For many people, the first few days of January will bring their first entries in a fresh diary with a year’s worth of empty pages.
But did you know that having a diary or journal can be a useful tool when it comes to your mental health and wellbeing.
Journaling is sometimes a strategy that therapists talk to their clients about.
“I often suggest keeping a journal quite early in therapy,” says Rebecca Vivash, a therapist based in Northampton.
“Many clients are struggling to identify how they are feeling, for example, they know that they are struggling with anxiety but can't work out why.”
“I encourage clients to notice what's going on for them physically as well as emotionally and try to name their feelings. It can really help to unlock patterns of behaviours and associated feeling which can be really helpful to explore in therapy.
Keeping a journal can have other benefits too.
“It can really empower people to feel more in control as they develop a greater understanding of their triggers for certain emotions and why they are thinking and feeling the way they do.
She adds: “Journaling can be helpful for emotional regulation and well as being a great outlet for externalising your feelings. It can also be great for boosting your mood - positive psychology techniques, such as focusing on strengths or the positive things going on for you, can help to shift your mindset.”
There are different ways that you can use a journal to help your mental health and wellbeing.
A mood diary
“A mood diary is good way to identify patterns and emotional triggers,” says Rebecca.
“For example if you have journaled about feeling hurt or angry by a comment that your partner has made, it may be helpful to reflect on whether you have noticed any other behaviours or comments evoking a similar response in you? Are there any underlying themes? By exploring your emotional responses, you can often unlock why you are feeling a certain way and consider whether your reaction still fits.
A worry dump
Rebecca adds: “Journals are a great outlet for anxiety - some people find it helpful to have a 'worry dump', writing your worries down can help to organise your thoughts and dilute the intensity of your anxiety.”
“Scheduling in some self-care to your journal is a great reminder to stop and give yourself permission to prioritise you! Giving yourself the gift of time and attention is important for building self-esteem and a great mood-booster,” says Rebecca
Write to your future self
“Another great journaling technique is to write to our 'future self', describing what we would like our lives to look like in, say, a year from now,” says Rebecca.
“You could address the current issues that are creating difficulty in your life right now. For example, if you are struggling with communication in your relationship, you may wish to write to your ‘future self’, describing how you and your partner have resolved this issue and how doing so has improved your relationship.
“Another example could be if you are struggling with stress, you could write about how you have learned to set healthy boundaries with those around you and recognise what triggers you to feel compelled to take on too much.”
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