I loved writing down my thoughts in my diary back in high school. Although I mostly wrote about my family, friends, and crushes, I realize now that it helped me process the challenges of being a teenager. As I went through my college years and early professional years, I became so busy with work that I lost track of the practice. Fortunately, I’ve been able to pick up the habit once more and found it to be cathartic.
Journaling has always been considered a therapeutic practice, allowing people to express their thoughts freely and give value to their feelings. I’ve certainly noticed a difference.
First, I’m suddenly much more capable of tuning the world out. Even though most of us have been in isolation for most of the recent years due to the pandemic, the world is still able to distract us through the web and social media. At the height of stressful times, I’ve even found myself experiencing mild panic attacks every time I watch or read the news on my phone.
Writing in my journal has allowed me to tune the world out and organize my thoughts. This has made my mind clear and helped me confront my fears so I could find solace in the uncertainty of the world.
It also helps me release emotional stress. Being able to put my fears into words let me transfer the emotional load they were taking up in my mind onto my journal. My diary has helped me deal with overwhelming feelings like grief, pain, and anger by being a place of refuge and self-expression.
I also find that I am much more disciplined now. One thing that has helped me be consistent with my journaling is setting a time for writing down my thoughts. I usually do it when my day starts and ends, so usually in the morning and late at night. Having a routine has improved my discipline, positively influencing other aspects of my life.
Writing consistently has given me much more space to be creative. As you go further in your journaling journey, you may find yourself being able to put pictures into words and describe your emotions and situations more descriptively. If you’re a writer, this can help you in your work. You can even keep a creative journal where you can write down inspirations for story ideas, characters, and dialogues, which you can review later on.
Finally, I’m much more capable of understanding myself. I can now identify patterns in my thoughts that explain why I reacted the way I did in a particular scenario. I’ve also become aware of my emotional triggers and can now practice mindfulness before responding when I am exposed to them.
Starting a journal doesn’t have to be stressful. The best thing about this practice is that it fully depends on your needs and preferences. If you’re struggling to begin, I have three main recommendations for you: be open to different media, try out different journaling methods, and stick to a routine. Don’t worry, and I’ll elaborate on each of these.
First, being open to different media types can be game-changing for journaling. When people think of journaling, they immediately imagine someone scribbling passionately in their notebooks, but you can choose to write, type, or even speak your thoughts. If you’re more comfortable with typing, you can use your computer or phone for your journal. There are plenty of apps available today with additional features to enhance your journaling experience. You can also maximize your phone’s default voice recorder app to express yourself.
The most important thing about journaling is to record your thoughts in some manner so that you can look back or listen to them later to see how much you’ve grown. Personally, I still like writing my thoughts down. The steady pace of my hands helps me relax, especially when I’m writing about an emotional episode I had earlier in the day.
Another way to make journaling stick for you is to try out different journaling methods. For example, some people enjoy creating bulleted lists instead of writing out full sentences, especially if they use their journals to keep track of their goals. You may also want to try stream of consciousness writing; this is when you write down any words that come to you without thinking about it. The key is to let your thoughts run unfiltered and just let them all out. Resist the urge to hold back and self-edit. This might take some getting used to, but trust me; there’s relief in knowing you spoke your mind without holding back and you didn’t get punished for it.
Reflective writing is what most people do with their journals, including myself. As mentioned, each writing session is like therapy for me by allowing me to process my thoughts for the day. However, this doesn’t work for everyone — and that’s perfectly fine. Your journal can be your therapist if that’s what you need, or it can be your to-do list if that’s more helpful for you. Feel free to express yourself in your journal. Write your thoughts, feelings, and worries without fear, or just let your brain pour out all of your jumbled thoughts if that’s more helpful for you. If you feel that you don’t have anything to write about, a quick search for journal prompts can help you find jumping boards for your thoughts.
Finally, if you want to incorporate journaling into your life fully, I highly recommend sticking to a routine. To incorporate your journaling habit successfully into your day, you should set a time for it. I write my thoughts at the start and end of each day. In the mornings, I usually take note of the things I’m grateful for; this has helped me start my days with the right perspective. At night, I do some reflective writing to debrief and process the thoughts and feelings I experienced earlier in the day. This helps me resolve internal emotional issues, which, in turn, has seriously improved my sleep.
Daily journaling has seriously improved my mental health by helping me gain clarity and focus in various areas of my life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your present situation, consider starting a journal to help you process your thoughts and emotions. You can also use a journal to keep track of your goals and inspiration to boost your creativity.