How to Heal Your Mind and Body with the Pennebaker Journaling Protocol 

People who write about their emotions experience less depression, anxiety, and anger, as well as improved immune system functioning, lower blood pressure, and faster wound healing.

I don’t know about you, but I live in a fairly constant state of conflict around knowing that I’m supposed to be journaling and dealing with my personal rebellion around doing it.  I will do it, but not consistently.  I’m always glad that I did, but I have an odd and troubled relationship with it!   Which is why I’m so excited to share with you something that has changed my life for the better: the Pennebaker Journaling Protocol. I bumped into this from the Huberman Podcast, and I thought it was worth sharing.  This is a simple but powerful technique that involves writing about your thoughts and feelings for 15 to 20 minutes a day, for four consecutive days. Sounds easy, right? But trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It requires you to be honest, vulnerable, and expressive. And the results are amazing! 

The Pennebaker Journaling Protocol was developed by James Pennebaker, a psychologist and researcher who discovered that writing about traumatic or stressful events can have significant benefits for physical and mental health. He found that people who wrote about their emotions experienced less depression, anxiety, and anger, as well as improved immune system functioning, lower blood pressure, and faster wound healing. He also found that writing can help people cope with grief, trauma, and loss, as well as enhance their self-esteem, creativity, and happiness. 

Man writing in a journal

How does it work? Well, according to Pennebaker, writing helps us process our emotions and make sense of our experiences. It also helps us release pent-up emotions that can cause stress and harm our health. Writing can also help us gain new perspectives and insights into ourselves and our situations. It can help us reframe our narratives and find meaning and purpose in our lives. 

So how can you try the Pennebaker Journaling Protocol for yourself? Here are some tips: 

  1. Choose a time and place where you can write without interruptions or distractions. Ideally, you should write in the morning or evening, when your mind is more relaxed. 
  1. Write for 15 to 20 minutes a day, for four consecutive days. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or style. Just write whatever comes to your mind. 
  1. Write about something that is bothering you or causing you emotional distress. It can be something from your past or present, something personal or professional, something big or small. The important thing is that it matters to you and affects you deeply. 
  1. Write about your thoughts and feelings about the situation. Don’t hold back or censor yourself. Be honest and expressive. Try to explore why you feel the way you do, what you learned from the situation, and how you can move forward from it. 
  1. After you finish writing, don’t read what you wrote right away. Give yourself some time to process what you wrote and let it go. You can choose to keep your writings or discard them later. 
  1. Repeat the process for four days in a row. You can write about the same topic or different topics each day. You may notice that your writings change over time as you gain new insights and perspectives. 

That’s it! That’s the Pennebaker Journaling Protocol in a nutshell. I hope you give it a try and see for yourself how it can improve your health and joy. I know I did, and I’m so grateful for it. Don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family who might benefit from it too. Happy journaling! 

For a deep-dive into the topic, please take the time to watch/listen to this excellent Andrew Huberman podcast. 

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Nathan Nordby
Nathan Nordby is a former Marine, recovering CEO, and current life coach. After leaving the corporate world and years of personal exploration, he’s been on a mission to invite as many people as he can to the rewards of self-discovery. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Creative Living, Metamorfix, a board member of J & J Foundation, a member of Mission 43, a founding member of the Life Design Project, and is active in several men’s groups.
Nathan Nordby
Nathan Nordby is a former Marine, recovering CEO, and current life coach. After leaving the corporate world and years of personal exploration, he’s been on a mission to invite as many people as he can to the rewards of self-discovery. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Creative Living, Metamorfix, a board member of J & J Foundation, a member of Mission 43, a founding member of the Life Design Project, and is active in several men’s groups.