This is the ultimate guide to journal for mental health if you are a beginner. Journaling is a powerful tool to improving one’s mental health. It has been useful in my journey and I cannot count the number of times it has saved my life. I am not joking.
I began to journal for mental health when I was a teenager in high school and I have continuously seen how powerful it can be. Recently, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and was in in-patient care for two weeks for management. During those difficult moments, journaling came through handy. I noticed that most days I had been waking up feeling angry but after I journaled what I was feeling, I would feel better. I did this for four days and I began waking up with no anger. Therefore, I can confidently say that journaling is effective especially when you are trying to heal from a traumatic experience.
Depression can make you have suicidal thoughts and I wasn’t spared from them. These feelings are powerful and sometimes you can try committing suicide if you aren’t carefully. Whenever I was having those thoughts I would write in my journal what I am feeling and it would help me cope with it. I am now on medication and I no longer experience suicidal thoughts. However, whenever I am having a bad day, I just write what I am feeling and the negativity subsides. It has been a lifesaver for me and I know that it will work for you too.
What is journaling?
Journaling is simply recording your thoughts and feelings to help you understand them. There is no formula to journaling and you do not need to have any experience doing it. As long as you can write then you can journal.
What emotions should you expect when you journal for mental health?
Anger,bitterness,hatred,jealousy and sadness.
Does this mean that you are a bad person for feeling this way?No. It is normal to feel this way when you journal for mental health. At some point, I thought that I was not okay and would occasionally consult my psychologist to ascertain that I was okay. I later came to learn that its part of the process. Sometimes we go through things that we cannot handle or hurt us and we are human enough to feel negative emotions.
That’s why I encourage everyone to develop a journaling habit. It will make you see your thought patterns and reveal to you who you are.
You might also want to check the benefits of journaling in my detailed post here.
So, how can you journal for mental health?
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1.Decide what time you will dedicate to journal.
The first step to starting a journaling routine is to identify the perfect time for you to do it. It needs to be free from distractions and suitable for you. In this step, you should also decide how long you want to be writing. I know that its going to be harder as a beginner to allocate a lot of time for journaling. There is a big fear that exists of not knowing what to write or facing painful memories that you would rather not think or talk about.
Don’t worry. I have been there too. Experts do not say that practice makes perfect for no reason. The more you do it, the easier it becomes for you. You will slowly realize that you have a lot to write about. Sometimes I sit down with my journal expecting to write one page and end up writing five. That’s why I encourage you to allocate as much time as possible so as to accommodate days that you have so much and little to write. Its not unusual for me to write one sentence and spend the rest of my journaling time thinking about my life or that sentence that I have written. Journaling is a safe place where you can write what is in your mind with no fear of being judged.
2. Buy a journal
We wouldn’t call it a journaling habit if you do not have a journal in the first place. Buying a journal is relative to everyone and what works for me might not work for you. Therefore, I am not going to take much of your time giving you my perfect example of a journal. Rather, I will give you tips of what to look out for when purchasing a journal. PaperBlanks has an informative post of what you need to look for when buying a journal but I will summarize the points below. Feel free to skip to the next step if you already have one but it won’t hurt to peruse through the points down below.
- Size of the journal. The size of the journal you decide to use depends on your needs. Its also important to put into consideration where you want to be journaling because it affects the size you purchase. If the place is far from your environs then its best to look for a journal that is portable. I suggest that you try out different sizes of journals before you figure out what size fits you.
- Binding quality.How durable do you want your journal to be?Do you want the book to lay completely flat when open or are you fine holding it open when you write ?These are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself when considering the binding quality.
- Cover design. The aesthetic appearance of your journal will affect how motivated you are to journal. It should be personal to you and always settle for a journal that has a pleasing cover design for you. Do not just settle for anything. You might end up buying the journal and never writing on it which is a big waste of money.
- Paper quality. Do you want a journal that has thick or thin pages? Are you comfortable writing on a page that you can see what you have written when you go to the page behind it? Do not forget that paper quality also affects the price for the journal.
- Closure.Here comes personal preference. Would you rather have a journal that you can close or not? Do you prefer a journal that no one can open except you or not? This is also affected by how personal you want your journal to be. Do you want anybody to have access to it or you alone?
As I said earlier, always go for a journal that you love. Do not just settle for any journal. The type of journal you decide to buy will greatly determine how frequently you will write. Nobody wants to spend their time writing in a crappy journal.
3. Look for a place where you want to be journaling in.
I personally prefer journaling in an open place under trees where it is quiet. Nature has a way of bringing healing to me and sometimes when I look at the trees and birds as a write, I feel serenity taking over my mind. I should also add that it should be a place where even if you get emotional and cry or want to yell, you are comfortable that no one will judge or arrest you. Sometimes when we write we unlock emotions that we did not know existed before. You might end up crying remembering a happy memory or feel happy when thinking of a sad one.That’s why journaling is an intimate process and personal. Its a safe place where you can say anything with no fear of being judged or misquoted.
If you prefer journaling indoors, there is no harm in looking for a place where you feel comfortable.Just make sure that you love where you journal because its going to influence how frequently you do it.
4. Know your why.
If you want to succeed with journaling, it is important to know why you want to cultivate this habit in the first place. Do you want to journal to reduce anxiety,understand your emotions ,know more about yourself or heal from a traumatic experience? I personally journal to help me heal from a traumatic experience and reduce my depression. Knowing my why has been a key factor in keeping me journaling. Even when I am having a bad day and I do not want to talk about my feelings, I always remember how good I feel after I journal and it has kept me going so far.
5. Pick a topic you want to write about.
The most difficult part of journaling is deciding what you want to journal about. Some people prefer to work with journal prompts while others love choosing their own topics at their pace. If you struggle picking a topic to write about, you can download 29 journal prompts for mental health that I have made for you for FREE that you can use at your own pace.
However, if you want to choose a topic, look at what has been bothering you for the past seven days and write how you feel about it.
6. Set a timer for the number of minutes you have decided to journal.
Whether you have decided to journal for five or twenty minutes, setting a timer for your journaling is important. It makes your mind be in an urgency mode which will help words to flow naturally.
7. While writing, do not stop to edit your words or your punctuation.
Do not fall into the trap of letting your mind be distracted. Focus solely on your journaling and allow your emotions, thoughts and words to flow naturally from your mind.
8. When the timer sounds,re-read your entry and tidy it up.
You will be surprised to know how you have so many words to write. Also, It gives you time to reflect upon what you have written.
9. Write a short entry at the same time every day.
If you want to see results from journaling then consistency is key. The more you journal at the same time every day, the more your mind adjusts to the idea that jouranling is part of your day. Therefore, when your journaling time reaches, you body will feel the urge to go and do it.
10. Motivate yourself to keep writing even when you do not feel like journaling.
This is best done by rewarding yourself every time you complete journaling You might decide to reward yourself with your favorite meal or activity of the day. This will reinforce the idea in your mind that journaling is good and you should do it more often. They are those days that you do not feel like journaling and there is nothing wrong with that. However, you need to motivate yourself to write even if its a single sentence in your journal. Practice and consistency makes perfect.
Free journaling prompts for you.
So we have talked in depth on how you can start your journaling habit and I want to help you start your journaling habit on a good note.Therefore, I made your work easier by creating 29 journal prompts for mental health for you that you can download down below for FREE!
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