How to Start Journaling
Why journal for mental health
Journaling is an effective way to process our daily thoughts and emotions, which in turn allows us to identify any beneficial or non beneficial patterns. It is a powerful way to promote positive self-talk, and it encourage us to talk and unload any concerns.
Journaling is an important part of any health care routine, and should be prioritised much in the same way as you brush your teeth - you wouldn't go a date without doing this!
By continuously journaling, we give ourselves the opportunity to declutter our complex thoughts, which frees up more headspace for other areas of our life.
Using a journal specifically for mental health can be an invaluable exercise, and one that will allow you to track your personal patterns and behaviours over a period of time. Doing so will help to identify when there may be a time to reach out for additional help from others.
15 Steps to Journaling
1. Choose, Digital or Paper?
The first thing you should think about is whether you want a digital journal or a paper journal. Of course, we recommend paper journals more because there's nothing like writing down your thoughts to clear up your mind. Moreover, if you're going through a social media detox as a part of your mental health goals, paper journals are the right choice to avoid distraction.
However, some people feel more comfortable keeping a digital journal, so it depends on your personal preference. Also, if you have any condition that prevents you from writing properly, you'll appreciate digital journals as you won't miss out on the journaling experience.
2. Make a Habit Out of Writing
Successful journaling requires consistency; you shouldn't just journal whenever you remember and keep it at the back of your mind. Ideally, you should open your journal every day and write in it to ensure that you're benefiting from the activity, especially when your goal is to improve your mental health.
To do so, you should choose a convenient time to write so that you don't get distracted by other tasks. Moreover, you can challenge yourself to write daily by putting it in your daily planner, which is also essential.
If you want to make it easier, you can journal once you wake up so that your mind is focused and alert. Alternatively, you can journal right before going to bed, as you won't have anything else to do, and you'll be able to write efficiently.
3. Set a Timer
Many people get overwhelmed with journaling, as they feel that it's too heavy of a task to keep writing. However, you can make it better by setting a timer before starting. Firstly, this will make you feel like it'll take a short time, and you won't waste much of your day.
Secondly, you'll be tempted to prepare the topics you'll write about beforehand to avoid wasting the short time you have. Finally, you can adjust the time according to your personal needs. If you write fast, it can be as short as 20 minutes. But if you're a slow writer, you might need more than that.
4. Write Whatever Comes to Your Mind
Many people struggle with what to write in their journals so much that they don't start journaling at all. However, you don't need to fret over the fact that you should write your goals and your stressors in the journal. Instead, you can write anything that comes to your mind. Just leave the perfectionist part of your mind aside and start writing.
Note that you don't have to write about mental health topics; you can write about your life in general.
5. Unleash Your Creativity
Since writing reflects our thoughts and emotions, it isn't always an organized process. Instead, it's mostly a brain dump. So it isn't a rule that you write full constructed sentences in your journal. Instead, you can get creative and write in whatever way you want.
For instance, you can doodle and draw in your journal as an alternative. Moreover, you can write poems, songs, stories, or letters to translate your feelings. Just try different formats till you find your perfect fit.
Finally, it'd be best if you didn't worry about your grammar or spelling while writing. Your journal is your personal space; you can make as many mistakes as you want.
6. Make It Your Comfort Zone
Not all of our thoughts are positive, and some people shy away from writing all their thoughts, the bad and the good. However, to benefit from mental health journaling, you should make it your comfort zone where no one judges you.
As a result, you should permit yourself to write whatever comes to your mind. Just keep in mind that this journal will help you get better, so don't feel guilty or embarrassed about writing anything in it. This way, you'll be able to forgive yourself faster and improve your self-honesty. Not to mention, this will help you resolve the wars going on in your mind.
How to Journal for Mental Health
After giving you a few tips on starting journaling altogether, we'll get more specific and tell you the journaling topics you should write about if you're aiming for mental health improvement.
7. Express Your Thoughts
When you open your mental health journal, you should first let out your thoughts on paper. To do so, write about the day you had, how you felt in specific situations, and what you were worried about during the day. Don't miss many details because they might be essential for your healing more than you think.
Over time, you or your psychiatrist will know your stressors from your writings. This will help with your mental health recovery process and make it faster.
8. Record Your Symptoms
Any mental health education book will tell you that to successfully heal you should record your symptoms. By doing so, you'll help your psychiatrist keep track of your healing process, and you'll know whether you're making progress or not. Not only that, but you'll also get to assess your treatments and determine how efficient they are in controlling your symptoms.
