If you’re struggling with anxiety, stress, or just going through a rough patch, journaling can be one of the best habits to get into. It’s a great way of expressing your feelings and thoughts. And while it takes little effort and time, journaling has some of the most incredible benefits on your mental health.
This article explores how journaling can help you, the types of journaling, and a few tips to get you started.
What journaling can do for you
Journaling can help you meet your goals or improve your quality of life. This can look different for everyone, and the outcomes can vary, but they’re always positive. And according to research, the simple practice of writing can be beneficial, especially for those struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety.
Journaling requires you to apply both sides of your brain. Your analytical, logical left stride of the brain keeps you focused on the task. And while the left side is busy, your creative, emotional right side of the brain is given the freedom to play and create. Allowing your creativity to flourish can make a significant difference in your overall wellness.
Journaling has been found to:
- Boost your mood
- Improve your sense of wellbeing
- Decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Improve your working memory
- Improve your awareness of thoughts and behaviors
- Shift from a negative mindset to a positive one
However, to positively affect your mental health, we need to ensure an appropriate method. Here are a few ways to get started:
Choose whether you want to start a traditional journal or a digital one. While writing by hand can help you process your emotions and thoughts better, it’s essential to pick the one you feel more comfortable doing.
Try to write consistently. Even if you write for 3-5 minutes each day, consistency is essential to starting a journaling habit to improve your mental health. Schedule a time in your day when it’s convenient for you, and then challenge yourself every day. Consider making it a part of our wind-down routine at night and first thing in the morning after getting out of bed.
Forget about spelling or grammar. Nobody else is going to read your journal (unless you want them to), so do your best to ignore the standard rules of writing. Allow your thoughts to flow freely without judgment, and write what comes to mind.
If you don’t like writing in sentences, get creative with your formatting. If you can’t decide what you want to write about or are finding it hard to write in sentences, try out a few ways of formatting entries until you find one that works for you. Here are a few options:
- Write bullet points or make a list.
- Write a new song or poetry.
- Draw pictures of what’s on your mind for a visual representation.
- Write a letter to someone.
- Write a fictional story with your favorite characters.
Make your journal a judgment-free zone. In addition to forgetting about spelling and grammar, allow yourself to go with whatever you’re feeling. Try not to judge what you write, but instead observe your thoughts and feelings on the page. Maintaining a consistent journaling practice is one of the best ways to keep them regulated and healthy. Over time, journaling can be used as a great coping strategy for stress, anxiety, and other symptoms of mental health disorders.
How to use your journal for self-improvement
Track your progress toward goals, good habits, and positive behaviors. Journaling is an excellent way of working towards personal goals. Take note of your progress towards your goals. This allows you to make any changes if needed and recognize your efforts over time.
For example: let’s say your personal goal is to exercise more often. You may want to create a schedule of when you’ll exercise, what times work best, and which days are most available. Then, you can keep track of how often you achieve this goal on the set days, how long you exercised, and how you felt both before and after exercising.
Document your symptoms if you’re creating a mental illness. This can be incredibly helpful if you’ve been experiencing symptoms for the first time and considering making an appointment with a mental health professional or if you already have a treatment plan set in place. Keeping track of your symptoms can help both you and your treatment team be informed of whether or not your symptoms are improving.
Write them down, and rate the severity of each symptom every day. Later on, you can compare the severity of each symptom with whatever was going on that day. This way, you can identify different patterns in your life.
Example: If you’re feeling nervous and on edge today, you may write ‘ i feel anxious’ (5). On a scale of 1-10, 5 would represent you feeling anxious, but not to the point where you would have an anxiety attack.
Types of journaling
‘What’s going well’ journaling. This style of journaling asks you to look at what’s gone well throughout your day. Surprisingly, shifting your focus in this way can slowly start to shift your mindset. When you realize how many things have gone well, regardless of how big or small, you can start to look beyond the not-so-great things and feel less stressed.
Remember, it doesn’t always have to be a stream of writing on a page. Use notes, bullet points, or whatever it is that makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to do.
‘Unsent letter’ journaling. This type of journaling is excellent for venting or letting out what you usually wouldn’t say aloud. Is there anything you’d like to say to someone, but you just can’t? Write it out. The best part about it is that you can be honest about everything you’re feeling because you’re not going to send it to anyone. Your unsent letter can be about anything from how someone hurt you or how angry someone made you feel. It’s a great way of releasing any pent-up feelings.
Stream of consciousness journaling. If you consider yourself a perfectionist, stream of consciousness journaling is a great way to silence that inner critic. There isn’t a guide or any expectations; you write and write until everything is out. Try not to judge yourself and forget about grammar and spelling. The key is that you let out whatever comes to your mind, even if your thoughts are all over the place and sporadic.
Gratitude journaling. There are several benefits to the practice of gratitude. Studies have found that giving thanks and counting your blessings can lower stress, improve your relationships, and help you sleep better. It takes a minimal amount of time with robust benefits. You can make a gratitude list, write a gratitude letter, or keep a journal.
Even when you’re going through a rough patch and feel like there isn’t anything good to be grateful for in your life, over time, you’ll start to notice the little things that mean the most to you.
What works for some people may not work for others. To find your best method, think about what feels right and most natural or meaningful to you.
A few additional tips:
- Write in a private space that’s free from distractions.
- Try to write at least once per day.
- Give yourself time to process and reflect after writing.
- Structure the writing in a way it feels right to you.
- Carry your journal with you if you have trouble finding time to write.
- Take your journal with you if you go to therapy or if you’re prescribed medication. While you don’t need to share everything you wrote, it may be helpful to look back at what you wrote during appointments.
- If you’re writing about stressful experiences and feel your anxiety rising, you may benefit from using our Full Spectrum CBD Oil when you journal. It can help balance your mind & body’s natural response to stress so that you can process your thoughts and emotions with ease.
The bottom line
You can start journaling daily or weekly; the key is to do it consistently.
And while it can help you manage your mental health condition, it’s not a substitute for professional treatments. Continue to work with your therapist and take any medications your doctor has prescribed.