Tell Your Story: Why Keeping A Journal Is Good For Your Brain

by John Haltiwanger

Writing is undoubtedly the most powerful invention in history. It allows people to record complex emotions, ideas and thoughts, transporting them across both time and space.

Through writing, the world's current inhabitants are offered an intimate glimpse into the minds of people from generations long gone. It's why we have a knowledge of our past, and a foundation for the future.

As a species, humans are not unique in their ability to communicate, but in their capacity to combine communication with imagination.

Words are everything, and writing provides us with the means of immortalizing them. As J.K. Rowling once wrote:

Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.

There is a great deal of truth to this, as multiple studies have shown writing has a number of health benefits, both physically and mentally. Simply put, people who take the time to keep a journal often live happier and longer lives.

Writing is therapeutic.

Life is complicated, and so is the human brain. Our thoughts can become as jumbled as people in crowded metropolitan subway car. It's often difficult to make sense of them all. This is precisely why expressive writing is so good for our brains.

There is nothing quite like pouring your thoughts out onto the page. They become much clearer, like puzzle pieces waiting patiently to be assembled.

It's hard to speak about our most traumatic experiences. It makes you feel vulnerable and exposed. Writing offers a private space to unload these thoughts. It's unhealthy to keep things in, it leads to stress, which can progress into anxiety and depression.

Mental health has an immense impact on physical health. Stress and anxiety can manifest themselves in multiple ways, causing numerous medical issues far beyond the mind. Writing can help to both prevent and relieve these health issues.

This is because it's therapeutic, and helps lower stress levels. In turn, it also reduces blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Simply put, writing is good for your long-term health.

Some studies have shown writing can even help physical injuries heal faster, so there's also evidence it's beneficial in the short-term. When we're stressed, it increases cortisol levels in the body, which slows down the immune system. Through expressive writing, however, we can find relief from those debilitating worries, and help our bodies find strength.

Keep a journal, it might save your life.

Writing by hand is good for your brain.

Writing, in any form, can help relieve stress, but writing by hand is especially effective. We spend far too much time in front of screens, it's important to unplug.

If you feel like writing, grab a pen and paper if you can.

Research has shown that our affinity for smartphones, tablets and computers has decreased our creativity levels and increased our anxiety levels.

Also consider the fact that in this digital world, a journal offers more privacy than a computer or smartphone ever could. You can't hack into ink on a page, it's the most secure form of information on the planet.

There's also evidence that writing by hand helps us remember things better. If you're learning, traveling or experiencing something you never want to forget, write it down.

Writing in a journal will help you return to a natural way of experiencing and remembering things. Social media is convenient, and can be a fun way to both communicate document your life. But it's not real. We aren't who we portray ourselves to be on its various platforms, but a vague reflection of ourselves and who we hope people to see.

Writing allows you to be you, and there are no complicated privacy settings, like on Facebook. You either share your words with people, or you don't, it's completely up to you.

Writing will help grant you both clarity and happiness.

Our minds are a convoluted mixture of memories, thoughts, worries, images and fears. No one has the capacity to keep a lid on it forever. You have to let it out, and on your own terms. Writing allows for the type of exclusive brutal honesty that's necessary for personal growth.

As the late, great, Maya Angelou once wrote:

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Tell your story. You don't necessarily have to shout it on the mountaintops, but at least tell it to yourself.

It takes a significant amount of courage to sit down and be honest about your own thoughts and emotions. It takes even more bravery to translate these sentiments into words on a page.

Keeping a journal, or writing in any form, will help provide you with much needed perspective. You'll have a clearer picture of all you should be grateful for in life, regardless of the hardships you may have faced thus far.

The paradoxical fact about writing is that through expressing immense pain, you can find great joy.

Citations: 5 Ways Keeping A Journal Can Help You De Stress (Huffington Post), What Separates Us From The Animals (Slate), Writing Can Help Injuries Heal Faster (Scientific American), 6 Unexpected Ways Writing Can Transform Your Health (Huffington Post), Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing (BJ Psych ), Why Writing Is So Good for You (Psychology Today), Anxiety and physical illness (Harvard Medical School)