Journaling & Mental Health
Beautiful bullet journal by @mochi.studies
Of all the stuff you can do for your well being, journaling might be the most constructive. Your journal is your very good friend, your secret store of thoughts, whims, confessions or rants. And that’s fantastic. You have the relationship with your journal that everyone deserves—that of your confidant, and that of a safe space to say everything you need to. And now there's another reason to journal.
Research studies have shown to prove that journaling is a great exercise to boost self-esteem through personal affirmations and spell out a positive mental health lifestyle.
Do you want to be the strongest version of yourself you can be? Journaling is a great way to work toward that, and on a very deep level. And as much as you fill a journal’s pages with affirmations, confessions and the rest, I’m Rosie, and here to talk about the greater mental health benefits of journaling on the other side of this article.
It probably comes as no surprise that journaling is good for introspection. But, if I asked you to define introspection, would you be able to do it right away? If you’re reading this before answering that question, then your definition isn’t quick enough.
According to Wikipedia, introspection is the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings, in summary, it means to look inward within yourself. In order to introspect, you have to step out of yourself to look inward. You have to be able to see yourself in 360 degrees, give yourself a once-over, and understand everything you’re looking at.
Of course, we’re speaking a little metaphorically here. Introspection has everything to do with what’s inside your head—so, how do you give that a once-over? Journaling is the best way. In no other form of reflection do you have such a complete look at everything floating around in your head. Introspecting by journal means dumping it all out of your brain and onto the page: every thought, every worry, every idea, and every whimsical bit of nonsense. Only once it’s all out can you practice real introspection.
TIP: Another reason your journal is the place to do this is that it’s private. Don’t ever let yourself feel bad for what you write! Your journal’s only half for storing memories—the other half of its purpose is to help you get through things. If something in your head is causing you trouble, it belongs on the page so you can sort it out.
What thoughts, worries, ideas and whimsical bits of nonsense should I write?
Imagine sitting at home without ever thinking about the water in the pipes beneath you. The water’s there, and building pressure—it even whizzes by when someone upstairs takes a shower, but you’re none the wiser.
This is very, very much like your thoughts. You always have thoughts in the pipes, and sometimes they’re even circulating, gushing and flushing without you realizing it. Your thoughts flow constantly through your brain, but unless you release the tap you’ll never see a drop.
Releasing these thoughts is what allows you to introspect. And here are some of the greatest benefits you’ll gain from introspecting:
You’ll be able to identify unproductive thoughts
- You can work through problems more efficiently
- You can be more honest with yourself
- You’ll decrease stress
- You can feel more in control
- You gain perspective
So how do you untap introspection?
Let’s say you have some problem. A big or annoying one. A problem that’s really gnawing at you. We’ve developed an easy 5 step method of letting go of these negative emotions.
- As yourself—and then write down—what’s the absolute worst that could happen. Whatever your problem is, whatever you’re worried about or trying to fix, how is the worst that it could go down? Be sure to write it exactly as the worst manifestation comes naturally to you.
- On the next clean page in your journal, without anything on the front or back, write everything about how this worst-case scenario makes you feel. Dump it all out. Unload everything onto the page. And, without even coming up for air, start to write out all of the bad things that could happen as a consequence of this worst-case scenario. This page will be ugly, but I promise this is important.
- Now, back on the page where you’ve written out your worst-case scenario, write out what you would DO if the worst happened. You might be thinking of multiple options, which is great. Write out as many ideas you have of actions you’d take.
- Next, write down a realistic estimate of how likely it is that the worst will happen. Is it a low likelihood? High?
- Here comes my favourite part. You can do this ceremoniously, theatrically, or carefully if you like to keep your journal pages tip-top: tear out the page of nasty feelings and all the other things that could go wrong. I mean it! Tear it out, ball it up, and toss it into the bin.
The funny thing about problems is, we simultaneously ignore our current of thoughts and let the pressure build…when, really, we have to let ALL that out to fish for the good. We’re affected by unproductive thoughts that cloud what’s important, but with this exercise, you’ll have everything you need right there in front of you: 1) what it is you’re worried about, 2) what you’ll do about it, and 3) how likely it is to even happen!
Even if it’s not a problem you have, journaling is of huge importance to keep your mental health in good form. If you feel really good one day, write down why. Make a list of all the glorious reasons, whether internal or external or both. And track everything you feel about what you write with your own key of symbols—sometimes, a doodle says more than words. How do you think emojis got so popular?
The more you see the patterns in the way you think, the easier it will be to let the tap out bit by bit to stay ahead of all your thoughts. It’s a treat to know yourself that well, but it requires a real good look at what’s in your head and your journal is your lens to do that. Happy writing!