Journaling for Mental Wellbeing
Journaling is more than just a written record of our thoughts, emotions, and events. It is one of the most accessible ways to manage stress, grow awareness, and improve our mental wellbeing.
Psychologists often recommend journaling as it can effectively reduce feelings of distress and anxiety. Furthermore, various research shows that journaling is associated with improved mental health outcomes.
Overall, journaling can reduce anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. It is especially effective when complemented with other stress management activities such as yoga, exercise, and meditation. Below is a more specific breakdown of journaling’s benefits.
- Healthy outlet for distress
Journaling allows a cathartic outlet to appropriately process and express our negative emotions. This counteracts the tendency to suppress negative emotions or have them drift within us without resolution, which can potentially do more harm.
Process our experience to uncover helpful insights about ourselves
Putting our emotions and thoughts onto paper is an opportunity to disclose them in an organised way and properly process what is going on. This amplifies our ability to reflect and grow from unwanted situations. It also provides some separation and solace which helps us obtain perspective and insight into our inner workings.
Relaxation and clarity
Since journaling clears what is on our mind, it minimises energy spent grappling with inner turmoil. This helps us go through the rest of the day with more relaxation. We can also obtain mental clarity, as there is less turmoil in our minds.
Boosts mood and emotional function
Over the long term, journaling allows us to be more in tune with our emotions, thoughts, and needs. As a result, we cultivate the habit of being more mindful which improves our mood management. Furthermore, as we get better at translating our experience onto paper, we strengthen our ability to let go of emotions and thoughts that can impair healthy emotional function.
Journaling may be less effective for people with:
People with perfectionistic tendencies may get caught up in details that are not entirely relevant to journaling, such as spending effort concerned about the aesthetics of their writing or creating the perfect sentence. This takes away from the main objective of obtaining deeper insight into our emotions and thoughts.
Although striking things off the to-do list is satisfying, journaling for the sake of just completing a task can take away from the reflective approach of effective journaling.
Symptoms of PTSD
Journaling to treat PTSD is an effective method. However, re-reading detailed accounts of distressing events without professional guidance can hamper your progress in therapy. It is recommended to have the support of a psychologist to guide you through this challenging process.
Tips for Effective Journaling
- Be clear on your aim for journaling (see section below) and choose the corresponding methodology – don’t be afraid to pick a couple of aims to work on simultaneously.
- Create balance by journaling about both the negatives and positives (or how you’ve grown from a negative event).
- Try to journal consistently over a committed period of time.
- Measure your progress at regular intervals. e.g Fortnightly or monthly.
Various Aims for Journaling
The act of journaling is simple in essence, make a bit of time and write. When reading about the journaling aims, its methodology may come across as too simple. Please do not let this simplicity deceive you, as this is not about the elaborateness of method. It’s about the subtle effects one feels after completing the method, much like experiencing an uplifting mood after simply smiling with someone’s delightful reaction. The positive benefits become clearly evident after a period of consistent journaling.
Aim: Distress relief. Clearing the mind of negative emotions and thoughts.
Pick an event and write for 15-20 mins about what happened, paying attention to how you felt or what you experienced.
- Write about how you have grown or will grow from this event.
Aim: Uplift mood.
Practice gratitude by writing a daily gratitude list. List 3 things you are grateful for each day.
- If you feel stressed or down during the day, go through your daily gratitude list as a helpful reminder.
Aim: Gain fresh perspective on your emotions and thoughts.
Express your thoughts and emotions on a page.
- When you feel calmer, re-read what you have written to understand how your perspective may be affected by your emotions.
With enough journal entries, you may be able to spot themes or patterns in the way you feel, think, and behave across different situations.
- You can start addressing reoccurring issues, rather than individual thoughts.
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