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journaling at a table

When we hear the word “journaling,” some of us might picture a 12-year-old girl pouring her heart out in her diary about her latest school drama. Writing thoughts down on a page like this isn’t just an outlet for teenagers, however.

Journaling is an important form of self-expression that can empower us to process complex feelings, clear our heads and improve our mental health, especially during times of high stress. Allowing our creative side to flourish can be cathartic and make a big difference in our overall well-being.

How It Can Help

Research shows that journaling can make us more self-aware and help us detect unhealthy thought and behavior patterns. It can help us put things in perspective and take back control over our lives.

Using journal writing as a therapy technique may help:

  • Decrease symptoms of various health conditions, including depression and anxiety
  • Improve cognitive functioning
  • Boost the immune system
  • Help release stress as it presents in the body
  • Relieve obsessive thinking
  • Offer a balanced look at both struggles and successes
  • Offer an outlet to express grief, fears, gratitude and joy

Possibly the biggest benefit of journaling may be a shift in our thinking from a negative mindset to a more positive one.

How to Begin

If you’ve never journaled before, the idea might seem intimidating. Here are some prompts to get you started.

  • If possible, find a dedicated space in your home that is free from distractions.
  • You will find the most benefit if you try to write a little bit every day. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to more.
  • Start writing about where you are and how you feel at the present moment. Use stream of consciousness to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Don’t feel pressure to write about specific topics. Put down whatever thoughts come to your mind.
  • Structure the writing in whatever way feels comfortable to you. That might be complete sentences, or it might be fragments or bullet points.
  • Remember that your journal is for your eyes only, so don’t be self-conscious about your grammar or style. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you.
  • Don’t worry about “rambling.” You can clarify or organize it later.

If you can’t think of anything to write about, start with the following questions:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What am I scared of?
  • What am I proud of?
  • What I am grateful for?

Once we allow journaling to become a healthy habit, it can have a big impact on our quality of life. For more resources on self-expressive writing, click here. Get started today by purchasing a journal online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Target.

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