Paul Abraham: Writing to ease stress through journaling

Paul Abraham, speaking at Bramley Lawn.

By Paul Abraham of

Journaling generally involves the practice of keeping a diary or journal that explores thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of your life and especially as we begin the countdown to Christmas and all the stresses that can bring.

There are several different ways to do this. Journaling, as a stress management and self-exploration tool, works best when done consistently, but even occasional, sporadic journaling can be stress relieving when the practice is focused on gratitude or emotional processing.  

One of the most effective ways to reduce stress with journaling is to write in detail about feelings and thoughts related to stressful events, as one would discuss topics in therapy, and brainstorm solutions, but there are several different ways to practice journaling.

The journaling method you choose can depend on your needs at the time, and your personality; just do what feels right for you.

Journaling allows you to clarify your thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge. It’s also a good problem-solving tool; often there will be times when you can express a problem and come up with solutions more easily on paper.

Journaling can also help you to focus on areas of your life that you like to focus on more often, which can help to inspire you to set goals to improve the quality of your life.

You may feel reluctant to relive negative experiences. And, journaling only about your negative feelings without incorporating thoughts or plans may actually cause more stress.  

A simple way to counteract this is to be sure you end your journaling sessions with a few words about potential solutions to your problems, things you appreciate in your life, or things that give you hope for the future.

Unlike more physical stress management techniques, such as yoga or exercise, journaling is a viable option for the disabled. And, although some prefer to use a computer, journaling requires only a pen and paper, so it’s less expensive than techniques that require the aid of a class, book, teacher or therapist, such as yoga.

Journaling doesn’t release tension from your body like progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery and other physical and meditative techniques, however. But it’s a great practice for overall stress reduction as well as self-knowledge and emotional healing.

Journaling is a highly effective tool for stress relief and can take several forms, so there are multiple options that can work for you. If you already have a favourite journaling habit, by all means, keep it up! But you may want to try something new in addition to it. And if you’re new to journaling, here are three practices to try. See what works best for you.

Gratitude Journal

Some people keep a daily gratitude journal where they list three or more aspects of each day for which they are grateful.

This is a highly effective strategy for relieving stress because it helps you to focus on the resources you have in your life already and create a more positive mood at the moment, both of which have been shown to build long-term resilience.

A bonus benefit is that you are left with a record of the many nice things that have happened throughout your days, so if you’re feeling down in the future, you can cheer yourself up with a few pages of reminders for the things you have to appreciate in life.

Emotional Release

You may also write about your emotional responses to events that have happened throughout the day as a way of coping with the stress.

This can help you to process what you are feeling and perhaps even explore more positive re-framing options. When writing about positive experiences, this allows you the ability to maximise and savour the positive feelings you may have for the good things that have happened in your day.  

This is also a great way to expand on the positive and manage the negative things that happen in your life, increasing your positivity ratio, which is an important aspect of stress management.

Bullet Journal or Personal Planning Journal

Some people simply keep journals to track what they need to do each day, goals they have, memories they create, and other things they don’t want to forget.

Because writing things down can help keep your mind uncluttered and help you to remember what’s important to you, this can relieve stress as well. Being more organized and balanced is a great way to feel less stressed.

And remember, if you find yourself not keeping a regular schedule with journaling, it’s a habit you can resume at any time. You don’t have to journal every day in order for it to work for you – a few times a week is still highly beneficial, and even journaling on an as-needed basis brings benefits.

If you had a journaling habit and stopped because life got in the way, remember – any day is a good day to get back into the habit!

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