Why You Need to Start Journaling!
If you don’t already journal, you need to! This can also be called keeping a diary, brain dumping or just simply writing your thoughts down on paper. Of course writing down things that you need to remember is great for organization, but journaling what's on your mind can be really beneficial for your mental health. I thought I would share some of the benefits of journaling and how it has helped me!
When I was first struggling with my mental health last year, I was told by a few people to start writing down how I was feeling. I saw a psychologist and was encouraged to start Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), but I wasn’t really keen on writing down my thoughts and feelings, and I didn’t think it would help me. It did take a while for me to get started on CBT and to see any results. At the beginning, I didn’t enjoy putting my thoughts down on paper. It made it all feel real and made me feel more depressed. But once I got a grasp on how to do CBT properly, things started to become easier. CBT is a tool people can use to change and build new thought pathways to get yourself into a habit of thinking more rationally and positively.
All you would do is write down what’s on your mind that might be bothering you, recognize it’s not a helpful thought and develop a new thought or way to look at it more realistically and positively. I’ll give you an example. Say you worry about what others think of you, and believe you are unlovable. Firstly you would identify this as an unhelpful way of thinking and replace them with healthier and positive thoughts. Finding evidence that this is not true and challenging this negative way of thinking can help reconstruct positive thoughts. Acknowledge the family and friends who love and care about you, and this then proves that this thought is false and can be replaced with ‘I have so many people in my life who love and respect me. I am lovable.’
Writing down your anxieties, stress, and pain can be really freeing. Rather than letting stress build up in your head, writing it down is a positive way to release tension that you may be internalizing.
Studies have also shown that the emotional release from journaling and writing down what’s on your mind reduces anxiety, stress, and also generates better sleep.
Putting your thoughts and feelings into language can help you ‘grasp’ what’s going on better, gain perspective to process trauma or pain, and to let it go.
“People who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than before writing. Similarly, reports of depressive symptoms, rumination, and general anxiety tend to drop in the weeks and months after writing about emotional upheavals.” – Dr. James Pennebaker.
Makes you achieve your goals
Writing down your goals and dreams and seeing them in front of you forces you to stick with them! Journaling your goals and ambitions can also help to identify any obstacles or fears you might have. By journaling, you can then figure out how you’ll deal with those obstacles when they arise and not be discouraged.
Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, conducted a study of the art and science of goal setting. She found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Write those goals down friends!
Allowing yourself to self-reflect and just stop and write, can help you grow. By keeping a journal, you can look back at past entries and see how far you have come, while also adding in new things you want to develop, change or work on.
How it has helped me
Journaling has been very therapeutic for me and developing new, positive thought pathways have really helped me develop the positive mindset I have today. I had a look back at some of the things I wrote down when I was really struggling and I was surprised but mostly proud of myself that I actually wrote down more positive and encouraging things to myself than negative stuff. I must say, writing down all of the negative things I was feeling didn't make me feel any better at the time. Being anxious and depressed at the same time, negative thoughts were on my mind all the time, so I didn't feel like writing them down on paper would be any help, and for me, it wasn't. What did help me was writing down encouraging and uplifting words that I would refer back to whenever I felt a little down. At times, it did help me to write down how I was feeling when I was down. However, following that up with positive and encouraging words made it easier to process the negativity and pain, and constructing more positive thoughts to replace those negative ones made me feel better instantly.
How you can start journaling
Get a notebook and start writing! There are no rules! Don't worry about grammar or punctuation! Just brain dump whatever is on your mind on some paper (or even on your phone) and don't think about it too much. Allow your thoughts and emotions to flow onto the paper with no judgment or fear, and try to do it everyday at the same time to get yourself into the habit. It's ok to get deep, that's what it's there for. For you to get personal with yourself and connect with how you are feeling at that very moment. Like any negative feeling we feel, we often want to run away from them and with journaling, it can be hard to sit down and write down what's going on in your head. But I can say from personal experience, it's the best thing I have done, in terms of improving my mental health and developing a positive mindset.
I hope this has got you pumped about journaling and has you curious about what it can do for you! Give it a go! You have nothing to lose!
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