Journaling Is Scientifically Linked to Happiness—Here Are 5 Easy Tips to Start Writing More
Writing down thoughts, feelings, and experiences from your day really can make you feel better—even happier. Journaling thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative, can actually change your brain chemistry to increase feelings of peace and happiness, which tell your brain to stop releasing stress hormones and to start producing calming hormones.
"Writing helps us because it gives us an outlet for our feelings rather than keeping them bottled up, which makes us subject to them in unanticipated ways," explains Laura Lewis Mantell, M.D., a physician specializing in pain and stress management, and a personal and professional coach. "Writing lets us process our internal experiences before we share them with others, and if we write about our feelings and thoughts, we can begin to make meaning and sense of what's happening to and around us."
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Research is on your side to start this healthy habit. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health found that positive-affect journaling (PAJ) decreased feelings of anxiety, depression, and general distress after one month. Another 2018 study published in the journal Innovation in Aging found that writing—specifically expressive writing and gratitude writing—increased feelings of resilience and optimism and even improved physical health. (Researchers from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley found that gratitude is strongly linked to a decreased stress and higher life satisfaction).
Dr. Mantell says the advantages of journaling go far beyond increased happiness: "Benefits include improved health and immune system functioning, better adjustment to life transitions, overcoming adversity, and just generally functioning better."
How to Start Journaling to Boost Happiness
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