Maybe your therapist has recommended it, or maybe your best friend raves about it. Maybe your sister has told you to stop complaining to her and to write it down for yourself. No matter who has suggested it, I’m sure you’ve heard it at least a few times by now: “you should really be journaling regularly.” Usually, I’m not one to push a very specific “self-care” strategy. I think that self-care looks different for each of us, and we really need to find what works for us individually. But, that being said, I do fully believe that journaling is one self-care practice that everyone can benefit from…and I mean everyone.
Journaling is shown to have enormous benefits for our mental health and overall wellness. Journaling can ease our anxiety, pick us up when we are down, and even help us make huge life decisions. It’s basically a free source of therapy where you are your own therapist. So seriously, you should consider journaling.
Also, remember that journaling isn’t one size fits all. You may like journaling on your MacBook, while your best friend writes religiously in a composition book. Some people may find that a bulleted list journal format works best, or that writing three pages first thing every morning brings them mental clarity. Journal however you like, and for however long you like. Even journaling for 10 minutes a day can truly benefit your wellbeing. So if you are not journaling yet, I hope you take to heart these 10 amazing benefits of journaling and realize why you should seriously start journaling ASAP.
1. Challenge your negative self-talk. Do you ever get into one of those downward spirals, where one thing leads to another, and suddenly you are at rock bottom feeling bad about yourself and completely lacking self-confidence? I’ve been there. And usually what starts these spirals is negative self-talk. Negative self-talk can be as simple as “my thighs look awful in these jeans today” and rapidly move to “I’m not enough” or “I’m not pretty enough,” “I’m not liked enough,” or “I’m not ____ (fill in the blank) enough.” And once these patterns begin, they are hard to stop. And this is why you need to pause, breathe, and grab your journal (*laptop, phone, or whatever you choose to write on). Start writing. How did this negative self-talk start? Is it really true? Did something trigger it? Is there a way you could reframe your thoughts? These are the kinds of questions you want to ask yourself while writing. Writing can help to slow down your thoughts and bring you some mental clarity. If you can catch your negative self-talk where it started, you may be able to rewrite where it goes from there.
2. Gain a better understanding of your emotions. Journaling is an excellent way to manage your feelings in a less reactive, more introspective way. In other words, rather than having a huge meltdown or screaming at your best friend (by accident), writing allows you to process how you are feeling, and why you are feeling this way, before reacting. A lot of times we react before we try to understand how we are feeling. If we sit with our feelings and try to understand where they are coming from, we often can figure out a better solution or a better way of moving forward.
3. Work through your problems. Writing down your problems allows you to organize and understand the problem, and helps you to plan for a solution. By writing out what is wrong, you can clear the clutter from your mind and look at what is right in front of you. What are the options for moving forward? What are the possible solutions available to you? Seeing the problem in black and white allows you to empty up some space in your mind so that you can more clearly think about how you want to proceed.
4. Relieve your anxiety. When you feel anxious or stressed, it’s really helpful to get all of your anxious thoughts out of your brain and onto your paper. It’s a way to “dump” the anxiety out of your brain and to release some of those massively overwhelming thoughts. It’s kind of like cleaning out your mind. Oftentimes anxiety stems from worry. And sometimes when we write things down, we actually often wind up reassuring ourselves that we are okay. We realize that maybe things aren’t so bad, and maybe we don’t have to be so anxious. It’s a way for us to release the anxiety out of our bodies and our minds, and relax a little bit.
5. Ease your stress. Simply put, journaling helps you to release your pent-up feelings and stress. It’s a way to let it out of your body and relieve yourself from some of the weight you are carrying. When you are super stressed, you probably have a lot of thoughts on your mind, or a lot of things you think you need to do, or should do. And when you have so much on your mind, it’s hard to even manage one “task.” If you stop, breathe, and journal for a few minutes, you may be able to reassure yourself that you can handle whatever is being thrown at you. It can help you make a plan of how you intend to conquer what’s really going on.
6. Take control of your life. This is particularly true for bullet list journalers, who may include to-do lists, success lists, dream lists, and many other organizational and thought-provoking lists in their journals. Having your goals down on paper, as well as your accomplishments and successes, gives you the ability to look at your life from a new and hopeful perspective. It allows you to have more gratitude for your accomplishments and for the wonderful aspects of your life, while also looking forward to your dreams, desires, and goals. By bulleting some of your goals, you can easily break down your goals into smaller more manageable tasks. Plus, organizing your thoughts in a bulleted and formatted way makes you feel like your life is in control and thus much less chaotic.
7. Make decisions. Decisions are seriously the worst, especially the big ones. And going back and forth between options in your mind can feel draining, overwhelming, and useless. You might keep thinking in circles, and ending up back in square one. When you journal about a decision, you can explain your pros and cons, and how you are feeling. You can write without judgment, and really weigh what is important to you in the decision. Writing down your thoughts is a way to think through them logically and see them with more perspective and more clarity. Likewise, if you are feeling nervous about a decision you made, you can write about why you are feeling nervous and what you can do to help yourself feel more confident and comfortable with your decision.
8. Practice gratitude. No matter what type of journal you keep, a simple practice to include is to write down what you are grateful for. Whether you write it very distinctly (in a list or bullet format), or incorporate it into a longer passage, practicing gratitude and writing down what you are thankful for will give you a sense of relief and will encourage you moving forward. Gratefulness helps you to have a more positive attitude and view of life, despite the challenges you may be moving through.
9. Share your deepest thoughts in a safe place. When you journal, you are in a judgment-free zone. No one will ever read what you write, so you have the opportunity to truly let it all out without worrying about what anyone else thinks. And letting out your secrets, your worries, your fears, and even your dreams can be cathartic. It feels so good to be able to process all of your thoughts without worrying about what anyone else will think. It’s extremely therapeutic to think through and process your thoughts in a safe place.
10. Be more self-aware. Journaling can help you to discover things that you didn’t realize about yourself. When you freely write down your thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, you may very well end up writing something that you were repressing or ignoring, something that you didn’t realize. Certain ideas or thoughts may come to the surface, and you may make important realizations about why you are feeling a certain way or what’s really going on deep down. It’s easy to ignore some of our thoughts by being busy, or by brushing them aside. When you focus on emptying your mind out and really writing what you are thinking, it’s likely that you will discover what lies underneath a thought pattern or a stressor you are experiencing.