When searching methods to reduce stress and discussing my problems with people I know, it was suggested to me that I journal thoughts, that is write down what worries me elaborately on paper.

I started doing it and I felt my mind having less 'noise' and clearing itself over time. However, I can't seem to understand why this worked and I can't find any good sources which explains why this worked in simple terms. Here is a website discussing journaling.

The closest analogy I can come to for how it feels to journal is how it feels to have a complicated thought relating to mathematics, in my head it is difficult to work out the algebra and see how it plays out but I can easily work my thoughts if I have a paper at hand (and a calculator handy).

Hopefully someone can shed some light on what's going on here.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question, +1. When I have todo's running in my head at night and I can't sleep, the only thing that works out for me is basically writing them up, one by one. As if you lay each and every thought down to sleep to the effect that I finally can get some rest myself after the process. I'm curious to the answers. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 12 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ This is a great question. I don't have a grasp on the neuropsychiatric reasons that journaling has on stressful thoughts, but I agree intuitively that writing down concerns decreases "noise" by making the abstract more concrete, and it stands to reason that the abstract is more difficult to deal with than the concrete (e.g. how many times have you told yourself that something you dreaded wasn't so bad after all once it came to pass?) I wish I could explain it as well. It may have a lot to do with rumination and worry. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Mar 12 at 17:25

As a person who has been journaling for more than twelve years ever since a very compassionate friend advised me to, I can attempt to answer why journaling seems to reduce stress.

AliceD mentioned that it's a way of writing down todos. That’s true. I also have Google Tasks for that.

The friend of mine deals a lot in algebra. We had spent a lot of time together working out mathematical problems, playing the guitar as well. It was thoroughly enjoyable to see him logically work towards the right answer. He believes in working things out by deriving from first principles.

We are quite religious so our journaling is quite spiritual in nature.

I didn't go into journaling knowing how good it would be, but looking back the benefits are invaluable.

Absolutely anything can go into your journal. I love to draw diagrams too.

In life we all make mistakes. I write down the fool things that I have done so that I can correct myself. Very often we do not know why certain people are antagonistic or get angry with us. This is because we are not omniscient like God. We do not know what the other person is thinking. By writing events down we are working out problems in our interactions with our fellow human beings. It greatly simplifies our thought processes. We can solve problems much more efficiently. We can improve our relationships with people.

I also write down what I am grateful for : https://www.oprah.com/spirit/oprahs-gratitude-journal-oprah-on-gratitude ;

I used to have a lot of ‘noise’ in my head. I would think about what people said in great detail. Often people tell me not to think too much. It’s those stressful experiences that get me thinking the most. By writing everything down, I’m offloading my thought processes into my journal.

I sincerely want to help the person who posted this question as I feel so much affinity towards the points in Buraian’s question. I hope that my answer would also help the community and people who chance upon this question. I wasn’t expecting to write content targeted at scientific journals so please forgive my very informal first draft. I read the guidelines that personal experiences are valid answers so that’s why I decided to answer this question.


Deaver, S. P., & McAuliffe, G. (2009). Reflective visual journaling during art therapy and counselling internships: A qualitative study. Reflective Practice, 10(5), 615-632.

Smyth, J. M., Stone, A. A., Hurewitz, A., & Kaell, A. (1999). Effects of writing about stressful experiences on symptom reduction in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized trial. Jama, 281(14), 1304-1309.

Jamison, S. G. (2007). Online law school faculty perceptions of journaling as professional development: Influences, barriers and pitfalls (Doctoral dissertation, Capella University).

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Psychology.SE. Please visit our site tour. There are a lot of bold claims in your answer without corroborated evidence. We work differently to many SE sites, where we have a strict policy that all answers should be backed up with reliable references so that the answer can be independently verified, regardless of the reader's/answerer's background. If you still have trouble with this, feel free to visit the help center or Psychology & Neuroscience Meta. Unreferenced claims can be challenged and lead to deletion of your answer. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Mar 17 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ I second Chris, in that we are a scientific stack and answers should be based on credible scientific sources. At the very least we require answers to use wikipedia articles, but preferably they should cite journal papers. This answer is more of a personal anecdote than anything else. Fine as a comment, but comments are reserved for the comments pane below the answer, and answers are reserved for answers. I think you need a bit more rep to comment on a question though. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 17 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks AliceD and Chris Rogers for your suggestions. I’m quite new to this stack exchange community. This is my first attempt at an answer actually. I’ll try my utmost to improve my answer. I was also wondering if my personal experience counts as a valid answer. I shall add some references to back up and corroborate my personal experiences. I’m actually open to professors who wish to quote the right scientific terms and edit my answer. Pardon my lack of knowledge. $\endgroup$ – Winston L Mar 18 at 12:17

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