How Journaling Enhances Our Mental Health (and How to Get Started!)

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Taking notes - Photo by: English106 - Source: Flickr Creative Commons

There are various strategies people can use to cope with stress, whether it’s exercise, listening to music or meditation. Maybe you have never considered journaling as a potential stress management technique, or maybe you have tried it in the past but it didn’t stick. This article will look at the many benefits of incorporating journaling into your routine, and discuss simple strategies for getting started.

The Many Benefits of Journaling

Research has revealed the positive impacts of journaling on boosting an individual’s mood and overall well-being. Expressive writing offers the opportunity to develop self-awareness into one’s own thought patterns, behaviors, and triggers for emotional distress. Various studies have noted the effectiveness of journaling in managing stress, as well as alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. You can read more information about mental health disorders and take a screening test for anxiety or depression online.

As journaling provides an outlet to process life events, it can help a person identify, accept, and release difficult emotions. Engaging in a journaling practice has been shown to play a powerful role in the process of healing from trauma.

Researchers have also found a link between expressive writing and improved physical health. Studies have concluded that journaling can reduce blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and improve sleep quality.

Let’s take a look at how to incorporate a journaling practice into your routine, in order to reap all of the powerful mental and physical health benefits.

5 Tips for Starting a Journaling Practice

Consider what form you’d like your journal to take

Many people think of journaling to be jotting down whatever comes to mind. If this style works for you, you can use your journal to process the day’s events and freely release your feelings on the page in sentences and paragraphs. However if this is not your thing, there are other journaling formats you can consider as well.

You could start a gratitude journal in which you write down several things you are thankful for each day, no matter how small. Gratitude has been linked with many positive mental health outcomes. Another idea includes using your journal to track daily symptoms if you are living with a mental health disorder. This could help you to gain awareness of your triggers over time. Or you could use the pages to identify progress towards meeting a goal, developing healthy habits or avoiding unhealthy behaviors. If lists are your style, you might look into starting a bullet journal which is a creative way to organize your goals and track progress.

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Set a consistent time to write

In forming a new habit, it is important to be intentional about creating a plan. Decide when would be most convenient for you to journal, whether first thing in the morning, after eating lunch or before bed. Make sure you write your journaling practice down on your calendar and schedule it into your day like you would another appointment. It doesn’t have to be an hour long commitment either. Even just sitting down to write for 20 minutes can be helpful in releasing stress and anxiety. 

Show up even when you don’t feel like it

Even if you feel like you don’t have anything to write about, still challenge yourself to show up. Oftentimes, the hardest part is getting started. It’s okay to write ‘I don’t know what to say’ or look up online journaling prompts to get ideas flowing.

Remove self-judgment as you write

Try not to judge yourself for what you write or the feelings you are having. Allow yourself the space to explore your emotions without censoring or shaming yourself. Remind yourself that whatever you are experiencing is valid and worthy of expression. 

Challenge yourself to remain consistent with your journaling practice.

Aim to be as consistent as possible with journaling, to assess the full impact on your mental health and well-being. At the same time, be gentle with yourself if/when you miss a day. It’s easy to let that spiral into stopping the habit entirely. Instead, just pick back up the next time and keep moving forward.