So many people look for ways to boost their mental health, often wanting a quick fix or some positive affirmations to help them get through the day, but much of what is taken in are words written by somebody else. Granted these do often have the desired effect, hitting the mark and making them see situations in new ways – but what about if they wrote something for themselves?
Having the chance to write your thoughts and feelings down is a form of self-expression and can be a positive way to help you find clarity and make sense of some of what’s clouding your mind. It’s an exercise that is recommended by many therapists for this reason and to also help express gratitude, release anxiety, and set future goals.
Giving yourself time to write, in very non-scientific terms, means that whilst the analytical side of your brain is engrossed in the act of getting the words down, the creative side of your brain is more able to freely express itself, often allowing you to articulate how you feel in a way that can actually benefit you.
Studies have shown that regular journaling has been found to be a mood booster, improve your working memory, increase your sense of well-being, and can also minimise anxiety before an important event. Writing therapy is a widely studied area of mental health, and a tried and tested method of helping those who suffer from a variety of issues such as depression and anxiety, stress, and PTSD.
“Through documenting and managing symptoms of mental health problems and (safely) confronting feelings that may get buried as they are too difficult to deal with, writing as therapy has been shown to have many benefits,” explains Sarah Hilton, a health writer at Assignment Help and Revieweal. A reduction in the number of intrusive thoughts in depressives, a release for pent-up emotions, to calm the mind and even strengthen the immune system are all some of the positives to this activity.
How do you make sure your journaling is going to be of benefit? Simply dumping thoughts on paper can have a short-term boost, but for longer-term results, a more constructive approach is required. There are many things to consider from the environment you are in, to the time you allow yourself for this, to what you write about. Consider these tips for when you are ready to get started with journaling:
- Choose a space where you aren’t going to be disturbed – even when no one else knows what you are writing about it can feel like you are opening yourself up to the world. Make sure you feel comfortable.
- Keep your journal private. There may well be things in it that even you have only just had the courage to write about – don’t feel like you have to share it with anyone else.
- Try and write at least once a day. Studies show that people who wrote for 15-20 minutes per day (and were able to express a range of their emotions) had better physical and mental health.
- Don’t put pressure on yourself to write about something specific unless it feels right. “Maybe you had a negative encounter with a work colleague that you want to get off your chest – fine, but sometimes writing about traumatic experiences will be easier to manage if you let the words come only when you are ready,” says Tim Larson, a writer at Simple Grad and Essay Services.
- Take a moment to breathe before you begin – and after you write. This will help you reflect on your thoughts and may help you find some structure to the rest of your session.
- If you are struggling use key statements such as “I feel”, “I think” or “I want” to help clarify where you are going.
- When you feel that you have finished for the session try and sum up any new emotions that have come to the fore. Try helpful sentence starters such as “After writing this I notice” or “I am now aware” just to help you get more out of your writing.
The process of journaling may bring up distressing emotions, so do make sure you have support in case this happens and seek professional help if you are struggling – but the positive benefits it can bring in giving you time to focus, reflect, understand and manage your mental health are worth it.