Journaling Towards Self-Empowerment

Journaling Towards Self-Empowerment

Melissa Camacho

Causes and Symptoms of Self-Destruction

In journaling, we process the emotions that challenge our sense of self-respect. If we don’t process our emotions, our minds and bodies are trapped in self-destruction. Self-destruction, known as physical or emotional self-harm, is characterized by engaging in unhealthy and risky behaviors, such as

  • thoughts and attempts of suicide
  • causing self-injury like cutting, burning, or pulling
  • addiction to life-threatening habits like drugs and drinking alcohol
  • constantly pleasing others due to low self-esteem 
  • binge eating or malnutrition habits (Pietrangelo)


Mental health symptoms of self-destructive behavior include: grief, trauma, anxiety, and depression (“How to Stop Self-Destructive Behavior”).  We understand our emotions through the lens of our traumatic experiences, and must seek healthy ways to manage them in order to refrain from self-destruction. If you find yourself emotionally overwhelmed and engaging in self-destructive behaviors, you can transform your emotions through the practice of journaling into self-empowerment. In this article, you will learn how expressive writing transcends your emotions towards self-empowerment with a positive impact on your emotional, physical,  and mental health.

Journaling to Understand and Manage Emotions

Journaling to manage stress and anxiety is the first step to building your happiness and embracing your self-identity. Psychologists have discovered that journaling helps your brain to control and regulate intense emotions (“Keeping a Diary Makes You Happier”). As per social psychologist James Pennebaker, the act of converting emotions and images to words improves our immune system and boosts our working memories by organizing events in our minds to make sense of the trauma we experience (Tausczik and Pennebaker). As you mentally catalog and explore patterns of trauma, depression, and anxiety through journaling, you can practice engaging in positive self-talk and begin to know who you are without judgment (“Journaling for Mental Health ”). The benefit of organizing and making sense of our traumatic experiences is a boost in self-esteem as you develop compassion for yourself and mindfulness of your well-being. Furthermore, you gain control of how you manage your experiences in the future by learning from past events.


Beyond helping regulate stress and anxiety, the ability you possess to process and express your emotions through journaling can further serve as a therapeutic tool to be proactive in combating self-destruction. This was revealed in two experimental studies:

  1. One study conducted by Michigan State University involved two groups of college students suffering from anxiety where each was given journaling activities. The group that journaled about their emotions showed more efficient brain activity by reducing their anxiety levels as measured by EEG, or measurement of electrical brain activity (“For Worriers Expressive Writing Cools Brain on Stressful Tasks”).
  2. A UCLA study showed that journaling and expressive writing  is therapeutic for your mental health because it  reduces the intensity of traumatic experiences and helps you elaborate on your emotions (Wolpert).


Studies that indicate the role journaling plays in improving physical health reveal that reflecting on your emotions can balance how your body and mind function on a day-to-day basis. If your mind is cluttered with fear and worries, panic and hopelessness can lead to self-destruction. You can overcome these emotions through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of therapy where you engage in private and positive self-talk by becoming aware of and overcoming thoughts that are associated with low self-esteem (Selva). CBT overlaps with  journaling, and together they can shape your thinking and help you gain a positive perspective about how you view yourself and the world. This process is known as cognitive journaling (Ragnarson). When you write about challenging situations, it’s easier to think of yourself as having the capability to move forward, set new goals, and fulfill your desires.


Noticing the patterns that lead you to your self-destructive behaviors illuminates your willpower by allowing you to break your own cycles. Self-reflection enables you to analyze areas where you faltered and progressed, allowing you to restructure your system of values and beliefs (“What is Self-Reflection Meditation?”) and work towards self-empowerment. 


Growing in Self-Empowerment and Replacing Self-Destructive Thoughts

Journaling to process your emotions will empower you to be in control of how your emotions affect you physically and emotionally by:

  • Bringing you into a state of mindfulness where you become intuitive with your thoughts and therefore, reduce levels of anxiety
  • Developing your emotional intelligence to give you the ability to perceive and manage your emotions
  • Releasing body hormones, such as dopamine and endorphins, to increase happy moods and boost self-esteem 
  • Motivating you to write about future goals and activating your brain’s reticular activating system (RAS). RAS works to signal ideas in your brain that are relevant to the goals you want to achieve (Nguyen).

Journaling your emotions to engage in positive self-talk and reflect on events that lead to self-destructive thoughts helps you open a path towards motivational thoughts. As a result, you gain self-confidence. The self-confidence you practice when journaling will help you replace your self-destructive thoughts with self-empowerment.


We can conclude that journaling heals our bodies and minds from harmful effects of self-destruction. As we tear down walls of emotional trauma and distress, our inner strength can prevail over repeated patterns of self-destructive behavior. Through self-reflection and self-awareness of our emotions in journaling, we become empowered to manage our emotions, rather than letting our emotions take control of our emotional, physical, and mental health.


Our expressive writing program at The Love Story is designed to teach people to reflect on their experiences with emotional trauma, anxiety, grief, and depression by exploring patterns of self-destructive behaviors. 


Begin Journaling Here.



Bailey, Kasee “5 Powerful Health Benefits of Journaling” Intermountain Healthcare. 5 Jul 2018


Nguyen, Thai. “10 Surprising Benefits You’ll Get from Keeping a Journal” 13 Feb 2015.


Pietrangelo, Ann. “Understanding Self-Destructive Behavior” Healthline 21 Jul 2020


Ragnarson, Richard. “Cognitive Journaling: A Systematic Method to Overcome Negative Beliefs”



Selva, Joaquin. “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?” 3 Apr 2017. Positive Psychology.


Tausczik, Y.R. and Pennebaker, J.W. (2010) The Psychological Meaning of Words: LIWC and Computerized Text Analysis Methods. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 29, 24-54.


Wolpert, Stuart. “Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects in the Brain; UCLA Neuroimaging Study Supports Ancient Buddhist Teachings” UCLA Newsroom: Science and Technology. 21 Jun 2007.


“What is Self-Reflection?” Mindworks, Accessed 20 Jun 2022


“For Worriers Expressive Writing Cools Brain on Stressful Tasks” Michigan State University. 14 Sept 2017.


“Journaling for Mental Health”  Health Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 Jun 2022


“Keeping a Diary Makes You Happier”

 The Guardian: Psychology. 15 Feb 2009.


“What is Self-Reflection?” Mindworks, Accessed 20 Jun 2022


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