When people start a writing practice, they’ll often ask us, “How long will it take for me to get results?”
We get it. You want to be the kind of person who takes care of yourself. You want to be ready to take on your life. And you’ve heard journaling is a way to do that.
Good news. It’s true! Writing benefits include increased motivation, lower stress, more energy, and a strengthened immune system.
The problem is, you’ve been journaling for a while now, and you don’t feel results.
Maybe you joined our 31-day writing challenge, but you don’t feel like you’re getting the results and clarity you were looking for.
You’re beginning to doubt if you’re doing it right. Maybe you’re wondering if the time and energy it takes to wake up and journal is actually worth it. You might even have the sneaking suspicion that writing is self-indulgent or just another way to complain. Or, worst of all, you’re starting to think you’re just not cut out to be a writer.
You shouldn’t have to waste your time journaling if nothing will ever come of it.
The question becomes, how long will this take? How long will it take for my practice of writing to translate into results?
In one sense, the benefits kick in almost immediately.
Even after writing for 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times (that’s 3-5 times total), mental health improves.
The same goes for physical healing. A 2013 study demonstrated a faster healing process for those journaling before their biopsy—they only journaled three days in a row for twenty minutes.
But some improvements take longer.
You also might be experiencing benefits without noticing.
In 1986, James Pennebake, a professor of psychology, conducted an experiment with his students, in which he asked them to write for four days in a row about a traumatic event. The control group wrote about “trivial topics.” Guess which group visited the doctor less frequently in the next six months. That’s right! The ones which wrote about their lives. And that was after writing for only four days in a row (fifteen minutes). His students might not have felt better—but they avoided getting sick!
Can I speed up the process to get results more quickly?
The way you write can make a difference. You have to engage with what you’re writing—engage your mind and your emotions. It’s known as “expressive writing,” or “emotional disclosure”—writing about your thoughts and feelings. Of course, you can choose to write about something inconsequential—but if you could care less about your writing topic, then you might want to re-think your strategy. Aim for reflective writing—processing an event, life circumstance, or situation.
That’s why Find Your Voice provides helpful, reflective prompts in your inbox every Monday (sign up here)—to get you reflecting on your life, sorting through your thoughts and feelings, and getting to what really matters.
It’s also important to note that the effects are immediate, but not long lasting. Journaling as stress management and for health and relational benefits is much like exercise. In the long run, consistency is more important than intensity: journaling for five minutes every Monday over a year is more helpful than writing every day for an hour for one week.
Of course, how long it takes to “work” depends on what you’re aiming for.
When looking for “writing results,” look for the following:
- Ability to label emotions and feelings
- Ability to name cause and effect
- Increased self-understanding
- Increased self-compassion
- Ability to verbalize what you want and need . . . and confidence to ask for it
Focus less on your circumstances and more on your ability to handle circumstances.
Our hope is that you trust the process enough to stick with it for a while. Give it at least a month and let us know what changed for you. Perhaps, in a year, you’ll look back and, like Forbes writer Laura Youngkin, say that writing made you “happier, calmer, and more confident” in life.
Follow us on Instagram for quotes about writing, tips, and more prompts. Or download a resource for that extra boost of help. Still doubting whether you’re a real writer? We think you are. Read more from our blog: