While growing up, you may have kept a diary as your confidant to confess your fears and struggles to. For me, it would feel good to get out all of my thoughts and, sometimes confusing, emotions without feeling judged. Whether it was about relationships, insecurities, moving, discrimination, what have you, it was refreshing to put my feelings on paper and reflect back on it. For a good portion of my life, I have lived with anxiety. Although, when I reached my 20’s, it evolved into challenging bouts of depression. Through life’s ups and downs, one thing that has consistently helped me was journaling.
You may have left journaling behind once you reached adulthood, but the concept of “writing in a diary” and the benefits still apply. If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, journaling can help you better understand your feelings and gain more control over your emotions. Writing down your thoughts is a great way to improve your mental health. It is important to note that journaling is not a cure-all, and you should seek outside assistance, if needed.
Benefits of Journaling
Track your symptoms and notice patterns
It could be a challenging relationship, stressful situations, or a specific time of the day. If you’re able to write daily, you may be able to recognize triggers, and can learn ways to control them or avoid them in the future. If you re-read past entries, you will see how you’ve changed over time. You may notice trends, or if you’re feeling better, worse, or the same. This can be reassuring to see how far you’ve come. Or, you may find that you need more help than journaling can provide.
The more you journal, the more opportunities you have to get to know yourself better. Expressing yourself is this safe place will bring thoughts and feelings to the surface, even those you weren’t aware that you had. You may be surprised by what you write or learn that something was bothering you that you were not aware of. A lot of my deepest feelings have been revealed to me by journaling.
Constantly writing emotional rants about how horrible life is and how crappy you feel does get it out of your body and mind. The problem is this type of writing only reinforces your negative thought process. You feel miserable, so you write down miserable things and they’re there staring back at you, telling you that these thoughts are true. Focus on what it is that you truly want and change your wording to fit that. Instead of I am unhappy, write I am happy. Write what you want into existence. Retrain your brain into creating positive thoughts and memories. Perhaps use your journal as a gratitude or affirmation journal. Write what you’re grateful for or what you’re good at instead of all the negative things that are taking place in your life and what you dislike about yourself.
My brain is a smorgasbord of thoughts, feelings, ideas, concerns, you name it. Simply put, it’s chaotic. There are times when the chaos inside my mind starts to leak out and affect my outside world. For example, having a messy room or being disorganized. Putting pen to paper can cut through your chaotic mind. Writing things down makes them feel more manageable and puts those thoughts into perspective. Actually seeing what your challenges are empowers you to do something about it and will help you recognize if you feel worse or need more assistance.
Try writing daily for at least 20 minutes. Find a time and quiet place to relax and get your thoughts down. This may be before bed, when you have no distractions and can reflect on the day. Just make sure to find a time to write that works for you.
Make it Easy
Keep your journal on you at all times so that you’re able to jot down your thoughts throughout the day. You can even use your computer or phone if that’s easier. Be prepared and set yourself up for success.
Let It Rip
Write about whatever comes to mind; let your thoughts flow freely. Your journal is your place to discuss whatever you want and doesn’t need to follow a particular structure. No one ever has to read it, unless you choose to share, so you’re less inclined to edit or worry about grammatical errors. The less concerned you are about writing techniques, the more beneficial journaling will be.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Again, it’s OK to write about negative things. After all, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. However, if you find that your journal mostly consists of negative ramblings, then it’s time to shift your writing. Put a time limit on negative writing and try not to re-read your negative entries. You could even “banish” the negative thoughts by writing them on a loose sheet of paper, balling it up, and throwing it away as a sort of emotional cleansing.
Try Something New
Write letters to your current or future self. Write to those who your thoughts are concerning or even loved ones who have passed. When I’ve reached a hurdle in a relationship, whether it’s familial, platonic, or romantic, I find that writing a letter to that individual allows me to better express myself or discover what it causing me to feel however I’m feeling. You can choose to give this letter to that person, or keep it for your own personal reflection.
The key is to look forward to your journaling. Know that it’s good for your body and mind, and that you’ll feel better afterwards.
Has journaling helped in your personal life? Please feel free to share in the comments below.