Journal Benefits: Improve Your Mood   

Journal Benefits: Improve Your Mood

Woman writing in a notebook, standing outside. Journaling concept.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Gary Small, M.D.

While it might seem old-fashioned, regularly writing down your thoughts, daily events, interesting moments or feelings in a journal has some surprising health benefits – potentially stimulating the brain and lowering stress or depression. 

Researchers have confirmed that writing regularly in a journal helps to lower stress, which can be a contributing risk factor to many medical conditions. It may also help reduce anxiety and depression as well as increase self-confidence.

“Anyone can keep a journal to reap these benefits; it’s not just for writers. Nobody will see your journal, so there’s nobody judging your handwriting, grammar or thoughts,” says Gary Small, M.D., chair of Psychiatry at Hackensack University Medical Center. “And the benefits of journaling can help keep your brain sharp.”

How and Why Keeping a Journal is Helpful

“When you try to hold in your emotions, it may cause undue stress. Getting your thoughts out on paper may help put them in perspective and relieve stress, anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Small.

When you write about your feelings consistently, you begin to learn things about yourself. Keeping a journal may help you:

  • Reinforce memory retrieval processes, particularly when you later review your journal.
  • Create distance from negative or stressful thoughts, because you calmly write them down rather than react to them in the moment.
  • Process your thoughts or emotions more easily, because you can reread your words after writing them and understand what you were feeling at the time.
  • Notice patterns that trigger behaviors and feelings.
  • Uncover feelings about anger, loneliness or other emotions.
  • Recognize events, situations or people that cause stress.
  • Challenge negative, anxious thoughts, when they arise.
  • Prioritize positive relationships. 
  • Gain perspective about your circumstances.
  • Recall more details about your experiences.
  • Become more self-confident in your abilities, which helps to boost your mood.
  • Express gratitude, by recognizing the good things in your life, which boosts mood.

How to Start Keeping a Journal

Journaling doesn’t have to be a major commitment, though many people make it a daily or regular ritual that keeps them grounded. Today, journaling can be done with a pen and paper, or with a computer or smartphone. The important thing is to write a few thoughts in a place you can refer to them later and reflect.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of keeping a journal, you can begin anytime. Here’s how to get started:

  • Find a secure place for your journal. Keep it somewhere where others won’t see it, since it’s just for you. Stash some pens with it, so it’s easy to write, whenever you grab it.
  • Consider creating a digital journal. If you’d rather keep your journal on your phone, keep the document password-protected. 
  • Decide how often to journal, then follow through. If you plan to write daily, do it at the same time of day. If you write less often – once or twice weekly – you should still reap benefits.
  • Write about whatever is on your mind. Journal about your thoughts and feelings, rather than what you did that day. Revealing your feelings in writing may help you notice patterns or solve personal problems.
  • Get creative. It’s okay to doodle, draw pictures, or make mind maps to help you interpret your feelings. 
  • Write like nobody’s watching... because nobody is. Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation errors, strong opinions or self-realizations. Journaling should help you get to know yourself better, without outside interference.
  • Lean into your feelings to make personal discoveries. Journaling may help you resolve issues easily that previously seemed overwhelming. 

If you are not typically the kind of person who writes down their feelings, give it a try for a few weeks to get started. Writing down what you did and felt today could be helpful to look at in 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years; you’ll be able to see how you have grown and reflect fondly back on earlier moments.

If journaling sounds like too much of a commitment, think of it as jotting down a few sentences in a photo album of words and thoughts, rather than images. And as they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words – and the reverse is surely true.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


Subscribe to get the latest health tips from our expert clinicians delivered weekly to your inbox.

We use cookies to improve your experience. Please read our Privacy Policy or click Accept.