Journaling isn’t the, “Dear Diary, Today I ate a taco…” that you might think it is. While it can be fun to jot down hilarious moments or memories, journaling can also an excellent mental-health tool to promote positive self-talk, self-understanding, stress relief, and even daily gratitude. According to an article by Maud Purcell, LCSW, CEAP for Psych Central, there is emerging research finding that journaling can improve physical health evidenced through stronger immune cells, which makes sense if you understand the mind-body connection. When you take the time to process your thoughts you know yourself better, are less likely to react without thinking, and may find yourself a bit happier and healthier, too. There are many different ways to journal. Read on to find the best fit for you!
Stream of Consciousness
Let it all out! This style is good for those of us with a million thoughts racing through our heads at any given moment. Allow a stream of consciousness to flow out of your mind and onto the page. Once it’s all out there, you can sort through your thoughts, employ some positive self-talk, challenge negative thought patterns, solve problems where you can, and actively let go of the things you can’t control. Don’t hold back—it’s just you and the page!
Another popular style of journaling is the bullet journal. If you’re super-efficient or in a hurry, this is a good option for you. It’s typically more of a goal-oriented journal with objectives and to-do lists to help you reach goals. But, you can use it to support mental health by bulleting feelings, positive affirmations, and making self-care to-do lists. Meditate…check! Exercise…check! You get the idea.
Blogging can be a way to journal in public. For some, sharing your thoughts with the world can be cathartic and freeing. There is also an accountability factor that comes with a public blog—the structure of a daily or weekly post may keep you committed. Blogs usually allow discourse between you and your readers, which can provide a great space for conversation and support. Unfortunately, it may also draw out the occasional internet troll, so you must be prepared for that. If you don’t have a thick skin, consider sticking to the privacy of the page.
A gratitude journal is a tangible way to cultivate gratitude as a daily practice and mindset. Documenting things you are grateful for each day trains your mind to find and focus on positivity more throughout every day. According to an article for Harvard Health, research has found that daily practices of gratitude lead to stronger feelings of well-being, stronger mental health, and even better physical health!
The more you look for things to be grateful for, the more things you will find. Author Ross Gay spent one year writing mini-essays every day on things he found delightful throughout each day. In The Book of Delights, Gay states, “It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.” It doesn’t mean life isn’t still hard sometimes. We all know suffering exists, but there is something, well, delightful about seeking out the good and celebrating it a little each day.
So grab a notebook and a pen and let it all out, the good, the bad, the ugly…and the delightful!