How to Journal: 5 Steps for Better Well Being

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Liz Ferron, MSW, LICSW

Journaling has far reaching benefits

There is no question journaling can assist you in obtaining greater self awareness, focus, and self discipline.  But research suggests there are additional benefits as well. University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker found regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes---and is a tool for preventing and treating disease and illness.

As the number of studies increased, it became clear that writing was a far more powerful tool for healing than anyone had ever imagined.”  -James Pennebaker

JournalingThere are mental health benefits as well. A recent study published in Psychotherapy Research found people who were told to let out their emotions through expressive writing experienced greater reductions in anxiety and depressive symptoms. Similarly, a study published in Behavior Modification, showed expressive writing was associated with significant decreases in generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, including worry and depression.

There are many different ways to approach journaling.

The Center for Journal Therapy suggests the W.R.I.T.E. approach to journaling:

  • W. What do you want to write about?
  • R.  Review or reflect on it. You can start with “I feel…” or “I want…” or “I think…” or “Today….” or “Right now…” or “In this moment…”
  • I.   Investigate your thoughts and feelings. Start writing and keep writing. Follow the pen/keyboard. If you get stuck or run out of juice, close your eyes and re-center yourself. Re-read what you’ve already written and continue writing.
  • T.  Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes. Write the start time and the projected end time at the top of the page.
  • E.  Exit smart by re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it in a sentence or two: “As I read this, I notice—” or “I’m aware of—” or “I feel—” Note any action steps to take.

For me, simply keeping a journal by the side of the bed, and checking in before I sleep about events of the day, or my feelings related to the day, seems to work best. That being said, I have clients who have found taking a particular problem they are grappling with, and writing about their related feelings, seems to help them get off a stuck place and move towards resolution.

What should you use for the actual journal?  There are “old school” blank books and diaries available at most bookstores. Or, if you choose to keep your diary online, check out this handy online tool.

The format is a personal preference, so whether you keep a beautifully bound diary, a spiral notebook, or find resources for on-line journaling, you’re sure to find this a helpful way to maintain health and well being.

We Can Help

VITAL WorkLife is here to support you in every dimension of your life. Give us a call anytime, day or night, for the support you need or to schedule an appointment with a counselor or peer coach.

Call VITAL WorkLife

  • EAP members call 800.383.1908 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App
  • Physician Well Being Resources members call 877.731.3949 or access resources through your VITAL WorkLife App

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