Journaling for Mental Health Improvement
Journaling for mental health has helped me in so many ways. Not only does it help me track my moods, but it can keep me accountable when I'm trying to change a habit. By journaling for mental health consistently, I can backtrack to see where my feelings come from. I get frustrated when I go from one emotion to the other without knowing why. By writing down what I’m feeling, I can usually decipher why I’m having that specific emotion. When I’m trying to change a habit, journaling helps me to keep track of my progress. First, I set goals for myself -- just little steps to work towards changing the habit. I can journal each day about what I did to take a step towards the larger goal. This is not only motivating, but it keeps me accountable to myself.
There are so many styles of journaling for mental health. Here are some tips to get you started with a basic journaling habit.
How to Start a Journal for Mental Health Monitoring and Improvement
Choose a Journal that Fits Your Needs
There's an ongoing discussion about which is better: a paper journal or a digital journal. It all boils down to personal preference. Some people feel more connected to their journal when they write with a pen or pencil. There's definitely something to be said about seeing your thoughts written down in your own handwriting. You can even doodle or create illustrations.
Other people love the convenience of having their journal on a digital platform. You can access it from your phone, tablet, or laptop at almost anytime you want. Personally, I love typing my journal entries because it's faster for me than writing by hand. My thoughts are often moving so quickly that it's easier to keep up with them. Most digital writing platforms allow you to tag your entries, which can be very helpful if you're tracking your moods or habit patterns. Try both of these options to see which one fits your needs better.
Give Yourself a Time Limit
Staring at a blank page is one of the most intimidating feelings, especially when you first start journaling. By giving yourself a goal to write for a set period of time, it won't seem as hard. Set a timer for five minutes and just write. When that timer goes off, chances are you're going to want to keep writing. By giving yourself an endpoint, it makes the task less scary and difficult to start. You don't have to stop writing when time's up. The timer is there to put some pressure on you and get you motivated to begin.
Don't Worry About Spelling or Grammar
This one is hard for me because I'm a perfectionist. Even though no one is going to read my journal, if I notice a spelling or grammar error, I'll stop what I'm writing and go fix it. This will often make me lose my train of thought. When you start writing, just go with it. Don't worry about how it sounds, if you're using the same word too much, or if the commas are in the right place. This journal is for you. No one is going to judge it or grade it. Let your thoughts run free and just write.
Again, this journal is yours. You can say whatever you want. Don't hold back and don't censor yourself. Journaling is such a great tool for getting those racing thoughts out of your head where you can physically see them. Maybe they're not so pretty, but journaling allows you to come to terms with your thoughts. If you're having anxiety and you don't know why, writing down whatever pops into your head can help you figure out what is causing it. I can see trends in my moods when I'm consistently journaling and this often helps me figure out how to cope when I'm feeling depressed or anxious.
Use Journal Prompts When You're Stuck
If you're sitting there and no matter how hard you try, you keep drawing a blank, journal prompts can be very helpful. Prompts help you think about things in new ways or even ask questions that you never would have thought of yourself. They can definitely make you think outside the box. It can be very uncomfortable, but the insight you gain from asking yourself tough questions can truly benefit your mental health. There are tons of journal prompts online or you can buy a book that has both the prompts and space to answer them.
A Journaling Habit Benefits Mental Health in the Short-Term and the Long-Term
Journaling for mental health is a wonderful tool. I’ve been inconsistent with this habit but I always come back to it. When I’m not doing it, I notice problems with racing thoughts, evolving emotions, and motivation to make positive changes. I feel that it makes me feel better in the moment, but it also helps me change habits and cope with my anxiety and depression in the long run.
I’m making a commitment to myself to follow through with this journaling for mental health habit. Sometimes, it’s hard to sit down and just do it, but I’m always thankful when I do.
Capper, J. (2018, October 9). Journaling for Mental Health Improvement, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2018/10/journaling-for-mental-health-improvement