Everyone, at some point in their lives, experiences negative emotions. Some tend to bury them deep within, and hope that they will pass. This is simply a temporary solution, if that. The best way to deal with emotions, is to express them. Journals or wellness apps are great outlets for expressing thoughts and emotions. It’s an important part of the mental wellness equation.
“If we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it.” – Russell Wilson
What is a mental health journal?
Remember when you were in middle school and trying to navigate through adolescence, you had that diary hidden in your sock drawer? The pages you would use to document everything that happened to you, or around you, on any given day? After you’d put pen to paper, you’d feel lighter, and your mind seemed to be a lot more clear.
As you got older, you may have stopped using a diary. Maybe you outgrew it as a busy collegiate, or thought it was a bit juvenile. The truth is, the benefits of writing about your day apply to everyone, of every age group, at every stage in life.
A journal isn’t much different from a diary, except instead of focusing on events, you focus on how they make you feel. You dump all your emotions, confessions, fears, hopes, and wishes into a journal. When you see your feelings written down, not only do you feel better, but you understand yourself a lot more. The key is to be consistent, it may be challenging to stick to it in the beginning, so use self-care and wellness apps like CareClinic to help keep you on track.
Benefits of journaling
Stress can have many debilitating effects. It can bleed into every facet of life; work, health, and relationships. Wellness apps can help get your stress under control, and positively impact your life. Studies show that journaling can lower blood pressure and improve liver function. Plus journaling is a healthy way to cope with stress.
It’s good for your memory
Journaling is a great exercise for the brain. It improves memory, retention, processing, and critical thinking skills. Journaling engages the right hemisphere of the brain, aiding in creativity.
Journaling can improve your sense of well-being. Something about getting your feelings out lifts your spirit and removes some of the emotional weight off your shoulders.
Strengthens emotional functions
Journaling fosters overall emotional health. It allows for the person to be more grounded and have a closer relationship with their health. It helps writers feel present and allows for them to have a bird’s-eye view of their life, which leads to more rational decision making. Journaling promotes mindfulness and gives writers perspective about different issues they may be facing. It provides a better sense of self, and aids in the process of self-improvement and self-management during trying times.
How often should you journal?
You should aim to journal every day. First, start with a five-minute session; as you get more comfortable and the process seems more natural, increase the time you spend journaling. You can set daily reminders using wellness apps like CareClinic to make sure you never forget. You can customize the frequency of your reminders. This is important especially if you’re new to journaling, to ensure you stick to it. After all, it does take some time to build a habit. Some days you may have a lot more to express, and will journal for longer; other days, you won’t need much time to express your thoughts.
How to journal with CareClinic?
There is no proper format or correct way to journal. All you need to do is start! If you’re having trouble putting thoughts into sentences, you can write words that convey how you feel; you can even draw pictures. All you just need a journal, a pen, and a reminder to help you stay on track. The CareClinic app can help you set a reminder.
The CareClinic app has a great diary feature to help you jot down your experiences and your thoughts and feelings. If you experience something, you can take some time afterwards to pause and make note in the CareClinic app of your experience and how it made you feel. This will help you get it off your chest right away and help you move on from the situation. It’s similar to talking to someone. You can immediately feel relieved after you have spoken about it.
Let’s say you were driving to work in the morning and someone cut you off. How would you feel in the situation? Some of us may feel anger and may be upset that it’s ruined our perfect start to the day. Once you get to work and settle in, you can take a few minutes to quickly note down what happened and the anger you felt in the CareClinic app. Now that it’s out, you can feel much better and not let something ruin the rest of your day. You can move on with your day and focus on other things rather than fuming over something so silly like road rage.
What should you write in your mental health journal?
Write about what’s going on in your life that day. Express how it makes you feel. Write about what you’d like to change about your day, write about the best part of your day, and the worst part. When you’re having trouble putting together sentences, write down words expressing how you’re feeling.
Do’s of journaling
- Release negative emotions
- It’s sometimes easier to work through emotions when you write them down. You can use your journal to rant about anything bothering you. It will allow you to release your negative emotions. It will calm you down and allow you to organize your thoughts, so you can better express them to other people. Seeing your thoughts and feelings on paper can also help you make important life decisions and figure out how to handle difficult situations.
- Track your triggers
- Certain patterns come to light when journaling. By documenting what happens to you every day and how it makes you feel, you can recognize your triggers. You can look back and find the common denominator of your bad days, and cut it out of your life. You can look back and find the common denominator of your good days and foster it.
