Get happy...start a journal

Aug 13, 2013

Anne Frank, Samuel Pepys and Bridget Jones all did it. Okay, so the latter was fictional but psychologists do talk of the ‘Bridget Jones effect’ – that by writing about emotive experiences we can help to overcome negative experiences. In Keeping a journal makes you happier the Guardian reports that scans taken after participants had been asked to pen their pain, showed increased activity in the amygdale in the brain. This in turn reduced activity in parts of the brain responsible for controlling the intensity of their, and our, emotions.

Matthew Lieberman, a psychologist driving this study at the University of California in Los Angeles said: "When you put feelings into words, you are turning on the same regions in the brain that are involved in emotional self-control." The Lieberman study showed that writing was beneficial whether in journal form, poetry, or even song lyrics to express negative emotions.

Now with millions of people detailing the most intimate details of their lives on personal blogs, it seems that they could very well be improving their mental health, albeit unknowingly. And now according to a recent Time Magazine study, it seems that people could also be improving their physical health too. People were asked to write about their most traumatic event to see how a series of minor skin wounds would heal. Just twenty minutes of writing a day for three days saw those who had written about emotive stuff healing much better than those journaling the more mundane details of their lives.

 Guardian blogger Oliver Burkeman details the Time study in his blog Why you really should keep a journal, no matter how cheesy that sounds. He also laments that the most effective and evidence backed solutions to getting happy are also the most embarrassing, with the ‘Gratitude Journal’ being one of his most ‘vivid’ of suggestions.  

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Embarrassment was always a feature of my own personal experience of writing a journal, with the need to keep it well hidden because of the fear of it being found and as my mother often threatened the very real fear of her sending it to Channel 4 for serialisation. But thirty years on, I can read it now and see how much I’ve changed, and perhaps more importantly, how much I haven’t.

Oh how I wish I’d been born into the Boxego days where keeping a diary or journal is easy and completely protected from prying eyes. Though with a subsequent release of a new Bridget Jones about to descend upon us, it seems that maybe some things are better shared.



Tags: Journal, Diary
Category: Journal