You’ve heard all the hype about journaling for your mental health, but you’re not sure where to start. Surely there’s more to it than simply writing down your thoughts?
Well, yes and no. There are multiple journaling tactics that offer different benefits depending on your needs, goals, and personal style. Some techniques work well for some, while others might find different systems fit better with their lifestyle.
Here are three journaling techniques that can help you with your mental health:
One of the most common techniques in mental health journaling, free writing can benefit you in many ways. Also known as stream-of-consciousness journaling, all you need to do is pick up a pen and paper and start writing.
The goal with free writing is to get whatever is going on in your head onto paper – but without the need for structure, judgement, or reflection. You begin writing about the first thing that comes to mind, whether that’s exploring what you’re feeling or a random musing you’re having. You stop when you feel finished – it can go on for pages or be a few short paragraphs.
Through stream-of-consciousness journaling, you can better understand yourself. You can work through complicated thoughts and feelings or simply relieve your brain of them. Seeing your thoughts on paper can help you understand them more clearly and address them. Free writing is also associated with a boost in creativity and can be used as a way of brainstorming.
How do I know if free writing is right for me?
- You want to try out journaling, but you’re not sure where to start.
- You don’t like exercises to be structured.
- You’re experiencing a mental block.
Practising gratitude has a lot of mental health benefits, and there are many different methods. You can tell your loved ones that you’re grateful for their contributions to your life, carrying out acts of kindness to convey your gratitude. Or you could observe the small things that make life worth living – like the colour of the sky or a beautiful green landscape.
Journaling is a great way to solidify your practices of gratitude. By writing down the things you’re grateful for in your life , you can better visualise them and see just how much you have to be thankful for.
Gratitude can be especially beneficial if you’re prone to negative thoughts because it can help you appreciate the good in your life. But it’s important to understand that it’s not a catch-all solution. If practised incorrectly, gratitude could cross over into toxic positivity. To ensure it’s fully beneficial to you, make sure you can also acknowledge your current challenges while noting everything you’re grateful for.
How do I know if gratitude journaling is right for me?
- You’re stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, whether large or small.
- You want to get a better understanding of the good things in your life.
- You’d like to start your day off in a positive mindset.
This is a CBT technique turned journaling practice. If you’ve ever had CBT, you’ll know that thoughts, behaviours, and feelings are different, but they can all impact each other. A thought – especially an untrue negative one – affects your emotions and can influence how you react to something.
Cognitive journaling can be done once a day or whenever you experience negative thoughts and emotions. With this ABC technique, you write down the event that triggered the thoughts you had (the activating event), how it made you feel (your beliefs), and the way it made you react (the consequences). By doing this exercise, you can begin to separate thoughts from feelings and understand how they affect your life and your behaviours.
Another version of this technique involves you writing down a negative thought and the evidence that supports it, as well as evidence against it. This helps you to understand that your thoughts aren’t facts and can undo unhelpful negative thought patterns.
How do I know if thought, behaviour, and feeling recording is right for me?
- If you struggle with anxiety and constant negative thoughts
- You want to understand and challenge your anxious thoughts and beliefs
- You struggle to separate thoughts and feelings
Journaling can help us with so many things, from inspiring creativity to helping us process our day. Some techniques are proven to support and improve our mental health, and the one that works best for you will depend on your goals and how you experience life. It’s important to note that it’s not a replacement for therapy, but it’s a supplementary activity that can boost you on a day-to-day basis. So get comfy in your favourite pyjama set, grab a pen and paper, and journal your heart out.
Cath Kidston is a human being. She has two eyes and a pair of lungs.