I went to college. I went with my friends to the local cafe where we usually hang out. We had pizza. On my way home Raj gave me a lift. I came home and studied for a while. After that, I went shopping with Shruti. When I reached home, I helped mom with dinner. We had dinner together. I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory before sleeping.
When we think about journal entries, this is something that usually comes to our mind. Just writing about our day and the things that we did.
Journaling, however, is a broad term and there are various forms of journaling. Journaling can be structured and it can be expressive as well.
When it comes to journaling for mental health benefits, two major forms of journaling are considered. The first one is to maintain a Gratitude Journal. In this journal, one writes about the things that he/she is grateful for. The most common and widely used prompt for this journal is - Write about three things you are grateful for today.
The second type of journaling is expressive writing. Here one can talk about their feelings and emotions. (I think this is much more helpful than just writing about what you did throughout the day!)
Gratitude journaling is helpful to relieve symptoms of depression or sadness. Expressive writing is important to practise when you are feeling overwhelmed by emotions. This can happen when you are feeling angry, or feeling a little too anxious. This also benefits when you are constantly overthinking. Writing a journal also benefits dealing with stress effectively.
Writing about your thoughts instead of thinking about them helps you structure those thoughts and build a strong narrative.
Still not convinced that you should maintain a journal?
Let’s look at some surprising facts about journaling.
Yes, you read it correctly! It even improves physical health! Research was conducted by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm where they instructed participants to write about traumatic experiences in their life for 15-20 minutes on 3-5 occasions.
What they found was that writing about their deepest thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event helped them reduce doctor visits with complaints about stress. Expressive writing also helps to reduce blood pressure, improve immunity, and improve mood.
2. Easier to accept negative emotions
What is your first reaction when you experience an unpleasant emotion?
Most times, we try to numb ourselves from feeling it as no one wants to feel bad. Negative emotions make us feel uncomfortable.
The problem with this approach is that this does not make negative emotions disappear. They are pushed down into your subconscious mind and they surface during unexpected times.
You wonder why you reacted a certain way but cannot pinpoint what exactly went wrong.
The healthier alternative on the other hand is to experience the negative emotions and process them. Journaling provides a safe space to do the same.
When you express your emotions through writing, you are forced to name the emotions you are experiencing. You have to find the right words to describe your experience, when you do that it is easier for you to read the words written on the paper and understand them. Writing about negative emotions also makes them less scary to process.
When we write about something, the analytical side of our brain starts working, and automatically by writing we are forced to analyse our emotions in terms of - how and why we feel a certain way.
3. You understand yourself better
When you look back on the journal entries you have made earlier, you will discover a new perspective to look at certain events. You might also notice patterns of behaviour that you realise are healthy or unhealthy.
Journaling will help you understand yourself in a better way. When you have figured out the way you act and the motivation behind your action, you can change. You can take a different approach and change your actions in a more appropriate, effective way.
These are just some of the benefits of journaling. So what are you waiting for?
Pick up your journal and start writing!