Recently, I Instagrammed two new journals I had just purchased, commented on how the practice of journaling can help protect mental health, and invited people to message me if they wanted to know more about how I used them. The (rather surprising) amount of questions I received via direct message and text not only brought me joy (I love it when people take their mental health more seriously), but also indicated the need for me to write this post. So if you’re excited to now be reading about journaling, you have my awesome Insta-Friends to thank!
Journaling – an art that dates back to the 10th century – is simply the practice of recording one’s thoughts, feelings, memories, and experiences. Research studies have shown that journaling promotes mental health. Specifically, journaling has been found to help:
- clarify thoughts & feelings
- reduce stress
- find solutions to problems
- make decisions
- resolve conflict with others
- enhance creativity
- grow you personally
But how? How can you use your journal in a way that will bring about these benefits? Read below!
6 Ways To Use Your Journal
1. Record & Release
Use your journal to write down your present thoughts and feelings. Do this when you have some quiet time – either in the mornings before work or school, right before bedtime, or during some downtime in the afternoon; the important thing is that you’re able to be fully present. If it helps, reflect on specific events that are occurring in your life, work, or relationships. What are you most honest thoughts and feelings about them? The act of writing these things down will help you:
- slow down your thoughts and reveal key insights (e.g. “I think I’m falling in love with this person” ‘I’m actually angry with this person” “I’m afraid of losing this person” “I’m becoming a different person”) which are always the first step to growth and change.
- reduce high, unproductive levels of negative emotion (i.e. rage, anger, feelings of betrayal, etc.) by providing a necessary, but safe release
- engage the right side of your brain which houses creativity and helps you find solutions to problems in life, work, and relationships
- honor your own experiences while opening you up to understanding another’s points of view (helpful for resolving conflict.)
2. Practice Gratitude
Use your journal to “count your blessings.” Begin to make it a habit to list 10 things that you’re grateful for each day. Making your journal a place to regularly express your gratitude will not only make you happier, it will ensure that journaling has a positive effect on you and not a negative one.
3. Do Positive Affirmations
Your journal is a great place to write, and repeatedly write, self-affirmations. For those less familiar, affirmations are simple, yet powerful “I” statements that are designed to bring about positive change in your life. Based on the idea that our subconscious beliefs about ourselves affect the outcome of events in our lives, these “I” statements are created to remind us or inspire us to believe the best about ourselves. If you want to add affirmations to your journal writing, “I am loved” “I am worthy” “I am enough” “I deserve good things” are a few simple affirmations you can start with. Let me know if you’d be interested in a more information on how to create meaningful affirmations and use them effectively.
4. Track Behavior
Your journal can support you in creating self-change by being a place where you can track specific behaviors. Do you need to watch your eating patterns? Sleeping patterns? Fitness patterns? Thought patterns? Use your journal as a “log” for recording whatever it is you need to monitor. At the end of the day, evaluate your efforts by giving yourself a grade, a score, or set of stars (whatever best motivates you), and complete your entry with an affirmation!
5. Vision For Your Life
Use your journal to store ideas about your future. What do you want for your life? Where do you want to be in 1, 5, or 10 years? What does success look like for you? In your journal, begin to write, draw, or map out the things you envision for yourself. Refer back to these pages when you want to regain motivation for your current goals. Need help visioning? Check out a previous post I wrote on visioning for your life.
Your journal is great place to write out your prayers. Address your Higher Power. Express your gratitude. Make your requests known. Declare spiritual truth. Include all of the components of your verbal prayer into your written prayer. The great thing about prayer in the written form is that it slows you down and causes you to deeply think about what’s important to you, what you value, where your priorities are, and what you need. As you become more aware of these things, you can better evaluate your situation and decide what changes need to be made. This is the stuff that personal growth is made of.
Have more questions about journaling? Have more ideas? Share below! Otherwise…happy journaling! Let me know how it goes!