Keeping a daily journal for mental well-being

Photo by Rachel Lynette French on Unsplash

Writing can be a very therapeutic endeavor.

Any form of writing, including creative, academic, or otherwise, can serve as a form of self-exploration to make sense of our thoughts and feelings, and discover our deepest desires. Keeping a personal journal is one of the ways in which we can incorporate writing into our lives to benefit from its therapeutic abilities.

My very first-ever recorded journal entry was posted on my online diary in 2009. For almost four years, I only managed to write thirteen entries. Although I would always promise myself, and my diary, that I will for sure write more often this time around, it wasn’t until about five years after my first journal entry that I seriously immersed myself in keeping a daily journal. Since 2014, I have written 1,128 journal entries, which comes to about 280 entries per year.

As you work to incorporate journaling into your life, remember the elephant is best eaten one bite at a time. Patience and consistency are crucial in forming new habits. Begin writing perhaps three days a week, first thing in the morning or before sleeping.

There is no right or wrong way of journaling.

Some days, my entries are short and brief. This happens, for instance, when I want to quickly capture something interesting that happened that day or an idea that spoke to me greatly.

Other times, my entries are long and elaborative. One time, I journaled for two hours because I needed to make sense of a specific problem I was dealing with at the time. I took my time writing about it from different angles and perspectives to gain a better understanding of the problem.

Sometimes, I don’t write for a long while. One time, I didn’t write for over a month. I was going through a very transformative period, and I was preoccupied with dealing with the transformation. Other times, writing is what carries me over, and I write in my journal three to four times a day.

Why Journal?

To write is to think. – Jordan Peterson

Writing is a great tool for self-exploration.

It brings a wandering mind to attention by moving us from passive thinking to actively engage with our thoughts.

Keeping a journal can help us manage our mental health by giving us a healthy outlet to unpack our feelings and emotions.

Journaling can be used to process our emotions and increase our self-awareness. It is a very powerful tool in helping us identify our stressors and work on a plan to resolve our problems and reduce stress. Keeping a journal also helps us get to know ourselves by revealing our innermost fears, thoughts, and feelings.

READ: 10 Surprising Benefits You’ll Get From Keeping a Journal

My two most favorite things about keeping a journal are:

  1. It gives me a bird-eye view of my problems and woes. When I first started journaling daily, I would write about whatever problem was bothering me at the moment, and then I would go back and read it. This exercise allowed me to look at my problems from a different perspective. It is harder to have a logical approach to our thoughts and feelings when they are all jammed up in our head. By putting it out on a piece of paper, or a screen, I am able to dissect it from a different perspective and come up with better solutions.
  2. It is a great way to document that it does get better, life goes on and all the other clichésI really enjoy going back to older entries and seeing the progress I have made in many areas of my life. It’s very empowering to see how some problems that used to torment me are now a thing of the past.

Journaling is a simple and easy way to invest in our mental wellbeing, and there are many ways to keep a journal to process our feelings and emotions.

READ: Journaling for Mental Health

Below are four journal techniques I use and have found helpful.

4 Ideas for Journalling 

Morning Pages: Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing where you write down anything and everything that crosses your mind. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, and prioritize the day at hand. Grab a notebook and a pen, or an electronic device, and write longhand for three whole pages. Stream-of-consciousness writing brings out thoughts and ideas you never knew you had in you and loosens up your expressive muscles.

The 5-minute journaling technique: I have mentioned this method in an earlier post. It has helped me manage my anxious thoughts immensely, and it is extremely simple. Grab a notebook and a pen. First, divide the page in two. On one side, write down everything which is on your mind as a sort of idea capture. On the other side of the page, write an equally simple list of potential solutions for each problem. Once the first page is full, take another to write a detailed, step by step plan for each of the biggest problems.

Journaling on your planner: This is something I started doing very recently. It’s useful for those days I don’t have the time or energy to write in my journal. The idea is to write down a sentence or two of how my day was. It’s usually to keep a reminder of small moments that happened that made me feel good or made the day special, so I can refer to it in the future and remind myself there have been some amazing days.

If you want to write more, read more: Whenever I read a lot, especially good novels and well-written non-fiction books, I write better. When I write better, I enjoy the process of journaling so much more. Plus, I get more ideas to write about and to ponder.

.  .  .

It’s never too late to start journaling. It can be a simple as jotting down a couple of sentences to commemorate a specially good day, or it could be an hourly endeavor to unpack a specific problem.

While there are many apps and online resources to keep a journal, a simple notebook and a pen work just as well.

I could not think of anything else that has helped me manage my mental wellbeing as effectively and as efficiently as writing in my journal has. Journaling has helped me clear the crap out of my head. It is also a great way to capture our lives, no matter how mediocre and ordinary it may be.

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