Who would have thought that journaling would be so life-changing! By Life changing, I refer to healing. I have found that journaling has some amazing mental health benefits as well as helps with seeing things in life from a different perspective.
I am sure you have heard of Anna Frank. She posthumously gained fame after her diaries were discovered after World War II. Anna kept a diary during the war, and as a teenage prisoner in Auschwitz she hid her diary. After Auschwitz was liberated, Anna’s diary was discovered and given to her father. It is her father who shared Anna’s diaries and the stories shared in Anna’s writings about life in hiding and as a prisoner of war. On 16 March 1944 Anna wrote, ‘The nicest part is being able to write down all my thoughts and feelings; otherwise, I’d absolutely suffocate’.
Writing in a journal can have a positive impact on your mental health. The words you write are not just words, they are expressions of feelings, discussions with yourself on overcoming challenges and a way to release your anxieties and stress.
12 Benefits of Journaling for mental health.
Improved mental health and physical health are the benefits of journaling. Journaling can contribute to helping improve through self-expression, exploration and freedom.
Journaling reduces your stress and anxiety.
To understand our stress and anxiety, we need to understand our thoughts. One of the best ways to understand thoughts is to write them down. Writing in a journal is calming and helps with releasing everyday stresses. I have found by asking myself questions. I learn to let go of negative thoughts and process my understanding, my worries and my experiences. By journaling, you often see things in a different way, and you discover new ways of coping with different scenarios.
When you journal, you may begin to notice triggers as to what or who makes you anxious or stressed. Journaling helps with learning about unnecessary stress by asking yourself what is the worst scenario and what can be done to resolve this. You learn, grow and problem-solve. Naturally, journaling is only one method that helps with anxiety and stress. Speaking with a health professional to help is beneficial and one thing I waited for way too long to do in life. Speaking with a counsellor or psychologist can assist you with processing your thoughts and emotions.
Journaling helps you progress towards your goals.
Keeping a journal can help you progress towards your goals. As part of my journal, when I started journaling for goal setting, I wrote, ‘What 2 things can I do today to feel amazing and bring me closer to my goals?’
We all have goals. When you think about your life goals and break down what you really want to do you will discover there are many little steps that lead to the goals itself. By writing about your goals and the steps you want to take it helps you with accountability and helps you see that by breaking down your goals into smaller steps that are doable. A journal helps you review your past successes and enables you to learn from your past failures which both help you stay focussed and inspired towards progressing and achieving towards your goals.
Journaling helps you sleep better.
Before going to bed at night writing out a few things you are thankful for or clearing your mind by writing down your thoughts helps your sleep better. Going to bed with a head full of thoughts about incomplete tasks, things to do, essays or projects that are coming up all contribute to tossing and turning and an unsettled night. Try brain-dumping to clean your mind before bed, so you fall asleep quicker.
Journaling helps you start the day positively.
There is nothing like starting the day in a good mood. It sets you up for a positive day. Journaling helps with that. Journaling helps because when you write to express yourself, you release your emotions. Research has shown that repressed emotions, emotions that you avoid, can lead to physical symptoms like stress, anxiety and depression. Journaling is your private space and a way to release repressed emotions.
There may be days you feel unable to write about your feelings on those days, start the day positively by writing what you are grateful for. Starting the day with gratitude is always a great way to start the day.
Journaling reduces symptoms of depression
As journaling helps you release your emotions and process your thoughts, it benefits your mental health. By writing and identifying your feelings towards different areas and spaces of your life, it helps you release the burden and improves your mood.
When your journal daily about something you are grateful for it also helps reduce depression. This list of 21 things we take for granted we shouldn’t is a good starting point on ideas to express gratitude through journaling.
Journaling helps you learn from experience and assists with problem-solving.
One of the great benefits of journaling for mental health and goal achievement is it helps with problem-solving. Writing about the problems or issues you face actually helps you work through them. Sometimes it is the fact that you write about a topic so much that you begin to research it and resolve issues you have within that space. Other times you may find that through letting go of your feelings and emotions by journaling your thoughts about the difficult times or problems you’ve had, new channels open up, and a way forward is revealed.
Journaling boosts your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Long before I started journaling, I invested in self-development. I recall reading that it is difficult to develop a perspective on emotions and life when every day feels like a new mountain to climb. Through journaling, the mountains started becoming hills because, through journaling, patterns are identified that help with self-awareness. It is through becoming self-aware and learning about what pushes or pulls our emotions that we discover ways to improve our confidence and self-esteem.
To improve your self-confidence, start by writing about something positive that went well for you today or write about one of your biggest achievements. As you write, remember to include your feelings and emotions towards your achievements. Reading about your successes increases your confidence and self-esteem, as does reading positive affirmations.
Journaling can improve physical health.
