Why we recommend journaling for better mental health, plus some of our favourite journal prompts for self discovery and therapy.
The Benefits Of Keeping A Journal
At some point in our lives many of us have kept a diary or are still doing so. A diary is used as a chronological record of what happened on a particular day. Although it is still personal to us as individuals, it is not usually a space encouraging us to explore why it happened, what we hope to happen, what it taught us or to remind us to be grateful for each of those moments. Journaling supports us to reflect, to dream, to inspire ourselves and to release more of our thoughts and feelings onto paper, not limited by how much we can fit into a dated section.
Although verbal communication is important, especially when it comes to our mental health, there is not always the opportunity for this to happen. Writing in a journal is a good habit to get into, both on your good days and your bad, and at any age too. It is obviously not a cure for poor mental health but has been proven to be very beneficial. We often encourage our clients to participate in various writing exercises or to further delve into an area – both in our sessions together and in their own time. Journaling promotes further self-exploration and can often be easier than saying things out loud.
Even if you do not suffer from a mental illness or it is undiagnosed, day to day life can sometimes be quite stressful and things do not always go according to plan. It can be difficult to continually have a positive mindset but there are things that we can do to help ourselves when negativity does strike or when things do go wrong, such as journaling.
For journaling to be more worthwhile and of benefit, it ideally should be done every day as it is an outlet for you to write down good things that happened, any problems encountered, your goals and any self assurances as well as, and more importantly, both your positive and negative feelings, emotions and thoughts. We recommend carrying your journal with you at all times and opting for a physical notebook to write in rather than a digital app so you can fully immerse yourself in it, even just for a few moments.
As well as being a source of relief and healing, writing can also be very therapeutic and creative. It should most definitely not become a chore and should never get to a situation where you are feeling overwhelmed by maintaining a journal. You do need to be honest when writing in a journal though and not make it sound as though everything in the garden is rosy when it’s not. Remember, it’s your personal record which will not be edited. Make time to journal and let the truth flow out.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How did I feel when I woke up this morning?
- What did I do today?
- Was I alone all day or did I spend the time with anybody? How did this make me feel?
- What did I enjoy doing or was there anything that I wanted to do that I didn’t manage to do?
- Did everything go well or did things start going wrong? How did this make me feel?
- Did anybody upset me today? Could I have handled the situation differently?
Of course journaling should not just be about all the bad things in your life and negative feelings but also about all the positives and how they made you feel. Perhaps also write down some affirmations, books or podcasts you can refer back to wherever you are. It’s really important to resource yourself as much as possible, particularly in recovery. However, releasing your negative feelings rather than bottling them up will help reduce your stress levels and alleviate any tension. It allows you to let go of these thoughts by calming and clearing the mind. By writing in the journal each day you are ‘letting go’ and giving yourself the opportunity to move forward by not dwelling on things that happened on that particular day. It will also show you where you have reacted to things that are out of your control, making it an invaluable learning tool. This will enhance self awareness and by looking back through your journal after a period of time, you may notice a pattern of behaviours. We advise not looking back at the previous day but rather, bookmarking those positivity pages of resources that make up your own self love toolkit.
Journaling Prompts For Self Discovery And Therapy
You can set yourself your own journal prompts, get creative by turning it into a ‘bullet journal’ with coloured designs and pages or an ‘art journal’, or free-write but here are just a few ideas to get started with journaling:
- My ideal day would be…
- How do I see my life in 5 years time?
- What is one activity/hobby I would like to take up or start doing again?
- How is my current mental health?
- What do I know to be my triggers and which of these can I control?
- What helps me to calm down if I am beginning to feel stressed/anxious?
- If a good friend was feeling the way I am, what would I say to them?
- 3 things I feel gratitude for today are ….
- 5 things I can see…, 4 things I can feel…, 3 things I can hear…, 2 things I can smell…, 1 thing I can taste is…
- What are my greatest strengths?
Journaling is also a great starting point for identifying unprocessed trauma – something we believe is the cause for as much as 90% of mental health challenges faced today. Find out more about this topic and the role of journaling and life scripts in our new mini book, ‘Trauma Redefined’.
*All proceeds go towards charities supported by The Brunner Project