If you are trying to improve your mental health, journaling has shown to be a particularly effective tool you can utilize. There are a lot of benefits that come from journaling regularly and it’s easy to fit into your daily routine.
There are mornings when I cannot wait to get out of bed so that I can write in my journal.
Here, we’ll look at just 6 benefits of journaling for mental health.
1. It releases stress
Journaling is one of the best ways to manage stress. Allowing you to write all your worries instantly releases tension.
This is because the very act of writing your problems down, gets them out of your head. It also makes it easier to identify how to solve the issues you are experiencing.
Years ago, a colleague suggested I read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It is based on the belief of the law of attraction, which claims that thoughts can change a person’s life directly.
One of the authors suggestions was to begin each day by writing down 10 things you were thankful for.
Years later, I am still using this. The very act of my writing down what I am thankful for, creates a positive loop, bringing more positiveness to me. I know that sounds like hippy talk, but what you think is what you can control.
Henry Ford is famous for stating that “whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are correct.”
As you write down your thoughts, know that you can use this to guide your life. Your journal can be a starting place for dealing with stressful situations.
So, if you are having a hard time letting go of stress, give journaling a try and see how effective it is at reducing your stress levels.
2. You will get to know yourself better
Journaling also allows you to get to know yourself better. When we understand who we are, what we are passionate about, and the way our moods change, we can start to live a more fulfilled life.
Most people keep their journals private. They are the only ones who ever see them. This anonymity allows the writer to freely express their thoughts and feelings, their core emotions. By not holding anything back, you can get to know yourself better.
For me, journaling is a public display. I decided when I came home from the hospital to write my journal as a blog. In 20 months, I have written almost 400 blog (journal) entries. Each one is an honest reflection of my condition at the time.
As you journal you will get to see what makes you feel more confident, as well as which situations are toxic to you. This all leads to enhanced emotional wellbeing.
3. It boosts your mood
One of the simplest benefits of journaling is that it can help to boost the mood. If you are writing a gratitude journal, after 21 days you’ll see a drastic change in your positivity.
Writing 10 things I am thankful for each day has made my life more robust. I have learned that I have a lot to be thankful for and each day is a new chance to discover what I am grateful for.
A freewriting journal on the other hand allows you to get all your worries out of your head, instantly making you feel better.
Most of my early journaling is freewriting and much still is. I bring my laptop and a cup of black coffee out on the front porch. Watching the birds at my feeders, I look out on the forest. As I sit, my head wraps around a topic or feeling or even a core emotion. And the words just come. Writing them all down, I feel more in control.
There have been scientific studies surrounding this idea. One has the intimidating name: Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial. Another angle researchers have studied involves a specific type of journal. Mood journals have numerous applications in research and practice. Although the idea of tracking one’s moods and thoughts is not novel, technological solutions take self-tracking to new levels in order to improve health care.
Whatever type of journal you keep, it can really help to boost the mood and even combat mild depression.
4. Helps with problem-solving
Sometimes, a lot of anxiety and unhappiness we feel in life comes from the problems we experience. The trouble is, when you suffer from mental illness, it can make it harder to figure out how to solve your problems.
I wrote for months about my struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I shared this with my Psychiatrist, my therapist, my support groups at On Our Own, and with my family. Eventually, a new Psychiatrist helped me resolve this problem. It turns out, my medication was creating the daily fogginess and contributing to my inability to get out of bed.
By journaling, you will find it much easier to break down your problems and find a solution. It helps you to see the situation much more clearly and gives you a better idea of how to solve it. I have solved many problems through my journaling.
5. Aids in healing
If you are struggling to let go of past pain and trauma, keeping a journal can be beneficial. It is commonly used as a tool for healing. You can use a journal to explore what happened, how it made you feel and any triggers which contribute to your mental health issues now.
Journaling, I have explored some dark places. But by going there, I get a better sense of the big picture. I know first hand about being up against the wall, circling the drain, and edging towards the abyss. For me, in those moments (which have lasted days, weeks, months, even years), clarity is not available.
Right then, all I saw was NO WAY FORWARD. I felt up against a wall with no possible way forward. Journaling about these moments, I have a new perspective and a more objective way to see what I was going through. Journaling gives me hope.
A journal causes you to have to tackle your problems head on, rather than running away from them.
6. Identifying behavior patterns
Finally, keeping a journal can also help you to identify behavior patterns. To become better people, we often need to adjust our behaviors. It is hard to do that when we don’t fully understand the behaviors we have now.
By writing down your behaviors, you’ll get to identify any possible triggers and see if there are any patterns that emerge. This will then make it easier to see what needs to change and how you can change it.
Using a WRAP plan (wellness recovery action plan), I have a list of my triggers. Thankfully, I have not needed to implement full-blown crisis management using my written plan. But my life is not a straight line moving onward and upward. And recognizing my triggers has been a huge benefit.
Depression keeps tossing out Unhelpful Thinking. Journaling is one way I can recognize these thinking styles. This has helped me challenge these thoughts and ask better questions. The result is I can see how sneaky depression can be.
These are just some of the benefits of journaling for mental health. There have been a ton of studies which have shown the benefits on both the physical and mental health. You don’t even have to spend a lot of time writing in them daily to experience the full benefits.
So, if you haven’t tried journaling to help your mental health, now is the time to do so. Just be sure to learn about the different techniques before you do.