Mental and physical health are intertwined therefore journaling improves physical health. When you journal, your psychological health improves, and as mental health improves, so does your participation in physical and health practices. You may find you eat healthier, exercise more or go out in nature for walks more often. To improve physical health, keeping notes or specific journals can help. Journals are great for tracking food and exercise. This post shares 5 different ways to start a personal journal.
How to write to improve your mental health.
Many people, when they first start journaling, write about gratitude. Writing three things each day you are thankful for really can improve your mental health, especially when you see the positive in the very things that are getting you down. Though it may be hard to see, there is always something positive, like improved well-being and relationships with oneself and others.
There are many different ways to write in a journal to improve mental health. One of the ways is to remember the word WRITE as you write. I first read about this guideline for journaling through an article on positive psychology.
Write stands for;
W – What topic, what do you want to write about. Think about your life, your day, the things you are avoiding, the questions you have, your goals, your feelings and your thoughts. Name what you are going to write about and write down your topic on the top of the paper.
R – Reflect or review on your topic. Take a few moments to think about your topic. Sit calmly and take a few deep breaths. Use mindfulness or meditation techniques to help you relax and focus. Start writing your thoughts about your topic. For some people, it will just flow, and you will write and write. Other people may need to reflect on longer on the topic. You will most likely find that you need to work through your feelings and thoughts about your topic as you write. Use I statements when writing like ‘I feel…’, ‘I want…’, ‘currently…’, ‘today…’.
I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings as you write. Read what you have written, and expand it further by returning to reflect on your feelings and thoughts.
T – Time yourself to ensure you write for about 5 minutes or to what your goal is. We all have different journaling goals, which are time or page-based. I write daily one A3 but some days that expands to 2 or more pages depending on the topic. Some topics I just write and write without stopping just pouring out my thoughts and feelings. Give yourself time. Journaling is not something to do 5 minutes before walking out the door. Journaling is about healing, not stressing.
E – Exit or close your writing with strategic reflection. There are two different ways I exit my writing one is with the WRITE method in that I read what I have written, reflect on it and sum it up with an I feel statement or I’m aware statement. Many days I do not reread what I have written, I simply sum up my thoughts towards what my actions should, sometimes adding the possible outcome of that next action. The exit includes actions, thoughts, and feelings.
Some people wonder what they should write about every day in their journals. I understand, as when you first start journaling, it can be difficult to know what to write on. This list of prompts is for mental health. For more journal prompts, read 52 journal prompts.
30 Journal prompts for mental health.
As you can write about anything, there are many different ways to journal, the journal prompts below relate to mental health.
- I feel anxious. I know this because … describe your feeling.
- I feel anxious because of this … event, this is what scares me about it … this is what I can do.
- When I am anxious, I call on my inner hero, my childhood hero was … today this is my alter ego, my hero who gives me strength.
- Write a list of what you believe are your best qualities? Also, a list of how your friends see you. We generally see ourselves different to who our friends see.
- Write a list of the compliments you receive from the people around you.
- Write a letter of forgiveness to someone who has caused you pain.
- Write about your ideal day. Visualise a perfect day, one free of anxiety and stress, write about what you are doing.
- Write a list of your anxiety triggers and how you feel that trigger.
- This is what helps me the most right now.
- These are five things I’m grateful for.
- Writing in my journal helps me, this is another way I can give myself self-love. Write about the ways you show yourself appreciation and love.
- This is one goal I’m working towards. Today I can take this small step towards it.
- Write about your morning routine and how it makes you feel.
- Write about your evening routine and how it makes you feel.
- This is the song I’m thinking of today or this is the song that makes me smile. Write about the song and reflect on why it makes you feel good.
- Write about a positive experience you have had and how it made you feel, what were you doing, what or who contributed to the emotions you felt?
- List 10 things that make you smile.
- What has stress taught you about yourself?
- What is the worst and best thing about anxiety? This requires you to think deeply to see how anxiety has helped you.
- Write about a fear you have faced and how you felt after facing it.
- Write a list of 5 things that help you reduce stress.
- Write about what you would tell someone who is struggling with anxiety for the first time.
- Exercise is a good way to release stress. Write about how you feel after exercising?
- What are 3 physical activities you would like to participate in the future in?
- Journal about the advice you would give a friend of yours who is feeling down.
- Write about the words you would like to live by, are there steps you can take to start living by those values today?
- What stops you from falling asleep or keeps you up at night?
- What is something you can not live without?
- What are 3 things you would do if you were not afraid?
- List the benefits of journaling you have experienced and write about the positive ways you have grown through journaling about your anxieties, worries and concerns.
The pictures of people journaling portray journaling as a thing young girls do to work out their feelings, figure out who they are and discuss their current crush. However, journaling is for anyone. It is way to you can express yourself, work through the questions you have, reach your goals and improve your quality of life through your writing and the processing of your feelings and emotions. Use the journal prompts above to start experiencing the benefits of journaling for mental health or download the list of journal prompts for beginners.