The Psychology Behind Journaling

by Natalie van Sambeck

As artists, I’m sure we have all heard about the value of journaling. But how many of us honestly keep or maintain a journal as part of the creative process? Journaling is actually an ancient practice dating back as far as the 10th century in Japan. This practice has continued throughout the centuries. I know I have had countless instructors and colleagues relay the importance of journaling. But why is it so important?



From a scientific standpoint there is surprising evidence that supports metal, emotional, and even physical benefits from journaling that are worth considering. Psychologist and expressive writing expert, Dr. James Pennebaker, maintains that journaling can actually strengthen immunity, decrease blood pressure, reduce stress and depression, improve better sleeping habits, and even accelerate the body’s ability to heal wounds. That’s right folks, by actively journaling each day we can actually increase the longevity of our lives.

But wait there are even more benefits to the daily practice of journaling. Maud Purcell, psychotherapist and expert on journaling, concluded that "writing accesses your left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, i.e. create, intuit and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us.” In short, journaling is intrinsically linked to the psychological process, allowing for greater insight and understanding of our self.

If that’s not enough to jump start your journaling practice, lets take a look at another study that considered the mental traits of geniuses. This study, conducted by psychologist Cathrine Morris Cox Miles, examined over 300 geniuses throughout history. She discovered that they all shared a noteworthy trait. They actively expressed their, thoughts, feelings, ideas, and questions in journals or in correspondence to friends and family. What’s even more fascinating is that she noted that only 1% of the population actually journaled. While this study was conducted in the 1920’s, I still find that results pretty persuasive. Although, I hope that more than 1% of the population is reaping the benefits of journaling today.

So you’re excited about journaling but don’t know how to start? Rest assured there is no right way. These studies show that what you write doesn’t have to be specific. In fact, they encourage you to freely write without stopping to correct for spelling and grammatical errors. Stopping allows for over thinking which blocks creativity and journaling should be a stream of conscious exercise. The key is to continuously write for 15-30 minutes every day on a piece of paper with a pen, pencil, or even a crayon to get those creative juices flowing! Do whatever it takes to get you to journal because ultimately, creativity is the extension of one’s self. The more aware we are about who we, the better we can visually communicate our thoughts and ideas to others through our creative practice. If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up your crayon I don’t know what is!
Simmons, Michael. The Student Success Manifesto: The Guide to Creating a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Prosperity. Retrieved on October 1, 2016 from about/The_Student_Success_Manifesto.html?id=0XUkI9_kk84C