What is the Science Behind Journalling?
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
To-do-lists and post-it notes are everyday examples of how writing things down just always seems to make our priorities - and our minds - a bit clearer.
Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus said that 'it is our attitude towards events, not events themselves which we can control.' For me, journalling (not in a 'Dear Diary' way but more in a reflection and gratitude sort of way) has helped positively shift my attitude and work through and let things go, particularly this year. But what is the scientific reasoning behind the cathartic feeling of putting pen to paper?
A study by UCLA revealed that the association of written words helps to reduce the intensity of an experience. As part of the study, patients were shown an image of an angry face, which in turn caused the amygdala (the region of the brain that allows you to feel certain emotions) to increase in activity. But once candidates in the study began to associate words directly with the images that they were shown, their brain's activity began to wind down. Journalling is also proven to:
Enhance sense of well-being
Reduce symptoms of depression
Improve working memory
Improve symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
Reduce intrusive thoughts & increase emotional regulation
Not everyone will be a fan of journalling but it's just one of the ways that we can process emotions, set and work through their goals, or even make daily plans. For me, it doesn't need to be anything fancy or rigid in routine - sometimes I can't even remember the last time I picked up my diary! But when I do pick it up, here are some of my favourite things to write on:
Gratitude and listing all the things I'm grateful for
Short-term and long-term goal-setting and figuring out the steps I need to take to get there
Acceptance journalling, focussing on the fact that everything happened as it should and that everything is as it should be (not to evade feelings of responsibility but to create feelings of peace about things we can't change)
End of the week/month/year journalling, which helps to mark progress, highlight areas for improvement and things to be grateful for.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes and should not be seen as a substitute for professional psychological, psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.