Reasons why you should start journalling

Sometimes it can be difficult to put our feelings into words, especially when we’re angry, sad or anxious.

Journalling is a great way of expressing your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment and can actually be good for your you in more ways than one. We spoke to Child and Adolescent Therapist Maddie Parkin about the mental health benefits of journalling and how to get started.

What does a journal look like?

Journalling generally involves keeping a log of thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of your life - typically in a notebook or collection of papers. Some people like to buy a notepad especially for the purpose of journalling, but it doesn’t have to be the same as writing a diary; you can draw images, patterns, squiggles, write key words or even record poems or songs to note how you’re feeling.

Coloured pens, stickers and photos of fond memories can all be used to make your journal feel like a safe space to share your thoughts. There are no rules.

If you can’t find any paper or notebooks in the house or you prefer to type your thoughts out, you could use an electronic device. Many phones and tablets have a ‘notepad’ app to jot down ideas. But be aware that anything connected to a Cloud storage may transfer your notes to other devices - so to ensure your journal is private, a paper diary is most effective.

There are no rules to how your journal should look

Why it's good for you

There are a number of reasons why writing is therapeutic. Self-expression through journalling allows us to focus our mind and thoughts in a similar way to meditation, and put them into perspective.

“Journalling can be helpful for those who struggle with overwhelming anxious thoughts,” says Maddie. “The act of transferring your fears out of your head and onto a page means that it is easier to let go of things that you can’t control or that might be causing additional stress.”

Regularly monitoring your mood by journalling can be really useful for identifying what makes you stressed, or identifying fears which may be impacting your mood. A few simple words or a score out of 10 every day can help you track your mood and know when to reach out for support.

Maddie says journalling can also boost your self-esteem: “Affirmations, quotes and positive self-talk in your journal can be a helpful way of reminding yourself that you’re doing your best.

“It’s also helpful to look back on journal entries after an event has happened to see how you have navigated and resolved potential conflicts with friends and family.”

There are other benefits, too. A journal can act as a time capsule you can look back on in months or years to come and writing in it regularly may improve your memory. Having a paper journal can reduce screen time too, and give your eyes and brain a break from the info you’re bombarded with every day that may affect your mental health.

Should you share your journal?

You might want to keep your journal private, as it’s always important to feel like you have a safe place to express yourself. However, when you have big worries that feel difficult to manage on your own, it might be a good time to share these with someone you trust who can help.

“If you’re worried that your mental health might be getting worse, sharing parts your journal with a trusted adult might make it easier to express how you’re feeling without the worry of mixing up your words or not knowing what to say,” Maddie advises.

On the other hand, you might feel really proud of your writing or drawings, in which case you might want to share your journal with those around you! The great thing about journals is that they are special and unique to you.

Try journalling 10 minutes a day and recording your mood

Maddie’s top tips for getting started:

  • If you’re not sure what to write at the beginning, keep it short and consistent, writing about what you’ve been doing in your day and how you’re feeling
  • Try not to overthink it; a journal is your own personal space. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
  • Don’t worry about spelling mistakes or your pen running out, these things happen
  • Let the words flow from your mind. Creativity can be a great way of being mindful and focused, even if you find sitting still and concentrating difficult
  • If you’re keen to keep to it every day, set time aside for writing in your journal (e.g 10 minutes before bedtime) to make it part of your routine. Otherwise, use it when you feel you need to - whatever helps!
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