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Why keeping a journal is so good for your mental health.

Image: iStock

Keeping and writing a journal certainly isn’t one of the top things that come to mind when thinking about mental health.

However, the very act of writing what’s happening and what you’re feeling forces you to be honest with yourself and increases your awareness about your thoughts, feelings and actions.

The daily practice of writing a journal improves your mood, memory, ability to regulate emotions and leads to overall greater psychological well-being. By exploring your thoughts and feelings on a daily basis, integrates your experiences in the mind and the body and can help keep you on an even keel mentally and emotionally.

Journal styles

There are a number of ways to journal. Here are some examples of different styles you might consider.

1. Stream-of-consciousness journal.

Without making any attempt at editing yourself, simply sit down for a specified amount of time every day and write down whatever comes into your head.

2. Diary journal.

Write down all of the day’s most important events and how you felt about them.

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3. Gratitude journal.

Count your blessings and what you have gratitude for each day.

4. Spiritual journal.

Track your spiritual development and your spiritual connectivity.

5. Exercise/health journal.

This journal could include tracking what you eat and sleep and stress levels, as well as the symptoms for any chronic health conditions you may be managing.

Keep track of your health by writing. (Image via iStock.)

Making the habit stick

Here are eight simple tips to committing yourself to the practice of journal writing.

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1. Write every day.

Be consistent with your writing.

2. Write freely and openly.

Don’t edit your thoughts or feelings. Don’t correct your grammar.

Don't edit your feelings. (Image via iStock.)

3. Be creative.

Know that keeping a journal does not need only involve words and writing, but that it can also include expressions of emotions and feelings through art, drawings or images in addition to writing.

4. Write with your other hand.

On occasion try to use your non-dominant hand as a way of accessing the other side of your brain.

5. Practice gratitude.

Ask yourself what you are grateful for today? Be grateful and practice logging what you are grateful for. Keeping a list of what you are grateful for is a fantastic way to process feelings and appreciate the gifts in your life. (Post continues after gallery.)

6. Keep a nature diary.

It will help you to connect with the world around you. We’re blessed to be located so close to natural beauty. Record the things you notice about the sky, the weather, the seasons and ocean.

7. Acknowledge the wins.

Write the small and big successes that occur during the day. As you pay attention, your list will grow and inspire you.

8. Listen to your inner wisdom.

Develop your intuition by listing problems and questions you need help with. Listen for your inner wisdom and journal examples of connections to your higher power.

No matter what your skills as a writer, taking down your thoughts and feelings daily can help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself. The longer and more regularly you keep a journal, the better the outcomes for you personally.

Try to keep going even if keeping a journal starts out feeling uncomfortable or out of your zone of comfort. As you become more used to the daily practice of acknowledging your thoughts and feelings you’ll get more and more joy out of your writing and reflection.

Do you like journalling? How do you go about it?

Steve Stokes is Program Director at South Pacific Private — Australia’s leading mental health and addiction treatment facility offering inpatient and day programs to treat anxiety disorders, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, behavioural addictions, alcohol addiction and substance abuse. Treatment at South Pacific Private offers the best possibility of recovery through its multidisciplinary, tailored programs which are designed to meet the individual needs of clients. 

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