Journaling is the act of writing and recording. What you write about and the methods you use are up to you. You can focus on your personal thoughts, feelings, insights; whatever is most important or urgent in your mind. The information and expression can be written, drawn, or typed, and each one has its benefits. Regardless of what you choose, it remains one of the most accessible, low-cost, and effective ways to regulate your mental health.
You may not love it, it may feel like work at times, but like all things, it gets easier and more enjoyable with time. You don’t have to adhere to a strict schedule, the beauty of journaling is that it is an available outlet when you need it, as often as you need it. Some people may find that once a week is enough for them, while others can benefit from daily entries. Find what works for you, don’t treat this like some unwilling chore.
Mental health tends to fluctuate day to day. Some days you may feel happy, optimistic and motivated to accomplish your goals. However, life wouldn’t be complete without situations that induce stress, burnout from work, an illness, or anxiety popping up occasionally. If you find value in recording and recalling the good days, and are looking for ways to cope on the tough days, journaling can help in many ways:
Anxiety tends to spiral out of control as your thoughts are allowed to run wild. If you are unable to control or organize your thoughts, they may pile up in your head and cause you to feel overwhelmed or very anxious. Writing these thoughts on paper, or organizing them in a list will help you focus on one problem at a time, find resolution, and stop the relentless thought cycle.
Journaling about your feelings helps decrease mental distress. Studies have linked journaling with overall improved wellbeing, reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms and greater resilience towards these symptoms in the future.
Have you ever had something happen to you that bothered you, and you spent the next few hours or days running through scenarios in your head? Maybe the event wasn’t really that bad, but you’ve thought about and micro-analyzed it to the point that it’s made you even more angry or sad.
Rumination is closely tied to depression and anxiety because it is a dangerous thought cycle that greatly affects your emotions.
Journaling is best used as a tool to separate yourself from this troubling situation. Get the thoughts out of your head and onto the paper, and stop the obsessive thinking. Let things settle, and come back to this entry in a day or two.
The idea is that you will get the cathartic feeling of expression, and stop the negative thought cycle. Once you come back and re-read your entry, you will likely have processed many of the emotions and can deal with this situation much more objectively and efficiently.
Writing down your feelings about a difficult situation can help you understand it better. The thing about writing is, it is much more deliberate than thinking. Your thoughts can get out of hand quite easily, however, writing is more intentional. Everything you write down will serve a purpose, and as you write you may uncover new perspectives.
You might apply a broad emotion to the situation such as sadness. Journaling encourages you to get specific and take a closer look at those emotions. Are you disappointed? Grieving? Or just having an off-day? Digging just below the surface will reveal so much about how you’re feeling and help you gain clarity.
Journaling can be considered an exercise, just like going to the gym. Instead of building muscles, you are training your emotional and mental stamina, flexibility and resilience. Identifying, recognizing and accepting are three important aspects of emotions; and how they are managed.
Think of journaling as the exercise program. Whether you realize it or not, you will process information and emotions methodically, and strengthen the neural pathways dedicated to decision making and emotional control. The beauty of this is that writing doesn’t need to be restrictive, or boring. It can be as creative and uninhibited as you want, whichever method helps you the most!
Learning how to be open with yourself, how to recognize and shine the light on painful emotions and feelings is a powerful experience. Journaling can help you build confidence in this process, until the time you are ready to express these thoughts and feelings openly to others. Journaling is an excellent first step and requires only a pen and paper at the very least.
The most important step is getting started. After that, give yourself time to get comfortable and enjoy the process. Journaling won’t fix your problems overnight, rather it will help make your days easier and improve your mental health and wellbeing.
Research focused on how journaling may help people with PTSD has provided some valuable insights. From a psychological perspective, expressive writing appears to improve people’s coping ability with the symptoms of PTSD, such as anxiety and anger. Regarding physical changes, journaling can help reduce body tension and improve focus.
There is also a contrasting element to post-traumatic stress, known as post-traumatic growth. This term refers to the idea that there can be silver linings to certain traumatic experiences, only if you choose to see them for the opportunities they are. Expressive writing has been found not only to improve the symptoms of PTSD and people’s ability to cope with them, but it also appears to help foster post-traumatic growth, or the ability to find meaning in and have positive life changes following a traumatic event.
At PSTDrecovery, we recognize the value and potential of journaling, especially in regard to PTSD. If you have experienced traumatic events or recognize the symptoms of PSTD, you may be a great candidate for the Traumatic Stress Recovery Programs offered at PTSDrecovery. From pre-admission to post-treatment, our team of specialists has the treatment and resources that can help you manage or treat your PTSD.
If you have questions about our program offering or would like help finding helpful resources, reach out to the team at PTSDrecovery today. Call our office to speak with a representative from our team or schedule an appointment online.