Here are some of the ways that journalling can boost your mental health:
- The act of writing can help us to understand what’s happening around us. When we can make sense of things, even if we don’t want or like what’s happening, we can feel a little calmer and little clearer. It can help to free our mind up to focus on other things.
- Sometimes of course, things just can’t be made sense of, but journalling allows us to get our fears and worries out onto the page. This process gives us some distance from our thoughts and emotions. Instead of feeling like we are our thoughts and feelings, we start to observe them. This is actually a core feature of mindfulness, stepping back and observing your experience rather than getting tangled up in it.
- When you’re feeling lost or unmotivated, journalling can help you to feel more active and empowered. By writing things down you can come up with some creative solutions to the challenges you’re facing.
- Journalling can help you to pick up on patterns that might be causing you difficulties, keep track of how you’re feeling across time and keep things in perspective.
- Journalling is a way of listening to yourself, in the same way you would listen to a friend if they needed to debrief or to get something off their chest. It’s an act of self-care.
- Journalling allows us to acknowledge and get to know some of the darker sides of ourselves – our secrets, the things we feel embarrassed about or ashamed of, the thoughts, feelings and memories that we don’t want to share with others.
- Through journalling we increase our self-awareness. Self-awareness is key to mental health and wellbeing. It’s the first step to change. After all, you can’t change what you don’t know about. You can read more about the benefits of self-awareness here.
- Journalling can mimic the positive effects of a conversation, but you can often be much more upfront and honest, because there’s no fear of judgement or fear of what you’re saying impacting your relationship with the other person.
What’s the overlap between journalling and therapy?
As you’ve probably noticed, journalling has some overlap with therapy. Journalling is all about creating a safe, non-judgemental space to get to know yourself better. In a nutshell, that’s the purpose of therapy!
Many of our clients find journalling is a useful addition to seeing their psychologist. Anecdotally, clients talk about journalling giving them a way to check-in with themselves each day, that’s different to just reflecting in their head. There’s something freeing about getting words out of the mind and onto the page. Others say it helps them to pick up on important patterns, like noticing their mood becoming flat or noticing red flags that their stress levels are rising. It also helps to figure out what might be triggering certain feelings and thoughts, such as worry spirals, decreased motivation and of course positive changes, like feeling more energised. Journalling is a simple and effective way to keep the feeling of therapy alive between sessions.
Not sure where to start with journalling? Here are some prompts to get you going. Try to write as freely as you can and just see where these prompts take you!
- What’s a habit you’re trying to build right now?
- What did you want to be when you grew up?
- Where do you feel safe and cosy (it can be an imagined place)?
- How might you be able to give yourself a bit of a break today?
- What’s your favourite part of your home?
- When was the last time you felt pleasantly surprised?
- What’s something ordinary, but comforting, that you’ve noticed today?
- What does your ideal morning look like?
- What’s boredom like for you? If you tend to avoid it, why do you think that might be?
- Write about a recent dream you’ve had in as much detail as possible. What fears and anxieties might be being expressed in this dream?
- What does busyness look like for you? Do you ever feel like your busyness serves a purpose – for example, distracts you from feelings or worries?
- What’s one thing that you can’t change that you would like to be more accepting of?
- When was the last time you felt peaceful?
- What would you perfect day look like?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world right now (and money was no object), where would you go?
- What’s one of your biggest regrets?
- Do you prefer time alone or time with others? Or are you somewhere in the middle?
- Who do you admire and why?
- Which emotion or emotions do you find most challenging?
- Who or what do you miss?
Practical things to consider when journalling:
- One of the most powerful factors about journalling is that it’s just for your eyes. Knowing that it’s just for you, you can write freely and honestly, without fear of judgement. So, give some thought to how you’ll make sure your journal stays private (children of the 80s, remember the old lock and key journals?! If only they still existed!).
- Some people like to keep their old journals to reflect back on, or as a record of sorts. Others like to write a journal and then throw it away, or even burn it. This might sound extreme, but if one of the barriers to being really honest with yourself is the idea of someone reading what you’ve written (or even not wanting to read it yourself down the track), you might want to give some thought to how you’ll make sure your words are kept private.
- If you want to make journalling a daily or regular habit, considering:
- Sitting down at the same time each day or week to journal.
- Take some time to set yourself up in a space that feels nourishing and quiet. Maybe somewhere cosy inside or outside under a tree.
- See if you have a friend who might want to get into the habit of journalling too. Check in with each other, not necessarily to share what you you’ve written (unless that feels good for you), but more so as an accountability buddy so you can encourage each other to build the habit.
- This suggestion might sound trivial, but if you’re a stationery lover you’ll agree, finding a journal and a pen that you really like helps too!
If you want some help getting started with journalling, or you’d like to explore some of the themes or patterns that are coming up in your journalling, you can book an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists here.
Image by Breeana Dunbar Photography.