Journaling is a form of self-reflection that has been shown to have many mental health benefits. Some people journal to process difficult events, manage anxiety or depression, or cope with loss and grief. Journaling helps them clear their minds and reflect on the past, process what is going on in the present, and plan for future events. Let’s go over 4 basic mental health benefits of journaling that can make a big difference in one’s life (and we’ll offer some tips on how to get started).
Creates Space for External Processing
Journaling is a practice that creates a safe outlet for external processing. Journaling through words or drawings can provide a safe and healthy way to express thoughts and emotions that may be difficult to work through internally or share with others. Putting pen to paper can also help compose and organize thoughts when reflecting on current life events or planning for future decisions.
Reduces and Manages Stress and Anxiety
Journaling regularly can also be a positive experience or coping strategy for those living with anxiety or dealing with stress. Writing about stressful or anxiety-provoking events can help you to process them and work through the associated emotions. This catharsis can often lead to a decrease in overall levels of stress and anxiety. Journaling can also help reduce brooding or obsessive thoughts, such as thinking about the same problem or situation over and over again.
Journaling helps people identify and reflect on their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This process can lead to increased self-awareness and understanding, which can then lead to improved relationships with others. A heightened self-awareness can also provide a greater sense of wellbeing and connection between mind and body. By journaling regularly, you may begin to notice patterns in your feelings and behaviors over time, which can help you better understand yourself in varying situations.
Encourages Emotional Healing
Journaling is also known to be a beneficial practice for people who are experiencing loss, grief, or trauma. By journaling about events that have caused emotional distress, you can create an outlet for your feelings of sadness, anger, or confusion. Journaling may help you process these difficult emotions and work through them in order to heal. This healing process can take time, but journaling can be an effective tool to support the overall journey.
How to Start Journaling (and Stick With It)
You don’t need a fancy journal or the perfect pens to start journaling. All you need is some time to yourself and a method—whether a physical journal and pen or the notes application on your phone—to record your thoughts. For even just five minutes a day, journaling can be an incredibly cathartic exercise. Here are a few tips for getting started:
Choose a Specific Time
Creating a regular habit of journaling starts with choosing the time of day that works best for you. Whether you journal early in the morning when you wake up, before bed as part of a wind-down routine, or sometime in-between, choose a time and place that you know you will be free from distractions.
Use a Timer
Setting a timer for 5-10 minutes when you’re starting out can help add structure to a journaling routine. At first, it may seem like you don’t have enough words to write in 10 minutes, but as you get into a rhythm, you may find that 10 minutes isn’t nearly enough time to write down all that you have to say. If you enjoy the timer structure moving forward, you can adjust how much time you set aside for journaling.
Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
Journaling is not a one-size-fits-all practice, nor is it a magic solution to solve all of life’s problems. In fact, journaling is often effectively used in conjunction with regular therapy provided by a licensed counselor. Journaling can take many forms, including long-form writing, sketching or drawing, list-taking, bullet journaling, song-writing, and even voice memos. When you first start journaling, set personal and attainable goals for yourself—such as writing for a specific amount of time each day or journaling consistently for a week.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your self-awareness, regulate emotions, and encourage your personal wellbeing in 2022, consider giving journaling a try.