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WHY JOURNAL? The Science of Journaling
The Science of Journaling Explained – Why It Works

The benefits of journaling have been scientifically proven to:

•    Improve physical health and mental well-being
•    Diminish symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic, substance abuse, PTSD, asthma, arthritis, and many other health conditions and disorders
•    Improve cognitive functioning
•    Make therapy more effective
•    Strengthen the immune system, preventing a host of illnesses
•    Counteract many of the negative effects of stress
•    Finally, journaling is for everyone. It just “feels good” to write

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Online Journaling at My Therapy Journal

We know, a long read…  But we are very serious about Journaling.

Journaling, keeping a diary, expressive writing… all terms used to describe something so simple, and yet so powerful.  For decades and perhaps even centuries people have been placing their thoughts, memories, fears, hopes, frustrations, joys, anxieties, plans, sorrows, and victories down in writing.  Having a record of one’s experiences and states, and the mere act of transforming these into legible words, provide people with a sense of relief and/or joy.  For some people journaling is fun, for others it is health, and for many it is both.

Expectedly enough, scholars of various disciplines have studied the effects of journaling and found that it provides significant benefits to not only one’s psychological well being, but also one’s physical health and physiological functioning (Smyth, 1998).  Several researchers for example (Greenberg et al., 1996; Spera et al., 1994; Pennebaker and Francis, 1996), have shown that people who journal report having significantly less distress (i.e. suffering, sorrow, pain), feeling less depressed, and having an overall better mood.  Additionally, individuals also report that journaling changes they way they behave towards and around other people (Pennebaker & Graybeal, 2001).  Other studies have found that people who journal for extended periods of time (months) also report an increase in emotional well-being (Park & Blumberg, 2002), a better day-to-day mood (Páez et al, 1999), and fewer symptoms of depression (Lepore, 1997). 

For people who suffer from symptoms related to post-traumatic stress  (PTSD), journaling apparently reduces their flashbacks, nightmares, and unexpected memories and helps them slowly re-connect to activities and places that they’d otherwise want to avoid (Klein & Boals, 2001; Sloan & Marx, 2004a).  Not only so, but the benefits of journaling have also been found for people who have survived a natural disaster (Smyth et al, 2002), who are experiencing the loss of a loved one (O’Connor et al, 2003), who have alcoholic parents (Gallant & Lafreniere, 2003), who have a child suffering from a chronic illness (Schwartz & Drotar, 2004), who recently went through a relationship breakup (Lepore & Greenberg, 2002), for students having suicidal thoughts (Kovac & Range, 2002) and women struggling with their body image (Earnhardt et al, 2002).  Interestingly though, it’s been also found that no particular personality type or individual difference appears to predict who benefits from journaling and who does not (Christensen et al., 1996).  This entails that it may benefit people, regardless of whether or not they are someone with the above-mentioned difficulties or if they are “the journaling type of person.”

This is particularly noticeable when one looks at the way in which journaling is found to affect people at the physical level.  As surprising as it may sound, several aspects of how one’s immune system functions are benefited by continually journaling about emotional and personal topics (Petrie et al, 2004) – including T-helper cell growth, antibody response to the Eptstein-Barr virus, and antibody response to the Hepatitis B vaccinations (Pennebaker, 1997).  For this same reason, people are found to have fewer overall illness-related visits to the hospital (King & Miner, 2000), and number of days spent in the hospital if receiving services (Norman et al, 2004).  Not only so, but one’s liver function (Francis & Pennebaker, 1992) lung function  (Smyth et al, 1999), and blood pressure (Davidson et al, 2002) are similarly improved with time. 
   
Finally, people who have a journaling practice have also been found to become re-employed sooner after loosing their jobs (Spera et al, 1994), to miss fewer days of work (Francis & Pennebaker, 1992), and to have higher grade point averages (Cameron & Nicholls, 1998), better overall sporting performances (Scott et al, 2003) and even better working memories (Klein & Boals, 2001).  It has even been found that journaling causes people to have short-term changes in their heart rates, electrodermal activity, and muscular activity – all in the directions of health (Pennebaker, 1997).  In short, in the last 20 years of research on this topic, the evidence to support the advantages of journaling is strong and growing stronger every year (Baikie and Wilhelm, 2005). 

As an online-based service, the positive feedback My Therapy Journal receives from its individual and health care provider clients is all the evidence we need to keep providing and improving this tool for decades to come. 

References

Online Journaling at My Therapy Journal
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