- Re-read your entries
- When you go over your entries at a later time, you reflect on how you were feeling at a certain point in your life. You can use this as a method to avoid making certain mistakes in your life again. Conversely, if you’re at a low point in your life, you can re-read the journal entries written when you were in a better mood, and use it as motivation to get back on track.
- Customize your journal
- You don’t have to use a bland composition notebook as your journal. It may sound silly, but if your journal has aesthetic appeal, you may be more likely to write in it. Select something that looks nice, or buy a bland one and decorate it yourself. Select a nice pen to go with it.
- Download wellness apps to help you stay on track
- Life gets very busy sometimes, and it becomes easy to forget. If you set a reminder using CareClinic, you’ll make sure to turn journaling into a habit. Zak Frazer said it best, “The key to success is consistency.”
Don’ts’s of journaling
- Wait for the “right” time to journal
- Although it is recommended to journal at the same time every day in order to build a habit if you feel the need to write down a thought or emotion, don’t wait until your usual journal time. You can jot down what you’re feeling in the moment, and return to it at your scheduled time.
- Feel like you have to spend the same amount of time every day
- Some days you experience and feel a lot more than others days. Don’t force yourself to spend 30 minutes journaling every day. If all you need is 5 minutes on a particular day, then only take 5 minutes. If some days you feel like you need an hour, then write for an hour. What’s most important, is to stick to it, and build a habit.
- Make excuses for not journaling
- Not only does journaling take very little time, but you can do it anywhere. You don’t even need a physical journal. Thanks to technology, you can use your smartphone. Some people prefer to go completely paperless and use wellness apps or other applications on their electronic device as a journal.
- Focus on spelling and grammar
- Don’t spend energy going over your writing, correcting spelling mistakes, or obsessing about grammar. You’re not submitting an assignment, and you’ll probably be the only one to ever see the inside of your journal.
Journaling before bed
If you haven’t had a chance to journal throughout the day, you can definitely write down your thoughts and feelings at the end of the day. There is no right time of when to journal, but it’s good to build a habit of journaling at the same time everyday. Take 5-10 minutes before you begin your bedtime routine to journal. Write down all of the feelings that you experienced throughout the day. This will help you go to bed with a clear mind. You won’t have thoughts running through your head that end up keeping you awake and disturbing your sleep. It will allow you to get a good night’s rest and make sure that you are ready to take on the next day.
Other uses for journaling
We’ve touched on the mental health benefits of journaling, but journaling serves other purposes too. A journal can act as an activity log, as well. You can document your sleeping patterns, eating habits, exercise, and how productive you were at work on a given day. Journaling will also allow you to see the effects some of these variables have on your overall well-being.
You might notice that you tend to be in a better mood on the days you eat healthily. Or you skip exercise on the days you don’t get much sleep, which has a negative effect on your well-being.
You can also use journaling as a way to document all the positive experiences that you’ve had on any given day, and express gratitude for all the things that went right in you’re life.
What can I learn from my journaling?
As you journal more and more, you’ll begin to see patterns in your thoughts and actions. CareClinic provides you with weekly and monthly reports so that you can get an idea of how you are doing overtime. You can view reports on your journal entries and see connections and patterns in which actions led to certain thoughts. Maybe you see that there was a week where you had really rough mornings and were easily irritated. You would have written about that in your journal and seen the pattern on your CareClinic reports. But then you also notice that the entire week you did not have any breakfast because you had early morning meetings all week long.
Here you can notice a pattern, no breakfast = cranky mornings. This provides you with insights on your lifestyle and let’s you know that you should aim to eat some food every morning so that you can have a good day. You will only notice these patterns if you make sure that you are consistent with your journaling. And the more you journal, the more you will be able to improve your mental health and subsequently your lifestyle.
Journal once a day, whether first thing in the morning or before bed. It’s a habit that helps your overall well-being and doesn’t take much time out of your day. It can be done anytime, anywhere, on paper or digitally.
Once you’ve made journaling part of your everyday routine, you’ll notice an improvement in the way you process your emotions. In the beginning, you may have trouble deciding what to write about, or how long to write. Don’t worry about that, all that matters is that you start. You’ll figure it out as you go along. There’s no right or wrong way to journal.
Journaling can help you deal with different obstacles in life. It can aid your journey of self-improvement. Journaling can make you reflect on your life choices, shortcomings, and attributes. It can help prevent you from repeating mistakes, and encourage and motivate you to get back on the right track. It can help you face your emotions and understand yourself better.
Journaling is right for everyone, no matter what stage of life you’re in. From the student to the executive, the introvert to extrovert; journaling is for you. Everyone can benefit from the simple act of writing down their emotions.