It is well known that keeping a journal, specifically one about your health, has a number of benefits that go well beyond just holding yourself accountable. However, it is rare for people in general to even look at, let alone understand, the science behind why keeping a journal is so important and has so many health benefits.
This science reveals a number of things about the human mind, and helps us understand why those who engage in health journaling are so much more successful in maintaining fitness and diet than those who do not. Here are some fascinating facts behind the science of health journaling.
Can You Change Your IQ?
Ever notice how some people just seem smarter when it comes to certain things? Several studies show that with the proper mental exercises, you can actually change your IQ for the better, and one of those is writing. “Writing as a part of language learning has a positive correlation with intelligence. “
Journaling is an exploration of language, and whether that is private journaling about health or even starting and running a health blog, writing feeds the urge to seek out new words, expand vocabulary, and find new ways to relate ideas in a cohesive and intelligent way. Does this mean your IQ will go up? The same studies show that one of the greatest measurements of intelligences as detected by intelligence tests is vocabulary and the ability to use language.
Mindfulness Helps Beat Stress
Past frustrations and anxiety about the future are often set aside during the act of journaling. This means that by default, a certain state of mindfulness is achieved when writing and journaling, and that state has a direct correlation with reducing stress.
The state of mindfulness is often a pinnacle achieved by many forms of meditation but without the effort of hypnosis or guided meditation techniques, like certain forms of exercise, this state is often reached naturally with little effort on the part of the individual.
Journaling Helps Individuals Reach Goals
It seems like a fanciful idea, but the reality is that writing down goals is a catalyst to actually achieving them. The act itself lets the brain know that “this thing is important.” Writing them multiple times or outlining details about health goals helps set the mind up for success and even helps with the development of good habits and quitting bad ones.
The thing is, taking it step further and “public journaling” on a blog is an even better indicator to the brain that what is being written has significance, and the discussion that often ensues further solidifies this notion.
Boosting Memory and Comprehension
How many times has a person simply forgotten to go to the gym that day, or failed to remember their meal plan and thus fallen off the diet wagon? It’s often enough that scientists and others understand that journaling, essentially writing things down, helps the person remember them.
Why? There is a special correlation between the hands and the brain. Typing is not only the act of composing ideas, but also is another trigger to the brain that what is being typed is important. Students who take notes in classes do better on tests even if they never review their notes whether they type them or handwrite them. The same is true for health journaling: those who write things down remember them and keep them more in the forefront of their mind than those who don’t.
Creating Self Discipline
The brain is like a muscle. The more it gets used, the stronger it gets. The act of self-discipline is the same, and whether the habit is writing in a journal every day morning or evening or blogging once a week, intentional writing is an act of self-discipline. What does this have to do with health?
The more self-discipline one practices in other areas of their lives, the easier it is for them to practice self-discipline when it comes to diet and exercise. It isn’t a matter of more or less willpower, but simply a matter of knowing how to hold oneself accountable to actions. Health journaling is a function of that process that translates to other areas.
It Helps Individuals Heal
Writing is a route to healing, and in more ways than just psychologically, but emotionally and physically as well. Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal discusses cases of increased immunity in patients involved in expressive writing exercises like journaling. What is the science behind this?
It goes back to the state of mindfulness and its correlation with stress. Stress is often related to overthinking hypothetical situations and emotional issues. A part of the writing process is taking an experience that seems out of control and extremely stressful and making it something the writer can understand and therefore handle appropriately.
This can also affect sleep, one reasons journaling at night is recommended. Better sleep leads to better physical health and immunity, which leads to faster healing.
The ability to take a situation, positive or negative, write it down and therefore dissect and understand it makes the writer more willing to face new situations and have confidence in their abilities to handle each one. The science behind it involves the release of hormones when an individual successfully solves a puzzle or a problem. These hormones, endorphins and dopamine help the writer feel happier and better about themselves.
The fact that journaling is helpful to those who want to achieve health or other goals is well-known, but it goes beyond positive thinking or some fanciful idea that a few squiggles on a page or words typed on a screen will make someone a better person. There is a science behind health journaling, and added up it equals success for those who choose to engage in it.