How To Start A Mental Health Journal
With the pandemic offering no end to bad news, there has never been a more significant time to get that old notebook out and start your journaling habit. Turn a page, let your mood, thoughts, and feelings all out, and you’ll feel a sense of release and clarity that only the act of putting your thoughts on a journal can offer.
Health Benefits Of Journalling
In this highly stressful time, a mental health journal can be a powerful tool to manage your mental health, keep negative emotions and symptoms in check, and push back against self-destructive thought patterns. It is also an excellent way to understand yourself as a person.
At the start, you might feel that articulating your thoughts, feelings, and fears on a journal serve little to no purpose, but the benefits of journaling tend to add up over time.
Keeping a daily journal gives insights into the inner workings of your mind and allows you to see day-to-day patterns that you would not have otherwise noticed. Writing on a journal helps you identify and review stress triggers in your environment as well as negative thoughts that have solidified into beliefs.
Once you can recognize these triggers, you can make a conscious effort to challenge these thoughts, correct harmful behaviors, and be a little kinder to yourself.
In addition to mental health benefits, science suggests a link between journaling and the wellbeing of the body. Studies have shown that regular journaling time strengthens T-lymphocytes or immune cells that help keep disease at bay and decrease symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Now that we’ve gone through how having a journal helps, here are some tips on getting started.
Forget The Rules
Forget proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, or any other kind of structure! You won’t have to deal with “should have’s” with your mental health journal. The moment you realize that you are relieved of any mental blocks and expectations about what your journal should look like, what the process should be, or what it should contain.
You can use codenames in your journal, cut sentences short, ramble, and that’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to research and write a good article about your life. After all, your journal is self care for your wellbeing. You can keep your journal locked away forever, upload it as a private document, or choose to share some parts of it with trusted confidantes or a therapist.
Once you get started, you might find that the process come easy. It’s because when you write on your journal, you access the left part of the brain dedicated to analysis, logic, and reason. Once the left hemisphere is activated, the right part – which performs creative tasks – is free to roam, build, feel, and create meaning. Journaling allows you to bypass this boundary and use your full brain power to make sense of the world.
Make Time For Journaling
Our only recommendation is to set aside time to write every day. You can narrate how your day went at night or write at the start of the day and list expectations for the day to come. Like a muscle that you train and strengthen, you have to dedicate a time and place for journaling until it becomes a reflex.
To complement your journaling habit, you can use mood monitoring apps. Several free and paid versions let you assign an overall mood for the day and produce data-driven reports across a specified timeframe. You can take this even further and download a wide range of mental health apps dedicated to embedding mindfulness or giving self-help reminders.
Having a journal can help people with cope with the symptoms and effects of clinical anxiety and depression as well. You can express anything on your journal — your life, feelings, mood, anxiety, worry, future, whatever’s on your mind. By writing everything down, you can express, process, understand, review, and reflect on your life. This process can help you as you see a therapist for professional help.
Journal Writing Prompts
So you’ve got your notebook and pen ready, now what? Here are some writing prompts to help you warm up and ready to express and create:
- What has changed in your routine since the shelter-at-home order? Describe the before and after. Can you identify which changes were the most stressful? What about surprisingly positive experiences?
- Who or what brings you the most joy these days? What is the importance of these activities or people, and what about them make you feel this way? How can you strengthen your connections to the people and things that contribute to your joy?
- How can you be a source of joy to someone in your immediate circle? What can I do to bring happiness to their lives? What small steps can I take when I cannot see them physically?
- What have you come to learn and explore about yourself in the middle of the pandemic? Did you find out that you had a hidden talent, or did you finally give yourself time to do what you’ve always wanted? What else do you want to do?
- What are you learning about others? Are they positive or negative? What has brought a smile to your face these days when reading the news? How can you reflect and take all the lessons you’ve learned so far – about yourself, your life, your community, and your place in the world – moving forward?
Maintaining a journal is an excellent self care way to review and keep tabs on your mental health in these stressful times. Worry, stress, and restlessness are normal, but keep in mind that there are things in life you can still control. You are just one person, and it’s okay to use tools to make sense of things.
A mental health journal is an effective way to remember that and make sense of an increasingly chaotic world. If you’re looking for a sign to express your feelings in a journal, this is it! Happy journaling!