THIS POST INCLUDES:

1. How to journal
2. Benefits of journaling
3. Journaling prompts for mental health
4. Free Download Journaling prompts

HOW TO JOURNAL

​The idea of journaling comes with some preconceptions on its use and effectiveness. For many, it triggers memories of teenage angst ‘Dear Diary’ entries or a space to wallow in misery as you rant about your arch-nemesis.

Journaling has been embraced significantly more over the past decade and how it is now used has broadened to include art as well as focused writing through using prompts and themed journals.

Additionally, the boom in a productivity-based type of journaling, bullet journaling, has elevated the use of journaling to include mental health tracking along with daily planning. It’s safe to say that journaling has changed!

FREE FORM JOURNALING

There are many types of journaling that you can undertake. The most basic method of journaling is a free form style where you can write based on whatever comes to mind. This is also affectionately called a brain dump or word vomit journaling where you use the notebook to empty the contents of your mind in whatever random form that occurs.

This type of journaling is a good way to unburden yourself from the daily and trivial things in your life that can create clutter in your thoughts. A good brain dump can relieve some tension from everything you are carrying around in your mind. Once you’ve journaled about the things that are bothering you for that day, you might naturally forget those worries and move on with your day.

SELF-IMPROVEMENT JOURNALING

Another form of journaling involves a purposeful approach to self-improvement. This could involve setting goals in a journal to explore various aspects of your personality and approach to how you live your life. These types of journals include gratitude journaling where you purposefully seek to identify and acknowledge the positive aspects of your life that you feel grateful for.

This type of journaling is viewed as a preventative course of action where you are actively engaging in developing your mental wellbeing. Journaling in this manner encourages us to reflect on our experiences and find meaning in how our experiences influence our identity.

ART JOURNALING

Another common form of journaling is art journaling which is a blend of written journaling and creating art. It is not classified as art therapy in the context of therapy, however, art journaling does provide a space to explore internal thoughts and emotions. Art journaling also connects the creative process by releasing any held tension on the page.

A popular book that connects with the ethos of art journaling is The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, who explains that creativity is an authentic spiritual path. The book takes readers on a twelve-week journey to discover the link between their spiritual and creative selves.

HOW TO JOURNAL

The below suggestions are a basic guideline to start journaling. Your journal is personal, so the format should suit your interests and goals at the time.

  • Journal daily – some suggest 10-20 mins per day.
  • Make your journal accessible – have your journal easily available, whether it be a physical or digital journal.
  • Be free – your journal is a private and safe space to explore the unsaid fears, thoughts, and emotions that you carry.
  • Be purposeful – be mindful not to use your journal as a space to perpetuate negative views of the world on an ongoing basis. Keep a goal in mind to use your journal to improve your overall wellbeing.

WHERE TO JOURNAL

It’s common to use a paper journal for your writing. The physical act of pouring your thoughts and emotions into a physical representation of yourself can create a connection to the physical self.

From a practical perspective, you may wish to use an electronic journal if you want to type quicker than your handwriting can contain your thoughts.

Many websites offer online journaling services. Some suggestions include Penzu and Journey. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of each website to ensure you feel comfortable with the way your writing is managed by the company.

You can also use digital products such as Microsoft Word where you can create your digital journal. The software program Evernote is also another useful program for journaling as it can be accessed across a variety of devices so that you can access and write in your journal from wherever you are.

BENEFITS OF JOURNALING

There are many benefits to journaling. Most of the benefits are based on two core premises:

1. Journaling provides an immediate release of internal worries that are creating a negative feedback loop
2. A journaling practice that occurs regularly helps develop an overall commitment to acknowledging emotions and working towards a deeper understanding of self

Some of the common benefits include:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Coping mechanism
  • Space for problem-solving
  • Expression for fears
  • Expression of emotions
  • Tracking mood over time
  • Identifying triggers
  • Identifying patterns of behaviour
  • Engaging in positive self-talk through affirmations
  • Developing skills through writing
  • Developing creativity
  • Developing communication skills
  • Developing conflict strategies
  • Develops gratitude
  • Provides feedback for internal thoughts
  • Provides a record of progress
  • Develops perspective taking for complex situations
  • Reduces behavioural impulsivity and emotional reactivity
  • Promotes a sense of purpose

Journaling can help us explore our self-identity and the underlying negative thoughts we may hold. Journaling allows a safe space to explore thoughts of shame and fear.

Journaling provides a space for problem-solving where any option can be explored and discussed without judgment.

JOURNALING PROMPTS FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Below are some journaling prompts that you or your clients may like to use in your journal.

Your journal is personal to you so it should focus on the writing that best suits your style and ability to communicate.

  • My favourite day would be…
  • List 10 things that make you feel happy?
  • List 10 things that inspire you?
  • How can I be compassionate to myself when I am in physical or emotional pain?
  • I wish other people knew these things about me…
  • How does my body feel today? Do I notice any held tension in parts of my body?
  • What does self-compassion mean to me? How can I be self-compassionate?
  • What are the parts of life you find amazing?
  • What makes me feel most energetic and inspired to take action in life?
  • What are the things you want to say no to?
  • What are the things you want to say yes to?
  • Describe your day today and see what unfolds in your writing.
  • List some people, experiences, or parts of life that you feel grateful for.
  • Identify some recent successes you’ve had.
  • Write about your goals and future dreams that you want to achieve.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Art Therapy Exercise

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The Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health
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