Could journaling be good for your mental health?
Could journaling be good for your mental health? There are quite a lot of benefits, according to recent research, because one of the ways to deal with any overwhelming emotion is to find a healthy way to express yourself – and keeping a journal could be one way of doing that.
One of my favourite books is ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. She recommends what she calls ‘the morning pages’ where you write as soon as you wake, without engaging your brain too much but just seeing what comes out on the page. This stream of consciousness type of journaling can be very cathartic, clearing your mind and increasing confidence in your creativity.
However, journaling serves other purposes besides enhancing creativity. According to The University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help your mental health by:
- Managing anxiety
- Reducing stress
- Coping with depression
Benefits of journaling:
- Helps you prioritise problems, fears, and concerns
- Tracks any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them
- Provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviours
When you have a problem and you’re stressed, keeping a journal can help you identify the underlying causes of your stress or anxiety. Once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and reduce your stress.
How to journal
Try these tips to help you get started with journaling:
- Try to write every day. Set aside a little time every day to commit to writing in your journal. Consistency is key.
- Make it easy. Keep a pen and paper handy at all times. Then when you want to write down your thoughts, you can. You can also keep a journal on your smartphone or buy a nice notebook that you’ll enjoy using.
- Write without self censorship. Your journal doesn’t need to follow any particular structure. It’s your own place to express your feelings. Let the words and ideas flow freely. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes or what other people might think.
- Use your journal in whatever way works for you. You don’t have to share your journal with anyone. Knowing this can help you to get more out of the process.
Keeping a journal can help you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos. You get to know yourself by revealing your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings. Look at your writing time as a way of de-stressing and winding down. Write in a place that’s peaceful and relaxing, maybe with a cup of tea. Look forward to your journaling time. And know that you’re doing something good for your mind, body and soul.
The underrated power of writing
I think writing is very underrated and I often suggest it in my coaching sessions as a way of sifting through difficult emotions and begin to shift them. In one study, people who wrote for 20 minutes a day for four days saw a marked improvement in mood. I’ve personally used writing as a way to process trauma and grief and it proved far more therapeutic for me than any traditional bereavement or trauma support I encountered. I didn’t consider myself a writer but it has led to me writing a book that was accepted by a publisher. (‘Love Untethered’ will be published later this summer.)
However, you don’t have to write a book, you can just grab a notebook and see what comes. Not having to worry about grammar or sentence structure and knowing what you write is only for you to see, can give you a freedom to express and release onto the page difficult emotions and this can be potentially transformative.
What to write
As a starting point, I sometimes get coaching clients to write down what they’re grateful for and to perhaps put this in the form of an affirmation.
But even writing down boring or trivial worries can be useful and helps us see more clearly what’s taking up brain space and potentially reveal negative patterns of beliefs and behaviours that perhaps we weren’t fully aware of.
Journaling is just one way of helping us manage stress, anxiety, and mental health issues, alongside exercise, getting out in nature, a healthy diet, meditation and getting enough sleep. I highly recommend giving it a try to see if it’s helpful to your mental health.
If you’d like more advice on how journaling can give you with a greater sense of wellbeing or how it can help you to process grief, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Services page of this website.