Journaling, or reflective journaling as some may call it in counselling professions, has been around for some time. It had been used in various industries and professions, from medicine and nursing to engineering or education.
What is journaling
Journaling is a simple and effective technique to enhance self-awareness, interest and learning. It is proved to be effective in achieving goals and improving the quality of life. Most importantly, it is proved to work effectively in improving our mental health.
When you journal:
- you express your experiences, feelings and thoughts related to what is going on for you in your life right now. This will look and feel differently to everyone.
- you don’t just describe
- you engage
- you reflect
- you gain insights into aspects of your life
- you brainstorm and you get creative
Forms of journaling
You can set up your personal journal in any form you like – paper, computer document or online. You can journal your way through combining written text with art (making art, drawing, painting), voice recording or using colour coding techniques to represent your experiences and processes. It does not matter how you do it as long as the way you do it benefits you.
The benefits of journaling for mental health
Journaling can be especially effective in managing stress, anxiety and depression. It brings clarity into your mind, relaxes and calms you down.
Journaling helps you notice things about yourself and the world that you could often miss, otherwise. It helps you learn about yourself and discover new ways of being and thinking. It enables self-discovery and self-exploration and gives you the opportunity for change and improvement.
It helps you notice unhealthy or unproductive patterns/habits that are stopping you from being the person you want to be in personal or professional life. It helps you identify the triggers and shift your functioning to a more positive and productive place.
It is all about increasing your self-awareness and understanding of yourself. Only when you have the knowledge you can move forward.
It’s like trying to solve a problem. First, you need to know what the problem is, how and why it came about. Then you can take steps towards solving it. You can’t solve a problem or prevent it from happening again if you don’t know what the problem is or why it occurred.
Journaling can be very therapeutic and cathartic. It can serve you in a way that clears your mind and frees you from obsessive or anxious thoughts. Journaling is your own private space to let it out. Whether you are lonely, angry, frustrated, sad or happy. I like to call it an ’emptying of my head’.
You might be thinking that this is all nonsense. I promise you that regular journaling is all of the above and more. I use it in my counselling practice to accompany my therapeutic work with clients. It has brought many benefits to their lives.
One of the ways to journal is to:
1. Decide on the topic?
- think of the most pressing issue on your mind right now
- write down your feelings and thoughts about it
- what is not working
- what needs improving
2. Reflect and review
- take time to think through
- use statements such as ‘I fell…’, I want..’, ‘I think’,…
- stay present and go with ‘Right now…’, ‘At this moment..’, ‘Today…’,…
- write down, draw or colour code your experiences, feelings and thoughts (positive and happy with bright colours, negative and unsettling with dark colours)
- analyse your content – what is it telling you?
4. Set time and frequency for your journaling
- aim for at least 20 minutes of journaling each time
- journal 3-5 times a week or according to your needs
- read back what you wrote or look at what you created (art)
- what have you learnt from your journaling session?
- aim to use ‘I am noticing that…’, ‘I’ve learnt that…’, ‘I’ve become aware of …’
6. Keep it private!
- Keep it private
- Keep it honest!
- Keep it about you!
- There is no right or wrong way!
Get journaling and have fun!
Drop me a line if you need to talk to someone, counselling offers a safe and non-judgemental space where you can talk in confidence. Get in touch with me via my enquiry form to find out how counselling with me can help you work through your difficulties.