We have all seen the typical high school movie featuring the teenage girl sitting in her room, writing in her secret diary about her new crush. When you were younger, you may have kept a diary yourself. You probably remember confessing all your thoughts and feelings without any fear of judgement. Maybe you remember how clear your world seemed after putting everything in your head, down on paper. However, most of us stop writing in our diary at some point. We get older, we grow up, and we get caught up in the routine of life. But the concept and benefits of writing in our diaries still apply today.
Dating back to at least 10th century Japan, journaling, keeping letters, or writing in a diary, is considered an ancient tradition. Many successful people throughout history have kept journals such as poet and playwright Oscar Wilde who said: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” No matter your circumstance, writing may be of benefit to your mental health, and all you need is paper and a pen.
In a study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. James W. Pennebaker concluded that expressive writing enabled individuals to learn to better regulate their emotions, organize thoughts, and come to terms with traumatic experiences. Researchers at the University of Chicago even found that writing about thoughts and feelings before an important exam, helped anxious test takers earn better grades than those who did not write. Scientifically speaking, the act of writing accesses your analytical and rational left brain, leaving your right brain free to create, feel, and intuit. In layman’s terms, writing removes mental blocks, allowing you to utilize your entire brain. While writing may seem like a mundane activity, studies like these demonstrate the true power of writing, as it transports your thoughts and feelings to paper, acting as a physical organization of everything inside your head.
Simply put, writing is medicine for your mind. Writing, regardless if it is in a diary, journal, or on a piece of paper, it is a powerful tool, and can benefit your mental health. Just writing down the words inside your head, can lead to you becoming more mindful of your emotions. Particularly if you struggle with anxiety or depression, writing can help you gain control of your thoughts and feelings and significantly improve your mental health.
Writing allows you a healthy way to express yourself and manage overwhelming emotions. You may not realize it, but whether you are writing a poem, a song, or a journal entry about your life, you are helping yourself prioritize problems and fears. You are providing yourself with an opportunity for positivity, self-love, gratitude, all while identifying negative thoughts and behaviours. It provides a way for you to track your emotions, day-to-day, which can help you recognize patterns and stressors. Writing helps you navigate whatever challenges life throws your way.
Through writing, you will discover a so-called “therapy.” Try to write without censor for around 20 minutes a day, spelling mistakes and all; there is no criteria. Do not forget, you are not writing for anybody but yourself; not for a good grade, not to apply for a job, you are writing for your mental health. So, pick up your high school diary, or your brand-new journal, and begin your writing journey.
Written by Maddie Falk