Journaling for Mental Health: All You Need to Know
Whether you have a mental health condition, are striving to adjust to a change in your life, or managing daily stress, self-care techniques can help you immensely.
Journaling for mental health is a technique you can consider as it serves different purposes.
In general, journaling serves different purposes. People use it in many ways.
To some, journaling helps them to document specific aspects of their daily life. Others may consider journaling a spontaneous exercise, a channel through which they can process their various experiences via creative writing.
Teens and children are fond of keeping journals, but the habit is abandoned as people get older. However, it is essential to understand that no matter your age, journaling is a good, evidence-based technique to manage stress and mental health conditions.
Journaling is an expressive coping technique that allows you to process negative experiences, feelings, or thoughts by releasing them. By documenting these things, you can overcome whatever influence or power they might have over you.
Does Journaling Help One to Cope With Anxiety?
People who have anxiety disorders often struggle with intrusive anxious thoughts or excessive worry. So yes. It is common to conceive and dwell on negativities.
But with journaling, you can cope with rumination. Journaling allows you to externalize your thoughts, verbalize them, and put them aside rather than being obsessed about them.
Journaling helps you to explore alternatives to anxieties. For instance, if you are worried that you might lose your job, your thoughts may go this way: “if I lose my job, I’ll find it hard to get another.”
After documenting your anxiety, you can write down other possibilities: you might find a better job after losing the present one or retain your position and get a promotion.
A study published in JMIR Mental Health that involved 70 adults with high anxiety levels found that 12-week journaling significantly reduced their mental distress. Long-term journaling also strengthens one’s resilience.
Journaling Helps With Depression
Journaling is effective for depressed people as well.
In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, 40 subjects struggling with major depressive disorder (MDD) were required to document an emotional event. In addition, they were also asked to write about non-emotional events occurring daily in their lives. This writing was performed repeatedly over several days.
The result of the study showed that emotional writing caused a significant decrease in symptoms of depression. On the other hand, mundane writing did not.
The idea is that journaling for mental health will give you great benefits when you focus on deeper thoughts and feelings than documenting your daily experiences like a conventional dairy.
Maintaining a gratitude journal also helps with depression.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Depression and Anxiety suggests that practicing gratitude can help counteract the depression created by negative thought patterns.
A gratitude journal is simply a list of things you are grateful for on a particular day.
Journaling Can Also Help With Trauma
People who live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) benefit immensely from psychotherapy, but journaling may also help relieve trauma-related symptoms.
In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, consistent expressive writing can help reduce PTSD symptoms. The study also suggests that journaling about a stressful or traumatic event helps manage PTSD symptoms.
And since expressive writing involves recalling a traumatic event, it doubles as a triggering action. As such, you must care for yourself. Therefore, expressive writing is best practiced under the guidance of a mental health professional, like a therapist.
Tips on How to Start Journaling
One of the things that make journaling unique is its accessibility. Journaling does not require purchasing a particular journal to start – but that’s not to say you shouldn’t do it if you find it motivational. You only need some paper, a pen, and some free time on your end.
Consider the best time to journal. It might be late at night, first thing in the morning, or at a specific time during work.
You don’t have to worry about journaling at a set time every day. Instead, you can fit it into your schedule.
If you are unsure how to begin, consider using any of the prompts below:
1. What are those things you can be grateful for today?
2. What do you hope to achieve for the next week?
3. What are your present challenges?
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
5. What would you do tomorrow if you had no restraints or obligations?
6. Write about a past event that had a significant impact on you.
Journaling might be an efficient option if you need a simple, easy, and highly accessible way to manage negative thoughts, trauma, stress, or mental health symptoms.
Journaling is a low-risk approach that can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Moreover, plenty of evidence shows that it can be impactful.
Journaling is effective for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It helps with daily stress management, monitoring one’s mood, and creating a sense of gratitude.
When you start journaling, begin on a small scale. For example, you can write a paragraph daily or five things you are grateful for daily. You may find yourself writing many pages daily.
There’s no perfect journaling technique. Pick up a pen, and you’re good to go.