Sometimes the simple act of writing things down can help you clarify your feelings and render them less emotionally and physically stressful. Some studies even find that by reducing stress, keeping a journal can improve medical conditions such as asthma.
Simply venting on paper probably isn’t enough, though. The key is not only to write about how you feel but to try to make sense of your emotions and learn from them. That’s the finding of a study from the University of Iowa published in the August 2002 issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. In the study, people who wrote about a negative life experience in just this way were more aware of benefits in their life following the event, such as improved relationships, greater personal strength, spiritual development, and a greater appreciation for life.
Journaling for stress relief doesn’t mean writing down everything that happens to you every day. It means using your journal — whether it’s on paper or on your computer — to write your emotions and your reactions to what’s going on in your life. Sometimes your entries may take the form of a letter to a person with whom you’re having a problem. Other times it may just be free-flow writing, with no stopping for spelling, punctuation, or grammar. The key is knowing that no one but you will see it and giving yourself permission to be totally honest in whatever you say. Then go back and read what you’ve written. Only by learning from the past will you be able to change in the future.
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