Why It’s Never Too Late to Start a Mental Health Journal

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

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If you’ve ever had or still are in therapy, your therapist might have suggested journaling as part of your treatment.

Journaling is prevalent in many therapeutic practices since the benefits of writing, sketching, or painting can be instrumental to your physical and mental health.

What is journaling?

Journaling is a method that can help you process and record your thoughts and feelings. There is no right or wrong way to journal.

Different ways of journaling

Suppose you don’t enjoy using words to express yourself – you can always sketch or paint in a journal as a form of self-expression. 

However you decide to journal – it is a fantastic way to improve your psychological well-being; journaling also positively impacts your physical health.

Why journaling is good for your health

Studies have shown that journaling can help alleviate the symptoms of physical health conditions, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Patients who journaled regularly for just twenty minutes daily experienced significant improvements in their health in under four months.

Mental and physical conditions

The benefits of journaling have been documented in various mental health conditions, including:

Patients with depression, anxiety and ADHD experienced a reduction in their symptoms once they started journaling. Reflecting on your experiences and expressing yourself through writing, sketching or painting can do wonders for your emotional well-being.

Why do people journal?

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There are various reasons why people journal. Some people journal as a way of documenting their life and daily experiences, while others journal to gain a better understanding of themselves and to improve their overall well-being. 

Journaling is an excellent strategy that can help you work on your mental and physical health in the comfort of your home, office, or wherever you feel the most comfortable.

Whether you’re in treatment for a mental health disorder and require additional ways to manage your symptoms, or if you want to get to know yourself better and create meaning from your experiences – the benefits of journaling are limitless.

The benefits of journaling

If you are struggling with symptoms of a severe mental health condition, it is unlikely that journaling will offer you the kind of support you need.

Seeking support and advice from a mental health professional is recommended for those concerned about their mental health. However, journaling can be an effective strategy for those in treatment.

Benefits

The mental health benefits of journaling are diverse and can significantly improve your well-being.

The benefits of journaling include:

Journaling allows you to identify patterns in your life and mental health.

Writing your thoughts down allows you to reflect on what you have written in the past – journaling can help you look back on previous experiences enabling you to measure how much you have grown and matured.

There are various benefits to journaling while in the moment, such as alleviating anxiety and gaining clarity over events that might be happening in the present.

Behavioral patterns

However, a two-pronged approach to journaling allows you to manage present experiences while reflecting on the past. Looking back on past journal entries allows you to see how far you’ve come in terms of your responses to external events that may have previously been triggering.

You may also notice specific behavioral patterns that allow you to gain critical insight into your emotional well-being and mental health.

Journaling is like a mirror to the soul. Amid a crisis, you might not be in the right state of mind to assess or process your thoughts and emotions during such moments.

However, journaling allows you to look back on what you have written and can help you assess how you respond to certain situations and find ways to improve old patterns and responses that no longer serve you.

Journaling allows you to organize and prioritize the important things in your life.

Writing things down creates a visual in your mind that can help you get more organized at home, at work, and in your social life.

If you struggle with stress or anxiety, you might constantly battle with racing thoughts where it can often feel like you have no control.

Regaining control

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Your thoughts may continuously cycle from one thing to another, and it may feel as though nothing ever gets completed correctly. 

Work projects might often be unfinished, and you may feel you never get the chance to complete essential tasks. Writing things down helps you organize your life better – journaling can also be an excellent way to prioritize vital tasks, concerns, or other aspects of your life.

Journaling offers significant benefits to those with anxiety since it allows people to calm their thoughts and create a visual of their feelings and emotions and what they want to achieve.

What is the best way to start journaling?

There is no magic or specific art to journaling- the key is to start and see where it takes you. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to journaling, there are some handy tips that may help you get started, such as:

Eliminating the rules 

There are no rules to journaling. The way you journal is up to you, and sticking to a set of rules might end up scuppering your plans. 

The way you journal is up to you

How often you journal is up to you. However, some say that regular journaling can be helpful; even if you journal once a week, it can be valuable.

Essentially, the way you journal and how often you do it is entirely up to you; the fact that you decided to journal at all is profoundly empowering and can set you on the path to better health and well-being.

Recording or dictating your thoughts instead of writing them down

You may not enjoy writing or find it doesn’t help you as much as painting or drawing, which is perfectly fine. Other journaling methods can be cathartic; many prefer to talk out loud about their thoughts and ideas – hence recording or dictating your thoughts can be helpful.

Recording your thoughts

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For example, you may decide to record your thoughts during your lunch break; this may only take up a few minutes of your time but can be incredibly stress-relieving. 

You can record your thoughts anywhere – in the car park outside the office or while waiting outside the doctor’s surgery – again, there is no one way to journal – whatever method suits you best.

Reflecting on your journals

One of the most significant benefits of journaling is the ability to reflect on past entries and experiences. Experts recommend that you should review your journal every so often. 

Reviewing past entries

How often you review your journal is entirely up to you, but looking back and reflecting on what you’ve written allows you to measure personal progress, and you may also find that you’ve grown emotionally.

You might discover that your coping mechanisms from the past were unhealthy. Thus you can celebrate how far you’ve come and what you have achieved.

Reviewing your journal entries may also help you see that the past wasn’t that much better than the present and may motivate you to start enjoying your life today.

Shaking things up

Shaking things up now and then allows you to keep your journaling activities fun and interesting.

Suppose you usually write in your journal; perhaps you could consider drawing or painting to mix things up – this may also allow you to express your thoughts and emotions differently.

You may even decide to integrate your writing and visuals. Keeping things interesting allows you to express yourself fully and may inspire you to take action in another direction.

The importance of journaling for mental health

Many people feel reluctant when they first hear about journaling. One of the reasons that people may experience reluctance about the concept of journaling is their fear of imperfection; they want their journal to be perfect and without a flaw; thus, they never get started.

However, it would help if you remembered that journaling is not like a manuscript; you are not writing a bestselling novel – your journal is for you and you alone.

The more genuine and authentic your writing is, the better. Remember, journaling is about self-expression, an art that allows you to unpack your thoughts and emotions healthily and creatively.

 Broadly, there is no magic to journaling except to get started. 

Contact us

If you are concerned about your mental health or would like to explore your thoughts and behavior further – contact the team at Tikvah Lake Recovery who can help.

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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