Journaling is one of the best tools available to help you work privately toward your mental and emotional health goals. Whether you’re treating a mental health disorder in therapy and are looking for additional strategies, or you’re simply searching for actionable ways to improve your life, journaling may be the answer. When you start to feel lost, overwhelmed, or vulnerable, writing could provide you with the peace and clarity you need. Some people keep a journal as a way of documenting their life. Others start journaling specifically to gain a better understanding of themselves and to strengthen their mental or emotional state. If this is your goal with journaling, there are some specific strategies you can implement into the practice to be more successful.
Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health
For those who are struggling with a serious mental health concern, journaling may not provide the support needed. It’s important to reach out for professional help if you’re worried that your mental health is interfering with your daily functioning. However, journaling does provide a wide variety of mental health benefits that can improve your emotional well-being.
The Following Are Some of the Greatest Advantages of Journaling for Mental Health
Journaling reduces stress.
Journaling is one of the easiest and most accessible ways for many people to relieve stress, especially when you write by hand. The physical act of writing can be very soothing as it requires a great deal of focus. When you feel like your thoughts are overwhelming you, calling your attention to the movements of your hand while you write can provide a welcome distraction.
Journaling helps you organize and prioritize your life.
If you struggle with anxiety or chronic stress, you might sometimes feel like you can’t keep your thoughts straight. Your mind is constantly cycling through different tasks on your to-do list or different worries about your life.
Writing these thoughts down can help you feel much more organized. When you see everything that’s on your mind written down on paper, you’ll feel like you can let some of these ideas go. You don’t have to keep remembering them and worrying about them because you have the reminders in your journal. This can also be a great way to prioritize the tasks, responsibilities, or concerns in your life. If everything is just circling around in your mind, it’s almost impossible to know where to start. When you can see it in writing, you’ll be able to choose a starting point much more easily.
Journaling helps you notice patterns in your mental health.
The act of writing has plenty of benefits in the moment, but another advantage of mental health journaling is that you can look back on your thoughts, emotions, and experiences over time. By reflecting on past entries, you may notice patterns that help you make key insights into your mental health. When you’re in the middle of an emotional crisis, you’re not in the state of mind to analyze what you’re going through. After the fact, though, you can read what you wrote to gain a better understanding of yourself.
How to Journal for Mental Health
If journaling is a new experience for you, you might feel unsure of where to begin. Often times, people hesitate to start journaling because they’re afraid of imperfection. They don’t want their journal to be flawed, so they’d rather not attempt it at all. However, your journal exists for you and you alone, and the best thing you can do is simply get started. The more authentic your writing is, the better.
Here Are Six Steps You Can Take to Begin Your Mental Health Journal
1. Identify your goal.
Starting with a goal in mind can help you stay motivated and inspired. You shouldn’t feel limited to writing about one particular theme or topic, but knowing what you want to accomplish can help to guide your writing if the practice feels foreign to you. Maybe you’re trying to find ways to better manage stress, or maybe your goal is to learn what triggers your anxiety or depression. No matter what your goal is, having a clear purpose for writing can be immensely helpful.
2. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
You don’t have to write in your journal every single day or fill up pages and pages with text in a single sitting. Some days, you might be inspired to write for an hour about your thoughts or experiences. Other days, writing one sentence may feel like a monumental task. Try not to overwhelm yourself by setting unrealistic expectations for your journal. Don’t get upset with yourself if you skip a few days, and don’t feel like every entry needs to be written perfectly.
3. Make it accessible.
The easier you make it for yourself to journal, the more you’ll do it. You may have to try out different routines or setups for your journaling to find the method that fits the best in your life. For example, some people keep their journals on their bedside table, which encourages them to write before going to sleep. Other people keep their journals in their cars or bags so that they can find moments to write while on-the-go. There is no right or wrong time or place to journal. What’s most important is that your journal is accessible to you when you’re most likely to use it.
4. Try different styles.
You might decide to write whatever you feel like writing in the moment without adhering to a particular method or style. If you feel overwhelmed by all of your journaling possibilities, though, you could try out specific structures to help guide your practice. For example, stream of consciousness journaling, which involves writing any and all words that come into your mind in the moment, can be a very powerful experience. Gratitude journaling, which focuses on what you’re grateful for, is also a great tool for self-reflection.
5. Don’t censor yourself.
We all want to show our best selves to the world, but your journal is private. Allow yourself to be authentic and vulnerable in your writing. Even if you’re not proud of a certain emotion or experience you’ve had, let your journal be a safe place to explore it. Try to avoid judging or criticizing yourself for what you write. By being honest with yourself, you’re making great strides to overcome emotional obstacles in your life.
6. Read old entries for self-reflection.
Once you’ve established your journaling practice, take time once in a while to read back on your old entries. Revisiting past entries can show you your growth over time, and it can reveal patterns in your emotions or behaviors. Try to remember how you were feeling as you wrote these old entries, and see what lessons you can learn from your past experiences.
Journaling is a valuable practice for your mental and emotional health. It provides an opportunity to explore your feelings in writing, and it creates a record of your thoughts. If your mental or emotional health concerns are getting in the way of your daily functioning, though, it’s time to reach out for professional support. The Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides counseling for people experiencing anxiety, depression, and many other concerns. You can contact us today to connect with a therapist in Beverly Hills.