New habits: journaling
How putting pen to paper can help tame a wild mind.
From Einstein to the Queen, George Lucas to Kurt Cobain, when people keep a journal of day-to-day thoughts our understanding of who they are and what they stand for deepens.
Some write to build a historical record for future generations, others as a means of personal catharsis.
Whether writing for the benefit of others, or simply for yourself, keeping a written record of your thoughts or actions is good for you.
Journaling for a healthy mind
Journaling forms one of the cornerstones of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is used to treat many mental health issues. First devised in the 1960s, CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all interconnected, and it provides tools to break negative thought structures and behaviour patterns.
Journaling can have positive physical effects on our bodies, too. A University of Texas study suggests regular journaling can increase immune cells in our blood, while another found that in subjects going through a divorce, journaling not only helped them move forward emotionally, but lowered heart rate and increased overall heart health.
Writing down our thoughts allows us to understand our anxieties, which seems to reduce the stress and physical impact they have on the body.
Ways of journaling: Finding a system that works for you
Track your moods with a Mood Journal
Tracking your moods can help you to understand them and what’s causing them – whether good or bad!
Mood journals can be very simple. Choose a few daily variables to keep an eye on, like sleep, medications, emotional triggers and diet.
Then, write a brief description of your mood each day, along with a number from 1 to 10 to indicate the strength of the mood.
Appreciate your existence with a Gratitude Journal
As we’ve explored in a separate feature, showing gratitude can produce measurable benefits on your mental and physical health. One way of developing a healthy gratitude practice is through journaling. Simply take 15 minutes before bed with a notepad and pen and answer the question:
What am I grateful for today?
It helps to set a limit of say 3 or 5 topics or events, so you can really focus in on them.
Remind yourself of the little wins with an Achievements Journal
When stuck in a negative thought pattern, it can be hard to register our daily achievements – no matter how miniscule they might seem.
Celebrate the little things by writing them down – like tidying the house, doing your weekly shop, or sorting out bills – and you’ll find the bigger tasks become much more manageable.
Starting is the key
The easiest thing about writing a journal? You just start. The hardest thing about writing a journal? You have to start! Turning a novelty into a habit takes some work, but these tips could help you along the way:
Invest: Spending a little bit of cash on a good quality notebook and stationery can help kick-start a regular habit.
Simplify: Keep your journal somewhere convenient, where you can jot a thought down at a moment’s notice. You probably already have a place in mind…
Regulate: You won’t form a habit without forming a routine! The sooner you can get into that regular 15-minuite timeslot, the better.
Refine: Remember it’s your journal – create a structure that works for you, experiment, and play around with it!
The story is yours to be written – all you have to do is start.