I have shared openly that I struggle with Depression and Anxiety. I am not ashamed to say this and I hope that in sharing my story, others feel solidarity and comfort. Of the many ways, I manage my mental health, journaling has become one I look forward to the most. When I first started journaling for mental health, it was very overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what I should write or if what I was writing would even help. But my journal has come to be like an old friend. A safe place I can share my thoughts, feelings, wins, and frustrations. Some of my biggest break-through moments have come during my journaling sessions.
Journaling for mental health – why should I do it?
Journaling has many powerful benefits. It is so much more than just jotting down fantasies or life events (though it is great for those things too!). Studies have shown that journaling requires the application of both the analytic AND creative sides of your brain, occupying the more analytic side in the process, allowing your creativity to flow. Regular journaling/expressive writing has been found to:
- Boost your mood
- Decrease intrusive thoughts
- Improve memory
- Decrease anxious feelings before a big event
- Assist in processing trauma
I have also found that journaling helps me to understand or breakdown my emotions. When I am able to express myself through writing, I am often able to articulate how I feel better than when I speak. I have used my journal to write letters to myself, or others when I am struggling to communicate feelings to them.
Journaling for mental health – how do I start?
Just start writing! Easier said then do though, right? While it seems like a simple enough task, knowing where to start can be a little overwhelming. The great news is that there are no hard and fast rules in journaling, you get to decide how it works best for you. You may decide that you journal each morning (I like to do this with a cup of my favorite tea), at bedtime, or some other time. Maybe journaling once a week is better for you, I promise, you cannot mess this up. There is no set amount of time you need to spend or words you need to write. It is such a personal experience and the more you customize it for your needs, the more beneficial it will be.
I like to pick a journal or notebook that is pretty, there is no special benefit to this other than I just like it. You may prefer one that has special quotes, a certain type of paper, or even includes prompts. If you are trying journaling for the first time, you may like a journal that is just 1 line a day. There are so many options out there, but even a simple notebook will do.
Find a quiet time or place, to write your thoughts down. Again, this can be difficult, especially if you are like me and tend to keep yourself busy to avoid thinking about emotions. But setting aside even 5 or 10 minutes to write my thoughts down has been so healing. What once had to be planned and sometimes felt forced, has become a favorite part of my day. My journaling sometimes truly only takes 5 minutes. I will write down exactly how I am feeling in that moment or one thing that happened during the day. Others, I have so much to fill the pages that I have to set a timer to make sure my other tasks are completed.
If I am working through something specific or struggling with journaling, I will often use journal prompts. These are short questions or phrases, and you simply write what you are thinking about that specific thing. I have used prompts for self-care, body acceptance, parenting, healing, mindfulness. A quick google search will find your prompts for just about anything you could think of.
10 Beginner Journal Prompts
- What was your favorite part of today?
- What was your least favorite part of today?
- List 5 things you are grateful for in this moment.
- What would you say to yourself at 16?
- Write 5 things that make you happy
- It is okay to not be okay. Leave what is heavy on your mind on this page.
- Is your current job your dream job? If not, what would be?
- What story do you want your life to tell?
- If you could only keep 3 things, what would those be?
- Think about someone who makes you feel loved. What about them gives you those feelings?
I challenge you to give journaling a try. Just for 1 week, write at least one thing down each day, and see where it takes you! Join the conversation about journaling with my community on Instagram or Facebook