What is journaling?
Journaling involves writing your thoughts, feelings, and memories and is an outlet for pent-up emotions, frustrations, and anxieties. Journaling is often recommended as a self-care tool by energy medicine therapists, counsellor and psychologists.
Benefits of journaling
I experienced anxiety for many years while involved in an unhealthy relationship and one of my coping strategies was to journal. The most useful benefits for me were:
- To help me reduce stress.
- A great way to become aware of your inner world and how it affects your outer world.
- Allows me to express my thoughts and feelings.
- Provides a private place to escape the stresses of day-to-day life, draw comfort from a difficult time, or gain a sense of purpose.
- Serve as a form of self-care for mental health by helping to identify issues and responses to them.
- Provides an opportunity to record my daily life, make sense of it and find meaning in what might feel like senseless experiences.
- Increases mindfulness and better sleep.
- According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, “Journaling is one of the most significant changes people can make to improve their mental health.
- Is an inexpensive hobby
Recent studies found that writing for 10 minutes before bed increased nighttime sleep quality compared to those who were not journaling at all.
Journaling for anxiety and depression
Journaling is where I used to get all the ideas out of my head and onto paper so I wasn’t so wound up. This positive experience is backed up by the following studies:
One study found that among undergraduate students, those instructed to write about their emotions for twenty minutes each day over the course of two weeks reported better mental health than those who did not journal. The emotional benefits of journaling may come from the act of self-reflection, which is seen as a coping strategy.
In a study performed by The American Journal of Psychiatry, it was found that those who practiced writing about their fears and thoughts for fifteen minutes, three times a week, experienced a reduction in both symptoms of depression and anxiety.
This suggests that journaling may be a good supplement to current treatments for these illnesses.
Journaling for trauma
A trauma journal is a personal record of a traumatic event that a person feels unable to cope with. It can help them process what they experienced and how it has affected their lives. A trauma journal is also helpful for people who need to work through past events in order to move forward positively, as well as monitor symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety disorders.
While the effectiveness of trauma journals is an area of debate, there is evidence that they can improve coping, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and decrease post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Journaling for stress management
Journaling is an easy way to relieve stress. Keeping a journal can help you fully explore your emotions, release tension, and fully integrate your experiences into your mind. Further, it can help you work on reducing specific sources of stress or aid you in reaching an important goal (perhaps reducing your overall stress?).
Besides the outcomes listed above, journaling can also help you manage your stress by:
- Decreasing symptoms of various health conditions;
- Improving your cognitive functioning;
- Strengthening your immune system;
- Examining your thoughts and shifting your perspective;
- Reducing rumination and promoting action;
- and planning your options and considering multiple outcomes of a situation.
- Journaling can help with general sources of stress, but it is also a valuable tool for addressing issues and reducing stress from more specific problems.
How do I start journaling?
Starting a journal is a great way to create structure in your life. You can write about anything that stresses you out in the moment or any regrets that are weighing on your heart, and once you’re done with it, you can just close up the book and put it away for another day.
If you don’t know what to write, just start with whatever is in your head even if it doesn’t make sense. On many occasion I have just put pen to paper and written the same thing over and over again, before the writing properly started to flow.
Try to write every day. Set aside a few minutes every day to write and this will help you get into a routine and for it to become part of your every day so it won’t feel so alien.
Make it easy. Keep a pen and paper with you to write down your thoughts whenever you can. You can also keep a journal on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Write or draw whatever feels right. Just get it out of your busy head. Your journal doesn’t need to follow any certain structure. It’s your own private place to discuss and create whatever you want to express your feelings. Let the words and ideas flow freely. It’s not meant to be perfect and no-one else will see it unless you want them to.
Keeping a journal helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos. You get to know yourself by revealing your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings. Look at your writing time as personal relaxation time. It’s a time when you can de-stress and wind down.
Write in a place that’s relaxing and soothing, maybe with a cup of tea. Look forward to your journaling time and know that you’re doing something good for your mind and body.
A different style of journaling is gratitude journaling. In a world where we are bombarded with negativity from every direction, it is sometimes tough to be grateful for anything. A common misconception about gratitude journals is that they’re meant for people who have a lot to be thankful for. This couldn’t be farther from the truth!
A gratitude journal helps us acknowledge the important things in our lives, which can be quite easy to overlook if we are constantly inundated with negative influences. It’s something I began doing when I started a yoga and meditation teacher training course and it has certainly helped me stay more upbeat at times when life has thrown a curved ball.
It works because gratitude is a high frequency emotion and makes us feel good and if we are feeling high frequency, we attract high frequency. By focusing on what you have right now means we are living in the moment. Some of the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal include improving relationships, increasing happiness, increasing resilience, and boosting your immune system, which are also all benefits of mindfulness.
We all have things we are thankful for, however, it’s easy to forget. This is because we tend to be more focused on the things we feel bad about, and less focused on the things we feel good about. That’s why a gratitude journal is such a great tool. By writing down a list of all the things we are grateful for, we are more likely to be more aware of all the positive things in our lives, and more likely to share those positive things with others.
Step 1: Write down on a piece of paper, or just on your phone or tablet, five things you are grateful for right now.
Step 2: Do this when you wake in the morning and again before bed at night.
Step 3: Document any changes you notice as you implement this as a daily practice.
So why not give journaling a go?
I work with energy medicine systems to calm and heal the body. In my one to one consultations, I educate and give tools and exercises to empower you to discover and become the ultimate you. Get in touch for a free 15 minute consultation.