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by Lori Herren September 10, 2021 5 min read

Those of us that grew up without social media, smartphones, tablets and personal computers did have a way that we were able to express ourselves. Call it “old school,” primitive or old fashioned, we had what was called a "Diary” and it worked for us. Whether it was an official, fancy covered diary, or a cheap, spiral bound notebook, a diary was a great way to write down feelings, thoughts, and log our experiences. And we kept it PRIVATE!! Well, unless a sibling, parent, or friend decided to take it upon themselves to pry into our personal business. Diaries still exist today but the modern term for them now is “journals.” Whether you journal about your life on paper, or make it open to the world in a blog, there is a very real sense of mental clarity one finds when putting their thoughts down on paper (or on a computer screen). 

 

Journaling 101 (For The Beginner)

Journaling, keeping a diary, blogging, or writing therapy, whatever you choose to call it, is a very helpful process for anyone in any stage of life. And, just in case you are feeling unskilled or unprepared when it comes to writing things, it’s SO EASY!! You aren’t trying to pen the greatest American novel, you are just writing down your thoughts and feelings for YOU! You don’t have to show it to anyone (unless you want to) or publish it anywhere, it’s just an easy, personal outlet for you to put your own deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions down for yourself. Still not sure where to start? Not a problem! Think through these pointers:

  • Keep a pen and piece of paper (or notebook or journal) close by you during the day
  • Set aside a few minutes everyday to journal your thoughts. If you are a morning person, set aside a few minutes then, if you are a night owl, make some time to journal in the evening before you become too tired to process thoughts
  • Don’t try and write like you would for a novel, let it be free flowing thoughts down on paper (or screen). Spelling and grammar don’t matter here either, just the chance for you to write your free flowing thoughts down
  • In your daily journaling process, try and find at least one thing you are grateful for that day and include that in your daily writing. As you look back and read your entries, you will see, even in the hard times, that you always had something to be grateful for, and that can shape the way you view your struggles
  • More than one journal is not only fine, it’s fantastic! You can keep one handwritten journal, one on your laptop and one on your phone. The more you journal, the more you may want to have something on hand at any time of the day to record your thoughts
  • There are no rules or regulations to follow. Journaling is for you, by you, to help YOU!
  • Don’t hold yourself to a certain number or words or length each day. Some days all you may want to say is, “today was a really good day!”
  • Write like you are the only one who will read it, because in most cases, you will be
  • When writing down your thoughts, don’t edit or change anything. Journaling is about discovering your thoughts and feelings, you want them to be as real as possible

 

How Journaling Helps You

As we go through seasons of life, especially ones where multiple things are going on at one time, it is quite common to not be able to pinpoint exactly how we feel about something because there are multiple things going on. This is another reason journaling is so good for your mental health. Taking the time to write out your feelings and thoughts actually shows you what those thoughts and feelings are, especially when you are having a hard time trying to figure them out. In fact, journaling isn’t just a good hobby, psychologists refer to it as Writing Therapy, and consider it an important type of therapy. Journaling, writing therapy, keeping a diary, blogging, or whatever you choose to call it, there are many benefits to journaling, such as:

  • Reduces stress
  • Helps to manage anxiety
  • Helps you deal with depression
  • Helps improve memory
  • Helps you see your feelings, emotions, hopes and fears right in front of you
  • Helps you see what can trigger your struggles, giving you the knowledge how to see a problem before it begins
  • Shows you where you are negative about yourself and gives you the opportunity to turn those negative thoughts into positive ones
  • People who have experienced a traumatic event and choose to do journaling and expressive writing about the event and the impact to them personally on a regular basis, find more significant healing, and that healing comes in a shorter time period than those who do not
  • Helps those going through grief to process their feelings
  • Helps you find meaning in your experiences
  • Journaling can help you express gratitude and celebrate personal victories, some that you wouldn't normally notice because you wouldn't feel comfortable sharing them with someone else
  • Gives you the opportunity to find out important insights about yourself and those around you that you wouldn't necessarily have seen or figured out
  • Journaling can spark creativity which may lead you to want to write poetry, articles, stories or other types of creative writing in addition to your journaling. Go for it!
  • Journaling can help you set personal goals based on things you hope for, things you might not feel comfortable sharing with other people

 

Your Story For You 

As much as we like books and movies about other people, their lives and their stories, there are parts of our own story that are just for us. Parts for us to see, to learn from, to grow from, to cherish. Your own narrative is your choice. You get to decide what you want others to know and learn about you. And, after you have been journaling for a while, see the value in self reflection, growth and understanding, maybe you will want parts of your story to be known to help others who will one day walk through similar paths of life that you have. As helpful as writing therapy is, it can’t take the place of counseling or therapy when we find we need help with our mental health. If you find you need the help of a professional we encourage you to find one in your area. Everyone struggles with something. Isn’t is encouraging to know that something as simple as keeping a journal can unlock truths about ourselves that can make positive changes and growth for us in our lives! Pen to paper, finger to keyboard, can unlock great potential!

 

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This article is intended to provide an understanding of and knowledge about “health topics” as expressed through the perspective and research of the author. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice or counsel, including the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Always seek the advice of your qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, illness or treatment of any listed or non listed situation above. By using this site, you signify your assent to our Terms and Conditions.

 

Sources:

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1

https://ideapod.com/6-surprising-benefits-writing-thoughts-feelings/

https://positivepsychology.com/writing-therapy/

https://www.calmsage.com/writing-therapy-benefits-how-to-practice/

https://www.rtor.org/2019/06/12/how-writing-can-improve-your-mental-health/

 

Lori Herren
Lori Herren

Lori D. Herren is a graduate of the University of West Georgia where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications for Broadcast Journalism and Public Relations, with minors in Marketing and Music. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and pursuing her love of music.


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