The right way to do this is to write all the symptoms you've experienced during the day in your journal. Next, you should rate their severity on a scale.
9. Write In a Stream of Consciousness
Writing in a stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that has been long used to help mental health patients. It helps psychiatrists get a grip of the proper mental state of their patients. This is because since our thoughts are rarely linear, translating them can be pretty challenging, especially for psychiatrists. But journaling definitely makes it better.
To do this right, you shouldn't filter your words before writing, and you don't have to organize them. Just let your stream of thoughts flow freely on paper. Remember, your writing doesn't have to make sense, so don't exhaust your mind trying to get it right.
For example, when you're writing about your day, you don't have to start with the moment you woke up and end with your sleeping hour. Instead, you can write the first thing that comes to your mind, even if it happened later during the day.
10. Let Out Your Negative Feelings
It's an essential part of your mental health wellness to let out all your negative thoughts and feelings. Luckily, a journal is a perfect outlet for those. That's why whenever you feel sad, angry, jealous, or any other negative emotion, you should release it on paper.
This will help you process your emotions better as you won't keep them bottled in your mind. Afterward, you'll feel relieved and calmer. That said, some people find it challenging to write down their thoughts as it makes them feel exposed. So as an alternative, you can try to write a letter to whoever hurt you and keep it in your journal.
Over time, you'll know how to deal with your feelings more healthily. Moreover, you'll find it easier to communicate your emotions to other people.
11. Track Your Mood
It may be challenging for many people with mental health conditions to find their triggers. That's why they must track their moods every day. Doing this will help them recognize their triggers pattern. This way, they'll know what to avoid and what to do about their stressors.
You can track your mood in many different ways. For example, you can draw a numerical scale and mark your mood on it every day. Alternatively, you can write down all your feelings throughout the day, and when you read your words again, you'll be able to know what triggered you the most.
Doing so will have a significant effect on your mental health, as you'll be able to avoid whatever affects your mood negatively.
12. Keep a Proof of Your Thoughts
People who suffer from anxiety and depression often have a hard time believing themselves. This is a result of their minds playing tricks on them to convince them they're unwell. However, you can counteract those thoughts by keeping proof of your healthy ideas. In such a way, you'll be able to stay grounded and in control of your condition.
For example, if your mind tells you that you're stupid, you should recall all of the times you've been praised for your smartness. It'd also help if you thought of the books you've read and the topics you're familiar with. Then, write all those thoughts down.
Accordingly, the next time you find yourself thinking negatively about your behaviors or thoughts, you can open your journal and read what you've written beforehand. This will help you view yourself from a positive perspective instead of being too harsh on yourself.
13. Monitor Your Progress
To ensure efficient results, you should keep track of your progress and check whether you're improving or not. You can do this by reflecting on the goals you set for yourself, your good behaviors, and your positive habits. This way, you'll be able to tell how much you improved and how journaling benefited your mental health.
However, to do this, you should put an action plan for yourself and follow it. As a result, you'll get to check off the goals you achieved, and you'll be motivated to work harder. You can also reward yourself every time you check off a purpose in your journal. Consequently, you'll feel gratitude for what you've reached.
You can keep a gratitude journal if you want to record your gratitude separately. This helps you maintain a positive mindset.
14. List Pros and Cons
Among the many popular mental health journal ideas, listing pros and cons is one of the most efficient. This method will help you make big decisions without overthinking and overwhelming yourself. Whenever you're in this situation, you should make a list of all the pros and cons of the decision you're making.
For example, if you're thinking about leaving your job, you should include the toxic environment in your pros and the financial challenge in your cons. As a result, you'll be able to visualize the consequences of your decision better.
15. Reflect on Your Writing
If you don't read the words you write again, you won't have a fulfilling journaling experience. Ideally, it'd be best if you reflect on whatever you wrote and think about it deeply. Try to channel all of your feelings, the good and the bad. Afterward, you should think about how you can improve your behaviours the next time.
This will reframe your thoughts positively, as you'll be able to assess your mistakes and prevent them in the future. For the best results, you should read your entries after three or four months of writing them.
Final thoughts on journaling for mental health
Out of the many things we can deny, we definitely can't deny mental health's importance in our lives. Accordingly, those who suffer from mental health conditions should have a healthy outlet for their thoughts and feelings. Luckily, journaling comes here as a knight in shining armor. It helps in tracking symptoms, self-reflecting, letting out negative thoughts, and many more.
We hope you have enough information about mental health journaling now!