The Healing Power of Journaling

JournalateHQ   •   February 26, 2017   •   0 Comment

It is a deeply unfortunate aspect of life that many of us will experience traumatic events at one time or another. Men and women come back from wars scarred, rape and kidnappings occur with shocking frequency, and up until recent years many of us had no clue just how high the proportion is of sexually abused children. Reflecting upon this calls to mind a particularly wise section of the book of Ecclesiastes:

“Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come? And no one has the power over the wind to contain it, so no one has the power over their own death. As no one is discharged in times of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it. All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to is own hurt.”

If you have been the victim of a traumatic event, we urge you to seek the help of medical professionals. Very often we feel as though our situation is hopeless, but we are never truly alone and many are surprised just how much therapy and other treatments can improve their situation. One treatment that has proven effective for many is journaling.

Today we consider a single study published by James Pennebaker and Anna Graybeal in 2001, two psychologists from the University of Texas. The authors divided participant in the study into two groups. One group was asked to directly write about a tramautic event in their life for 15-20 minutes each day, while another group was asked to do the same but about more superficial topics.

The results? The group that wrote directly about their trauma made fewer visits to the doctor, had stronger immune systems, and other reduced markers of stress. The authors also cite their experience in seeing those who journal gain better grades in school and find a job faster among the unemployed.

What is behind such amazing improvements? When people directly confront traumatic episodes they take control of how these events shape them rather than waiting for the strong emotions and fear that those events produce to take control of their lives. In short, journaling has allowed these people to come to terms with what it is they think and feel about these events they had no control.

We should be careful not to exaggerate the benefits of journaling. It is not snake oil that will cure every infirmity that you have ever had, but the evidence is strong that journaling is one component of a healthy psychological life.

Here is the full study:

http://c3po.media.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/45/2016/01/Pennebaker-1999-Patterns-of-language-use-and-personality.pdf