How to Journal for Your Mental Health

Many of us had diaries when we were younger. They were a place to keep our most personal thoughts and feelings without penalty or judgement. It probably felt nice to write down what you were going through each day and may have helped you to see things more clearly.

Now that you’re older you may no longer keep a diary - more commonly known now as a journal - but that doesn’t mean that the same benefits don’t still apply. Journaling is an excellent resource for anyone dealing with anxiety, depression, or stress. Writing your thoughts and feelings down will allow you to understand your emotions more clearly, helping you to cope with them as time goes on.

BENEFITS

If you are struggling with your thoughts and emotions, you may be looking for an easy and healthy practice that will allow you to express yourself. Journaling is something that you will be able to do for the rest of your life. Just pick up a notebook and pen and you have all of the tools that you need.

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Keeping a journal will help you manage your depression, handle your anxiety, and lessen stress. When you repeatedly write down the causes of stress and fear in your life, you are able to create a plan of action, allowing you to determine a solid solution and reduce mental burdens.

As you continue to write in your journal, recognize positive self-talk and identify any negative reflections or behaviors. Track your feelings daily and try to pinpoint any reoccurring symptoms, as this may help you to identify triggers and ways to regulate them.

Use journaling as a way to prioritize any worries, problems or concerns that you may have each day. Re-read your entries and recognize the patterns - good or bad - it can help lead you to a better mental state.

IMPORTANT STEPS

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I would like to preface this by saying that there is no incorrect way to journal. However, there are a few things that will make journaling more beneficial to you down the line.

It may be silly to mention, but you may want to have a pen and paper present. It doesn’t matter what color the paper is or where you got it from, but you’ll want to keep the entries that you’ve already written, together. Again, journaling will help you to recognize patterns and behaviors and it may be difficult to do that if you couldn’t find some of your entries. If you choose, you can keep your journal on your computer or phone. Whatever resource is easiest for you to use will be sure to suffice.  

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Try to write every single day. It may be difficult to find time during busy days, but even a sentence or two will be beneficial. Your journal entries don’t need to be pages long. Just write whatever your feeling at the moment or the general mood of the day. If you prefer, schedule 5-10 minutes each day at the same time and write until the time is up. Get yourself into the habit of writing regularly. It will become easier as you go.

There are no set structures or rules that you need to follow with your journal. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling mistakes. This is something that is completely yours and you can make it look and feel however you see fit. Don’t worry about what others will think of writing or the way that it looks. Your journal is a private space that you should feel comfortable confiding in - only sharing what you want to share. Write only for yourself as you hone this new craft.

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It may feel daunting to start your first journal entry, but know that you will find comfort in it as you continue to write. Sit down with a drink and unwind. It should feel as relaxing as possible. As more entries are written, it will be nice to go back and re-read what you wrote, allowing you to get to know yourself better. At the end of the day, know that you are doing something kind for your body and mind.

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