What are the mental health reasons that you should be journaling? Sure, we’ve heard it recommended that we should be journaling, but is it actually a worthwhile practice? Today’s blog gets into it!
Does the world around you feel complex and difficult to process? What about the world within you? Our emotions can be overwhelming to experience alongside life, dealing with mental health concerns, or while supporting others through their daily activities. For so many of us, we are wearing too many hats to dedicate the energy throughout the day to give space to meaningful reflection of our own. So how can you create that space? Our suggestion: write your way through it in a journal. Do it for yourself; do it for your mental health.
It’s standard practice over the course of an interaction to ask, “How are you?” but how often do you turn that question inward? Considering your own well-being in a deeply honest way can feel uncomfortable or even overwhelming. Perhaps you’re not sure where to begin or how to facilitate that reflection on how you’re truly doing. Still, we know one thing: journaling can positively impact our efforts to support our mental health, especially when used to complement the healing offered through individual therapy sessions. Many of our clinicians here at Awakened Path swear by this practice and know intimately the power of putting pen to page. So let’s take a look at where to begin- and the mental health reasons you should be journaling today.
Types of Journals
One of the most appealing things about establishing a journaling routine is the high degree of adaptability in every way. Not only can you change the way you journal at any point in your journaling endeavor, but the ways you can establish your process are nearly infinite. Your journal can take any form you need.
From the time you spend writing it, the reflection it creates, and the spaces you apply it all the way to the format you choose to write in, this therapeutic process is entirely yours to decide. Let’s explore some of the options you may choose to begin with and the popular variations within them.
Tracking Gratitude & Mental Health
Gratitude journals are exactly what they sound like: it’s a space for you to give voice to the gratitude you feel. For some, these journals are designed to reflect on profound gratitude. Other ways to shape your grateful words are by using a bulleted list (maybe that’s five items a week you’re grateful for) or making it a point to reflect on what you’re thankful for as a part of your routine (and not just during this time of year).
While moments of gratefulness can be richly embedded in the fabric of your life—like being thankful for the emotions you feel or the privilege you have—there is also an incredible gravity to even smaller expressions of thankfulness that greatly influence your mental health and resilience in the face of challenges.
Making space to be grateful for things like the birds who nest outside your kitchen window or the gentleness of your wake-up alarm that day can bring a depth to the details you didn’t give much thought to. Gratitude doesn’t have to be something you feel guilty about or take for granted. It simply serves you to call attention to the things that matter to you.
Daily Morning or Night Journals
While these journals still offer quite a lot of freedom to take shape within your needs, they have one rigid thread to hold them together: you do them every day. That doesn’t mean it’s a large or overwhelming undertaking because, beyond the daily requirement implied in their name, there’s no major underpinning for what they represent. Each day, you sit down with the journal format you’ve chosen, and you write. Whether that’s three words or three pages is entirely up to you. It may start your day, end your day, accompany your lunch, or somewhere in between.
Stream of Consciousness & The State of Your Mental Health
A consciousness journal simply asks you to arrive at your journal space and put thoughts to page. Without consideration to order or sensibility, the idea is that you just write.
Popularized by Julia Cameron, morning pages is a stream-of-consciousness style of journaling in which you sit down and write without stopping until you’ve filled three pages. Consciousness journals can be adapted to best fit your needs, but will often take shape in moments when your thoughts feel malleable as a means to process lingering experiences or emotions you may not have noticed in your mental periphery.
Reviewing your morning pages is one way to check in on the state of your mental health, as is seeing the way your lens shifts over time.
Making Time for Reflection
If the idea of morning pages appeals to you but mornings do not, a reflection journal may be more your speed. Perhaps you’d like to reflect on the events of your day with a cup of tea just before bed or maybe a weekly reflection on the events that have lingered in your thoughts. Reflection journals may be brief bits captured through the day, a once-daily activity, or something you do on a more interval basis to meet your needs.
Figuring Out What’s Next: Goal Setting
When trying to sort out the things you want, their priority among the things you need, and how to best accomplish them all, a goal-setting journal may be helpful. Typically undertaken in weekly, monthly, or quarterly formats, goal-setting journals will help you get on the same page with your goals in the most literal sense.
Take the time to write out your goals and, if it suits, detail what it is about them that appeals, why you want them, or how you hope to work toward them. Each time you revisit your journal, you can use those notes to chart your progress and re-examine your needs and intentions.
This type of journal, in particular, can be something you address with your individual therapy provider as you set goals for your time together and as you figure out what’s next for you. Taking the time to consider what you want and where you’re headed are incredibly important steps that support the healing offered in session. Whether your clinician sees you as a couple or for individual therapy, they can help you turn your vision into the concrete, actionable steps you need to get there.
Tracking Your Experiences
Experience journals can run the gamut across a variety of interests. Whether you’re journaling the travels you take or the food you eat, a dedicated space to engage with and reflect on the experiences that matter to you can bring some surprising revelations or offer starting points for self-reflection in any therapeutic setting. Documenting your interests and the things you engage in may help you to understand your relationship with those things, as well as your relationship with yourself. So whether you’d like to journal your gardening experiences or the way you felt when you waited in an airport for a canceled flight, mine the things you’ve been through for information that holds meaning in your world.
The most customizable of journal formats, the bullet journal is your literal blank slate. Often just dots on a page or a grid, you’ll fill in the pages in any fashion you like. From detailing your schedule daily to mood tracking, habit-forming, or doodling space in the assigned areas, bullet journals give everyone the freedom to be a bit artistic as they engage with their inner self in a space designed by them, for them.
Begin at your beginning
The King from Alice in Wonderland says to “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end… then stop”. Journaling to benefit your mental health requires the same clarity from us. Follow your process, and worry not about others’ assessment of the shape it takes in the pages of your journal.
While talking something out and feeling heard or validated is an important therapeutic experience, journaling is a powerful tool to recenter your voice in your life. Being granted the space to hear yourself without restriction and feel without judgment is an empowering gift. Journaling is a space only observed by you, reserved entirely for you. It offers you the opportunity to give yourself the gift of independence as you take back your power within your healing process and, for some, your life.
Whether you’re convinced that journaling for your mental health is what is going to help you overcome the specific challenges you face, or you’re willing to sit down with an individual therapy provider, Awakened Path is here to support that journey. Join our newsletter to have monthly tips delivered directly to your inbox, or connect with us today to learn more about the services we offer that might be right for you.