Most people have some sort of experience keeping a diary or journal, or have at least read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” or “Dear Dumb Diary” in their youth. It can be fun to write about your annoying coworker, doodle smiley faces in the margins, or cringe at old entries about your middle school crush. But, did you know that journaling can actually help you with managing your mental and emotional health? In fact, journaling can help you to cope with stress, manage symptoms of anxiety, and even cope with depression!
How, you may ask? Well, journaling is a mindfulness practice, as it allows you to focus on being aware of what you are sensing, feeling, and thinking in the moment. It can allow you to reflect on and prioritize your concerns, track your mental health symptoms day-to-day, practice positive self-talk, and identify your negative thoughts and behaviors. Who knew?!
Have I convinced you to start a journal, yet? Here’s how you can start writing today:
- Get a journal. You can dig an old notebook out of your closet, buy a new one online, or go to your local bookstore. You can even keep a journal in a note taking app on your phone! (I recommend Notion)
- Write something everyday. Reflect on your day. Write how you feel, what you did, what you want to accomplish, or even channel your inner Taylor Swift and attempt song lyrics. 3. Do what feels right to you – this is your journal. No one is going to criticize you for any spelling mistakes or for not being a Grammy worthy songwriter. Pick up a pen and let it flow.
- Re-read your entries. Identify your negative patterns and fears, and see how you can resolve them. Find out what makes you happy and stress-free, and do more of that. Uncover your goals in life, and set plans in motion to accomplish them.
- Relax. Journaling should be a relaxing time of reflection. Brew a cup of tea, play some soothing music, and put on your coziest pajama pants and fuzziest socks. By journaling, you’re creating a bit of order in a chaotic world. Be kind to yourself while you do it.
- Expect good things but don’t expect everything. Sadly, journaling alone cannot fix all of your problems. To improve mental health symptoms, it is also important to get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and perform other acts of self-care and meditation (read a good book, take a relaxing warm shower, follow a mindfulness meditation on Youtube, etc.)
Good luck on your journaling journey!
Written by Emma Mathias with contributions from urmc.rochester.edu and edited by GUADS staff member Kate