You have probably heard the advice to keep a journal to improve your mental health numerous times before, but somehow you have never started doing it. Or perhaps you started, but the habit did not stick. Journaling involves writing down your innermost thoughts and feelings in a notebook, phone note app, or on your computer to understand them more clearly. It is not an easy habit to perfect, and it requires a lot of commitment and work.
In recent years, journaling has become quite popular, especially as a self-care strategy. But is journaling worth all the hype? Does journaling really work? Unfortunately, many people go into it with high expectations after hearing others confess how journaling changed their lives. They then get disappointed and give up if they don’t get their desired results within a few days.
Journaling is not a one-day or one-week activity. To reap the numerous mental health benefits of journaling, you have to do it consistently, for instance, writing every day or 3-4 times a week. Read on to find out how journaling improves your mental health and how to journal effectively.
6 Ways Journaling Improves Your Mental Health
- It is an opportunity to express your feelings
The world today pressures people to hold in their emotions to spare others the discomfort of having to deal with them which can be harmful to you. Instead of becoming stressed, bottling up your emotions, or dealing with them in destructive ways, such as through emotional eating and being aggressive, you can choose to keep a journal to process your feelings instead.
Expressive writing is therapeutic. Journaling improves your mental health by allowing you to express your feelings, release pent-up emotions, and vent your frustrations without fear of judgment. As you do this, you can sort out your feelings and work through them, thus reducing anxiety and stress. Your thoughts become more structured and clear, and you can come up with a solution for your problems or make better decisions.
Journaling is a healthy way to deal with stressful emotions and take control of them instead of them controlling you.
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- It helps you identify your triggers and monitor them
If you have poor mental health and are unsure what makes you feel the way you do, one of the benefits of writing in a journal every day is that it can help with self-reflection. Through it, you can identify your triggers and understand yourself better.
Track the circumstances that result in your negative feelings and self-talk day by day to discover what causes your mental health issues. For instance, you might notice that you feel stressed or have negative thoughts every time you log into social media platforms. Other examples could be that you feel anxious every time you watch the news, when you have a social function to attend, or a presentation. By learning what triggers you, you can better control your exposure to such things or events.
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- It is useful in decluttering your mind
Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed by all your responsibilities? When multi-tasking or when you have too many things to do, it can feel like there are too many tabs open in your brain, and you can’t focus on any one thing. This then makes you more stressed or anxious about not being able to complete your duties.
Reduce the burden on your brain by writing all your to-dos down. Writing in a journal helps you declutter your mind allowing you to organize your thoughts and prioritize tasks in order of urgency and importance.
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- It improves your memory
After a traumatizing event, your brain might block out some things from your mind to protect itself and dissociate from the situation. However, suppressing your feelings can negatively affect you as they might resurface later with a vengeance.
Keeping a journal helps you keep a record of your feelings as you are experiencing them. You can always go back to what you wrote to remember what you were feeling when explaining your symptoms to a therapist.
Also, there is a link between short-term memory loss and depression, anxiety, and stress. You tend to be more forgetful when experiencing either of these and thus, journaling can help you remember details that you could have forgotten.
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- Reduces brooding and rumination
Have you been having non -stop obsessive thoughts and memories about an event you went through? Studies indicate that expressive writing can help you reduce the frequency of rumination and brooding over past events if you have depression. You can break the cycle of negative thoughts and get them out of your system by writing in a journal.
However, this can also make things worse, and thus you have to be careful. If you find yourself repeatedly writing about the same thing without any shift in your perspective of the event, journaling is not helping to stop your rumination. Instead, it could be intensifying your depression by making you relive the event all over again, and you might need professional help to deal with ruminating thoughts.
For journaling to improve your mental health and be effective in reducing rumination, you should try to think about the positive side of things while writing. For example, you can include the lessons learned from the negative experience, your growth, what you are grateful for, affirmations, and your hopes for the future.
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- Journaling makes it easier to ask for help
This is another indirect way that journaling improves your mental health. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, there are some private thoughts you don’t feel comfortable sharing with anyone. However, as you grow more accustomed to writing about your feelings and understanding them, it becomes easier for you to talk about them too.
You can easily recognize that you have a problem, and if you can’t solve it yourself, you will be comfortable talking to a trusted friend or professional about it.
As you can see, the practice of journaling improves your mental health. There is no limit to the number of words to write and what to journal about. Depending on your feelings and what you are going through, you can write as little as only one sentence or as many pages as you need. There is also no right way or vocabulary to use when journaling. Write about your feelings in any way you see fit, using the words that help you fully express yourself. Hopefully, the above 6 benefits of journaling have convinced you why you should keep a journal and the many ways journaling improves your mental health.
Do you keep a journal? Does it help you deal with mental health issues? Are there any other mental health benefits you get from journaling?
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