Here’s Why You Should Start a Handwritten Journal, Even If You Just “Rip and Burn”

"The results are emotionally, mentally and physiologically beneficial."

After surfer Laura Rubin had a so-so attempt at the waves one day, she decided to sit on the beach and journal instead. She says the benefits of writing by hand are immeasurable — and good for the brain. By disconnecting from technology, we can tap into our creative flow and improve our life, she explains.

It’s true. Psych Central lists the benefits of writing down your thoughts: “There is increasing evidence to support the notion that journaling has a positive impact on physical well-being. University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, acting as a stress management tool, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.”

Since Laura likes to both write and draw, she went a step further — she created a notebook that offers both lined and unlined paper for tossing in a beach bag or backpack. AllSwell is a collection of beautifully designed notebooks with the purpose of inspiring creativity in all forms. Laura (also Editor-at-Large of Whalebone Magazine) also conducts pen to paper writing workshops to help people get in touch with their creative side.

She talked to Personal Space about the benefits of journaling.

Personal Space: When and why did you start journaling?

Laura Rubin: I’ve been journaling since I was a single digit. A family friend gave me my first diary as a gift for my 8th birthday. It was a smallish book with a floral cover and a little golden lock and key so I could keep my thoughts private. In retrospect it was one of the most meaningful gifts I would ever receive. I still have that journal.

I’m not sure exactly why I started way back then but I keep up a consistent writing practice because it makes me feel good and helps me be my best self.

PS: How does it help?

LR: As a life-long journaler I always knew that it felt good but it wasn’t until I started AllSwell that I dug into the research. It turns out there’s a large body of scientific data supporting the case for journaling long-hand. Moving your hand across the page creates synaptic connections in your brain, combined with the emotional release of self-expression... the results are emotionally, mentally and physiologically beneficial. It turns out a few minutes of journaling a day have proven to speed wound healing time, curb asthma, to help cure PTSD, and so on. I am a more calm, focused, energized and positive version of myself. It’s how I process information, maintain gratitude and create my future.
And you don’t need a special mantra, mat or guru. Just a pen and some paper. It’s accessible, portable. If you’re worried about someone reading your private thoughts then I suggest what I call “rip and burn” or simply tear them up and toss them, which can be a cathartic practice in itself. Those benefits aren’t replicated by typing on a device, it has to be written by hand, so while the notes application on your phone might seem like a tempting place to record your day it doesn’t provide the same upside.

PS: How many journals have you finished?

LR: Great question but the truth is, I’m not sure. A lot. I will only rarely throw one out, not because I go back and re-read them (that sounds about as appealing as going for a swim in toxic sludge), but they feel sacrosanct. I have a several dozen stashed in a closet in NYC and a bunch more here in LA. At one point a few years ago in New York I piled them all up and took a photo of them and used it as my founder “bio” picture when we launched AllSwell’s web site. It was satisfying to see them all together in one place, this cumulative record of a girl growing up and wrestling with various struggles, celebrating moments and creating a record of who she hoped to be. 

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