.

During research in 2017, patients with asymptomatic heart failure wrote in a gratitude journal.

Following eight weeks of expressing daily gratitude, inflammation, which is a key maker in the development of heart failure, was reduced.

It was a small sample, with large-scale studies suggested for the future, however it did suggest journaling could have a place in the treatment of heart failure patients.

Benefit 13: Benefits Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

13: Benefits Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

In 2005, a paper was published titled ‘The Effects of Journaling for Women with Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer’.

43 women who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, took part in a 12-week support group trial.

As part of the trial, respondents wrote about their own feelings, and the emotions of those around them, following their diagnosis.

Improvements in both depression and anxiety scores were recorded, leading researchers to suggest that journaling should be recommended to women coping with a new diagnosis.

Benefit 14: Helps Parents with Technology-dependent Children

14: Helps Parents with Technology-dependent Children

Parents with technology-dependent children, particularly mothers, are at a higher risk of developing clinical depression.

Studies have shown how journaling can help:

In 2016, 22 mothers with children supported by medical technology, were asked to write one or two pages about their feelings in a journal. They committed to doing this every day for four weeks.

Results showed it reduced depression scores and also decreased stress among the mothers tested.

Benefit 15: Increases Productivity

15: Increases Productivity

With so many tempting ways to procrastinate, it can be difficult to keep your productivity on track.

Robert Lazarsfeld, Professor of Mathematics at Stony Brook University describes how writing in a journal can have a stimulative effect while working.

Lazarsfeld explains, that even when the journal is for your eyes only, it encourages you to reflect on your work which inspires new associated ideas, meaning you’re less likely to be distracted.

Benefit 16: Encourages Digital Detox

16: Encourages Digital Detox

Though there are journaling apps out there, such as Day One journal, paper journaling can be a good way to switch off from your technology for a little while each day.

Constant notifications and endless content can be overwhelming, so a paper journal offers a welcome escape.

Benefit 17: Great Form of Self-care

17: Great Form of Self-care

There is so much talk these days about the importance of self-care.

By committing to a daily journal, you’re dedicating time to yourself each day, allowing space for thinking and reflection, and encouraging mindful behaviors.

Benefit 18: Low Cost or Free!

18: Low Cost or Free!

Of course there are tons of journals on the market to benefit your mental health, with some starting at just $5.

However to start journaling you don’t need to buy a dedicated book. You can pick up any notebook you have lying around to get started.

You can then use our journal prompts for gratitude, or choose a topic or interest to help inspire your writing.

Benefit 19: No Physical Exertion

19: No Physical Exertion

If you’re restricted because of pain or physical limitations, you can still enjoy the many powerful health benefits of regular journaling.

Benefit 20: Inspires Creativity

20: Inspires Creativity

Journaling can really spark creativity, even for those as young as two years old!

The International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, focused on children aged between two and six years old in a 2014 project.

It showed that nature journaling in these early years can really help to develop ideas and ‘spark wonder’ when it came to ecological literacy.

There are journal prompts for kids that you can use to help them get going!

Benefit 21: Encourages Gratitude

21: Encourages Gratitude

The Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley published a paper on the science of gratitude.

They highlighted all the different benefits expressing gratitude can have on your health, including improved mood, better sleep and even the way it can make us more kind and helpful.

Ready to get started?

Take a look at our collection of gratitude journal prompts and you’re on your way to expressing gratitude every day!

Laura Smith


Laura Smith

Associate Editorial Manager

Specialist health & wellbeing writer, passionate about discovering new technologies & sharing the latest research.