The Healing Power of Journal Writing

By Wendi Williams, Editor


Summer has arrived and with it comes the opportunity for grand adventures in the great outdoors. I am reminded of my youth and how the neighborhood children played together in relative harmony from sun up to sun down. We rode our bikes up and down the street, played games, or went swimming or wading in the local creeks. Adults also enjoyed more leisure activities like fishing, hunting, or sitting outside on the front porch snapping beans for dinner or chatting with the neighbors. It was a time when most people did the things they loved to do and the memories of the day's events were recorded in a diary or journal. Today, journals are still kept to record precious memories, but also as healing forms of expression.

Why Keep a Journal?
There are many forms of journals. Journals are kept to record dreams, professional growth areas, critical thinking, or religious thoughts. Journals are also used to increase self-esteem or to reduce anger, stress, or frustration (Hiemstra, 2001). Pouring out thoughts on a page not only helps us to face our problems, but it can also provide greater clarity or insight into solving those problems.

Journal writing is intergenerational as well. Students of all ages are using journals in classrooms across the nation to encourage creative thinking, to capture a synopsis of ideas or personal opinions, to record values or future goals, or to review their life from a global perspective. In a study conducted by researchers E. Michael Brady and Harry Sky at the University of Southern Maine's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, older adults used journals to help them make sense of life's experiences. Whatever the reason, journal writing is a form of therapy that generally comes without harsh criticism. In other words, the author can elect to share those thoughts with others or allow them to remain private. In reality, however, anything written runs the risk of being read. So, be mindful of what you write even if you write and store your thoughts on a computer.

How to Begin
To begin the journal writing process, all you need is the desire, some quiet time, a pen, and a journal of some kind. Bookstores are full of decorative journals, but it doesn't have to be anything fancy. A spiral notebook from the corner dollar store will do just fine.

Next decide what type of journal you want to keep. Will the journal be used to record daily activities, dreams, or personal goals and aspirations? Or will it be more free form? In either case why worry about being grammatically correct; just write whatever comes to mind. If you are angry, write down why you are angry. If you are stressed out, try to identify the stressors. Even if you are recovering from a traumatic event in your life, writing down your thoughts and feelings is a great way to confront that experience. This process can help you recover more quickly or perhaps think of constructive measures to eliminate a problem in your life.

And as for you nature lovers like myself, why not take your journal along the next time you take a walk in the park.

Journal writing can bring healing to the soul.


Hiemstra, Roger. (2001). Uses and benefits of journal writing. In L. M. English and M. A. Gillen, (eds.), Promoting Journal Writing in Adult Education (New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 90. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Quinlan, Rebecca. Journal writing research reveals benefits for older adults. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. University of Southern Maine.

Slomski, Genevieve. (2007). Journal therapy. Alternative Medicine Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 1, 2007.

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