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According to a recent pyschological study at the University of California - Los Angeles, keeping a journal or diary to express your feelings and experiences helps your brain cope with emotional challenges and, ultimately, make you happier. Apparently, the physical and mental act of working out our experiences on paper, be those memories trying or terrific, reduces the activity in the part of our brains responsible for controlling emotional intensity. Indeed, "Writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally. Whether it's writing things down in a diary, writing bad poetry, or making up song lyrics that should never be played on the radio, it seems to help people emotionally," as explained by UCLA pyschologist Matthew Lieberman.
Interestingly, men who journaled appeared to benefit more from the writing exercise than did the study's female participants, a trend that Lieberman suggests could be contributed to women often already being able to express their emotions freely in other forms of writing. Additionally, physically writing on paper seems more helpful than does typing on a word processor.
Therefore, these findings lead one to believe that "keeping a diary, making up poetry and scribbling down song lyrics can help people get over emotional distress." However, keeping things more abstract than rehashing specifics is recommended in order to yield the most positive emotional results.
Surprising in this day and age but perhaps more a question for communication researchers, this research summary did not mention whether keeping an web blog has the same emotional benefits as writing privately does. I would venture that blogging can offer additional pluses that go beyond what private writing does, as well as introducing additional risks. For example, while comments from caring friends can help one feel more connected and understood, mean-spirited comments from trolls can make one less confident about his or her writing. While emailing and message board posting was also not addressed, I can imagine that they also have positive emotional benefits. Sometimes just the writing about our situations on the message boards can be as insightful as the advice volunteers and users offer. Plus, in a safer environment such as Scarleteen, the risks of unkind replies are also lower. Still, there's just something special about an old skool diary, be yours covered with faux fur and feathers or locked electronically online.
The bottom line: Writing about your feelings regularly in an abstract way in a journal format can help you relax and work out your emotions.
Question: What do you think? Do you regularly journal or blog? If so, how does doing so help you process your experiences? If not, why do you chose not to write things down and do you do anything else to help work things out?