Managing the mind through journaling


Revathi Nair

Mental Health Writer

What is journaling?

You may have, at some point in life, maintained a diary.

You’d write about our thoughts, your feelings and your secrets. But maybe you’ve lost that habit as you grew older and got busier.

However, today, despite your busy schedule and lack of time, you may want to return to that habit of maintain a diary, or more appropriately, of journaling. Here’s why.

Journaling to improve your mental health

The habit of journaling has several benefits and can help you tremendously in improving your mental health. Often, you may have certain thoughts or feelings that you keep bottled up within yourself.

Some you may be able to share with your family, or your close friends, but many of these are left unspoken. When these thoughts are left unsaid, they may fester inside your mind, distracting you and distressing you. Journaling these unspoken thoughts allows you to vent and to unload them so you don’t carry them around forever.

Writing down your thoughts and feelings gives you time to think about them, and reflecting on these can help you look at things more clearly. You are able to keep your emotions aside and consider your problems more objectively when you write them down, and therefore, likely to take more rational steps to resolve them.

When you journal your feelings and thoughts, you inevitably are confronting them, and coming to terms with them rather than pushing them under the rug. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step to dealing with them. So, journaling is very helpful in making you face yourself- it makes you more self-aware.

Journaling can also help you streamline the thoughts in your head, and figure out what is taking up your attention and energy. Having a journal can help you find out what the source of the stress you are experiencing is, and help you manage and reduce it. Similarly, you can look back at your entries and find out what may be causing your feelings of anxiety. Therefore, you can use a journal to figure out how to reduce your anxiety and stress.

Journaling also helps you improve your mood. It gives you a space where you can confront yourself without judgement.

How to start and sustain journaling

1. Make it a habit

When you start exercising, you know you’ll continue a 30-day or 90-day plan, right? Similarly, try to make journaling a regular part of your life from the time you start it with a commitment. You could journal every day, setting a few minutes of your day aside for it, or you could choose to do it once in a while. Either way, it is necessary to incorporate journaling into your routine and make it a normal part of your week.

2. Keep your journal handy

Keeping your journal near you at all times can be effective. You can reach for it whenever you have some time to spare, or you could vent your feelings when they arise. Having it around may also remind you to note down your thoughts in it. You don’t necessarily need to have a notebook for your journaling purposes.

If you find making voice recordings or digital notes on your phone more convenient, you can do that as well. The medium does not matter as long as you are able to journal one way or another.

3. Express yourself

When journaling, you should be able to express your thoughts and feelings without censoring them or keeping anything back. Write as you wish. Your journal is the one place you can vent about anything or note down whatever is on your mind.

The benefits of journaling may not be experienced if you hold yourself back from fully opening up. If you are worried about someone else coming across your private thoughts, you may keep yourself from pouring your heart out. To avoid this, make sure that only you can have access to your journal, whether you keep it under your pillow while you sleep, enable the digital lock on your phone, etc.

4. There are no rules

You do not have to follow any format or plan when journaling. Write without worrying about your handwriting or your spellings. Write a few lines, or write pages and pages.

There are no rules confining you in how you maintain your journal. If you wish, you could make it creative, add some doodles or write with your best stationery. When it comes to your journal, you are your own boss.

5. Don’t be critical of yourself

Your journal must be a judgement-free zone. You are meant to let your thoughts and feelings flow onto your pages unhindered. Do not become self-critical in this process. If you do so, you may nor reap the benefits of journaling.

6. Look back

Your journal becomes a record of all your life events, emotions and thoughts. You can use it to look back on your life, to track your feelings and stressors, or to remember how you overcame certain issues.

It may do you good to remember the past. You can figure out what you have been doing right and what was going wrong. Looking back on your journal can allow you to better plan out your future.

With a journal, you can keep tabs on yourself. You can look back at your thoughts and feelings and check if there has been an improvement in the state of your mental health. The notes in your journal can help you better plan out a way in which you can be less distressed and more peaceful.

7. Celebrate the positives too

Finally, make sure you also celebrate your big and small wins in the journal. Write down what you’re grateful for. Make sure that your journal is a source of strength and positivity for you. That will happen if you write about the good things in your life also, apart from the bad.

Treat journaling as self-care

Do not let journaling be another task that you have to force yourself to get through, because then it becomes simply another stressor in your life. Journal at your own pace- how you want, when you want and where you want.

Consider journaling to be that time of the day where you can let go of your burdens, even if only momentarily. If done right, your journal can be your new best friend, the guardian of your deepest thoughts, and a guide for your future self.

View more content by Revathi Nair

Discussion Board

Have you maintained a diary/journal? What was your experience like?

Rohit Chopra
I started journaling during a very stressful time for myself. When I started writing, I could see after a few days how negative my thoughts had become. So i consciously started writing the good things and achievements in the journal as well, apart from the negatives. It helped gain a lot of perspective and see the situation in a more balanced way. I've continued journaling ever since then. ❤️💌
Pratibha Pal
I used to write whenever I m am sad ......., when there is nobody to hear me that tym I have my personal who always lightens the loads of my stress. 😊