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The Power of the Pen - or the Keyboard?


Journaling is therapeutic, whether you're putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard key.

Years of research back the simple act of writing as a powerful form of therapy. When we write, we are able to take a step back from stress, gain a different perspective, release pent-up emotion, and come to terms with difficult situations. Studies have shown that keeping a journal can help lower stress levels and boost our mood, and even help our physical wounds to heal more quickly.

Recently, researchers have turned their attention to a more modern form of written catharsis—blogging! A study done in Israel found that teenagers with social-emotional difficulties greatly benefited by crafting carefully written and well-monitored blog posts that discussed their distress. Interestingly, those who posted in blogs with open comment forums saw the most benefit to their emotional well-being. Despite a few abusive comments, many blog readers appeared to be willing to reach out to the writers, fostering a sense of social support.

Growing up, I kept many a journal—mainly consisting of long-winded, emotionally charged paragraphs that revealed the great injustice of the world (such as my mother not letting me wear bright silver eyeshadow to school, or the crush of my late elementary-school years refusing to ask me to slow dance when Let It Burn by Usher came on).

I must say that I’m happy these rather embarrassing revelations were written before the days of self-expression on social media. But for the braver among us, letting your feelings out in the blogsphere may have health benefits as well.

Whether you want to keep your feelings at home under lock and key or publish them online for all to see, check out this alive guide to journaling. Try:

  • writing a letter to yourself or someone else, without the possibility of having to send it. If you’re doing this online, be sure to keep identities and names private, and be cautious of who is able to view the final product.
  • prompted writing for when you’re feeling stuck—using a chosen quote, word, or phrase can often spark the inspiration needed to fill up that page (or web text box).
  • diary writing as a way of keeping a timeline of important events or consistent stressors.

A key part of the study on blogging was that the writing was done thoughtfully and carefully—a far cry from the uncensored, rant-like expressions often found on social media. Save the unabashed complaints and curse words for writing that you can keep private. 

Does your blog or journal help you handle stress? Let us know via Twitter and Facebook, or in the blog comments below.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD