Journaling has been shown to be effective in helping people manage depressive symptoms. Journaling is no substitute for professional guidance when the depression is particularly severe, but it can complement other forms of treatment or act as a stand-alone symptom management tool for those living with mild depression.
Here’s just a sampling of the evidence for journaling’s effectiveness in managing depression:
Expressive writing can reduce symptoms of depression in women who are struggling with the aftermath of intimate partner violence (Koopman, Ismailji, Holmes, Classen, Palesh, & Wales, 2005);
Writing in a journal may also be as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for reducing symptoms of depression in high-risk adolescents (Stice, Burton, Bearman, & Rohde, 2006);
Expressive journaling may not reduce the frequency of intrusive thoughts in individuals living with depression, but it moderates their impact on depressive symptoms, leading to a reduction in symptoms (Lepore, 1997);
Journaling can help college students who are vulnerable to depression reduce their brooding and rumination, two contributing factors of depressive symptoms (Gortner, Rude, & Pennebacker, 2006);
In general, people diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder reported significantly lower depression scores after three days of expressive writing, 20 minutes per day (Krpan, Kross, Berman, Deldin, Askren, & Jonides, 2013).
Overall, the benefits of journaling and expressive writing for those suffering from depression are pretty clear: it gives them the opportunity to release pent-up negative emotions, keeps them in a more positive frame of mind, and helps them build a buffer between the negative thoughts and their sense of well-being.