Frat parties, new roommates, lectures, and laundry these are all the wonderful things university life is made of. Like most students, African-American students at Stanford were struggling to adjust to the new phase in their life.
So, Stanford researchers decided to use this situation and study the effectiveness of and an often-prescribed mental health technique, journaling.
They created two groups in one group students were asked to write an essay or make a video about their college life, let’s call them the experimental group, while another group, the control group, was not given any task of recording or writing down about their college life.
In the following months, the researchers continued to study the groups’ performance and ability to adjust. They noted the experimental group, the one’s journaling, seemed to fare much better in their exams compared to the control group.
Charles Dugg of The Power of Habit identifies journaling as a “transformative keystone habit” that activates self-awareness. It has proven to have tremendous benefits in achieving one’s goal, improving attitudes, and behaviours. It helps one in organizing their own day and thus their life while keeping their bigger goal in mind. It helps in identifying the incongruence in life and work towards fixing it.
Not convinced, Okay, here’s another study.
In another study in 2013 researchers created two groups one that maintained a journal and another that did not. The ones who maintained a journal spent 20 minutes journaling for 3 days in a row before their biopsy, while the other group did nothing. The researchers noted that 76% of adults, who spent at least 20 minutes of journaling for 3 days in a row before a biopsy check-up, healed 11 days faster. While 58% of the control group did not recover as fast as the experimental group.
Conscious journaling provides some reflective “me-time” and this helps to reduce stress, leading to lower blood pressure and helps us manage stress effectively in the long run. Writing down our thoughts, feelings and ideas helps us clear our minds, and stop us from intrusive thinking. It gives us a clear picture of our present. Journaling helps wounds heal faster, eases the symptoms of conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, AIDS and cancer.
Journaling also helps improve our memory. Yes, it helps us remember major events as well as small instances. Journaling enhances information intake, processing and retrieval and it clears short-term memory so that other thoughts can be processed.
One research focuses on the effect of expressive writing on working memory.
For those who are unsure about what working memory is- it is one kind of short-term memory that helps us learn and comprehend information while storing the information for only a short period of time.
A study done by the North Carolina University showed that expressive writing improves working memory, giving us more space to process information. Furthermore, the Department of Psychology conducted another experiment- to notice the effect of journaling positive or negative experiences on working memory. They came to the conclusion that individuals who wrote down their negative experiences were less likely to have further intrusive thoughts and enjoyed more benefits of the working memory compared to individuals who wrote about their positive experiences. That means writing about our negative experiences helps us vent it out and allows us to stop overthinking about it, acting as a de-stressor.
However, that does not mean that expressing our positive feelings in a notebook is useless. Many individuals write what is known as “Gratitude Journals” – meaning the whole journal is full of positive thoughts, feelings and mainly, gratitude. An individual will only write what he is thankful for in this journal. Writing for gratitude (could just be one or two things that made him feel grateful) might allow him to turn a rough day into a calmer and a happy one, serving as a de-stressor and reducing anxiety.
Writing down treasured memories, positive thoughts, happy feelings or completed tasks of the day also allows us to boost our self-confidence and self-esteem. It lets us have a record of our day-to-day activities, helping us to understand ourselves better and allowing us to practice self-discipline.
To further advocate the benefits of journaling, many individuals who are well known today for their innovations, creations and ideas kept a journal for their thoughts; from Albert Einstein and Marie Curie to Ernest Hemingway and Frida Kahlo.
So, what are you waiting for, grab a pen and paper and journal away?