Often, when people think of journaling they may think of a teenager writing about their angst or perhaps a version of Brigid Jones Diary. Well both are correct ideas, but journals are for more than just angst, the latest crush or what happened that day. It is a form of self-expression that can lift and empower people to understand they’re complex feelings and find humor with it. Also, Journaling has become a smart way to combat mental health challenges.
I have journaled on and off for years. Usually in times of stress or when I am facing changes in my life. I have never been very consistent with it. Then I was watching a documentary of people who had over come great obstacles and changed their lives. One of the cast members mentioned that he had great success because of writing 3 pages a day. He referenced a book, The Artists Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. I am not an artist, but at the time I felt blocked creativity. All life and business needs creativity. I want to read the book to regain my creativity, to release my blocks and feel the expression of inspiration.
The book is a series of stories and exercises. Some of the exercises are challenging as the require a look into your past and your deepest desires. There were also exercises to complete continually. One of these exercises, that the book advocated, was to write 3 pages every day. There was no restraints, just write the pages. It had to be 3 pages.
What I found was, that in the beginning I was not sure what to write, so I just had to begin. Then as I got to the 2nd page of writing, I started to see insight to the issues I faced. I confess not everyday was a breakthrough. And yet, when I don’t write my 3 pages a day, I can feel the difference in my mood and well-being. Does that sound strange?
The science indicates that journaling has become a smart way to combat mental health challenges. Often, journaling is recommended by clinicians as a way to write out thoughts and to help analyze and understand emotions and concerns.
In general, people diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder reported significantly lower depression scores after three days of expressive writing, 20 minutes per day (Krpan, Kross, Berman, Deldin, Askren, & Jonides, 2013).
Research has found journaling can help to improve your mood by:
- Helping you discover your emotions and concerns.
- Helping you figure out what is at the epicenter of your feelings and problems.
- Giving you a healthy outlet for self-reflection.
- It allows you to get the feeling in your head out to another space and perhaps release them.
Overall, the benefits of journaling and expressive writing for those suffering from depression are pretty clear: it gives them the opportunity to release pent-up negative emotions, keeps them in a more positive frame of mind, and helps them build a buffer between their negative thoughts and their sense of well-being. “There’s simply no better way to learn about your thought processes than to write them down.” – Barbara Markway
Perhaps you are not down or depressed, but nervous or anxious, does journally help with anxiety?
Research shows that journaling is instrumental in helping us identify our negative automatic self-talk and default negative thinking.
Writing in a journal can positively impact anxiety through:
- Calming and clearing your mind
- Releasing pent-up feelings and everyday stress
- Letting go of negative thoughts
- Writing about your struggles and your successes
Journaling is also an excellent method for anyone who simply wants to manage their stress. Strong healthy habits revolve around you being in a good head-space. If your thoughts feel messy or all over the place, it’s going to be very hard for you to stick to the other components of your self-care routine like healthy doses of exercise and rest.
The University of Rochester Medical Center notes that “keeping a journal helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos.” Who can truly practice self-care in a chaotic environment?
Let’s face it, understanding yourself and your own struggles can help you fulfill your desires with what you truly need.
If you’re wondering what to write about or feel like you have ‘writer’s block,’ you’re likely thinking too hard about it. You can write about literally anything; your day, your feelings, what made you happy, what made you sad/mad, or something totally random. Anything can help promote and inspire further creativity down the road to allow for more introspective self-reflection. Remember, it won’t happen overnight, but consistent journaling can and will help.
Here’s a few journal prompts that could help inspire a nice, reflective writing session!
“This morning, I woke up for work and felt so drained. Despite this, I decided to get up and make the most of the day. I made a big pot of my favorite coffee, signed onto work, and got going, but I still felt awful…” –
This could help you delve into what made you feel so drained when you woke up this morning after an 8-hour good night’s sleep. Is it physical? Is it mental? What’s keeping you from feeling well-rested?
Here’s another one…
“I felt really low today, despite it being a great day. I got a raise at work, my partner surprised me with roses, and I found out I’m seeing my family this weekend. But for some reason, I just feel mentally and emotionally down…”
This is a great introduction to discovering why you feel so down. Is something bothering you that you’re putting on the back burner? Is it just a random sad feeling? Are you neglecting your ‘you’ time?
The Tiny Buddha website also has some interesting ideas and prompts that you can use to get started.
- Start writing about where you are in your life at this moment
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by maintaining a daily list of things you appreciate, including uplifting quotes;
- Maintain a log of successes
- If there’s something you are struggling with or an event that disturbing you, write about it in the third person
Keeping a journal can help you fully explore your emotions, release tension, and fully integrate your experiences into your mind (Scott, 2018). Further, it can help you work on reducing specific sources of stress or aid you in reaching an important goal (perhaps reducing your overall stress?). Also, adding some gratitude journaling as you get more proficient, can really make you aware of what is important in life. Gratitude journaling helps boosting your long-term well-being, encouraging exercise, reducing physical pain and symptoms, and increasing both length and quality of sleep (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Who knew that writing 3 pages each day could be so beneficial?