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Journaling for mental health

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

When you think of the term journaling you may be sent back to your childhood with memories of a locked journal covered in stickers and invisible ink. While content will differ greatly from childhood diaries, journaling is still a great practice for adult life. Forms of journaling are a recommended practice for mental health issues and everyday writing is a great way to get things off your chest and onto paper. Let’s take a look at how to start journaling and ways it may benefit you. 

Benefits of journaling

If you’re still on the sceptical side of what writing on a piece of paper may do for you - keep reading. Regular journaling is a commonly assigned task of therapy and has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression and ADHD. Even if you don’t suffer from these it's a great way to clear any clutter out of your head. Keeping a record of your thoughts and feelings is a very grounding experience and you can also start recognising patterns. You might start seeing a repeated pattern of spending time with certain people doing certain activities that boost your mood. 

Journalling can help see your problems in a different way. Writing out your worries and concerns on paper may let you see a solution you hadn’t noticed before. Or it may reassure you that they aren’t as bad as you first thought. It’s also good practice to help you work out what your daily priorities are. 

Giving yourself time to write your own thoughts and feelings is also giving you some quality ‘you time’. Committing to self-care and putting yourself first for a few minutes a day can make a world of difference. Writing thoughts and feelings seems to slow down time and allows for some peace in your day - especially if you’re constantly busy. 

How to start journaling

If you’ve never done it before starting a journal can seem like a daunting task, writing out thoughts and feelings can be especially confronting. Don’t let this stop you, you could write down things you're grateful for, random thoughts that come into your head, what you ate for breakfast or even start a visual journal instead. Journaling is simply the act of writing in a journal so interpret this however you like. 

At the beginning make sure to block out some time for journaling and stick to it. Getting up 10 minutes early or writing before bed are usually the quietest times to put pen to paper. Once you’re in the habit of doing so, it will become a lot easier. You’ll start looking forward to this quiet time. 

Find the right space to start writing. If you’re somewhere too noisy or busy you might struggle to write out your thoughts. Experiment with writing in different places and see what works best for you. Make sure all distractions are turned off including your mobile, this will help create a relaxing space. Invest in a nice pen and journal, this will help you commit to writing and also increase your enjoyment. 

Focus on writing freely, whatever you want with no censoring. It’s not often we get the chance to write with absolutely no boundaries so take advantage of this. You’ll probably find yourself holding back at the start, but once you get used to it the words should flow more freely. 

Although it will only be you looking at it make sure to date every entry. While thoughts seem fresh at the time, you’ll quickly forget which day was which. It’s nice to record the date so if you’re looking back over entries you can see which date it happened on. Starting with writing the date is also a good way to encourage the words to come. Looking at a blank piece of paper can be daunting so at least writing the date should get you going. 

Forget about spelling, grammar and how tidy your writing is. This is your personal collection of thoughts and feelings so go about it how you want. As long as you can decipher what's on the paper it doesn't matter how legible or correct it is. Read about mindfulness meditation here.

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