Coping with a mental health condition can be difficult, but journaling may help. Journaling can help you deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Additionally, you can use your journal to help you improve your habits and behaviors. To start journaling, pick a convenient time to write every day and challenge yourself to write whatever comes to your mind for 20 minutes. Use your journal to process your feelings or work on your self-improvement goals.
PART 1.Starting a Journaling Habit
- A paper journal will make it easier to get creative with your entries if you’re interested in incorporating art into your journal.
- You might be able to add to your digital journal from any device if you use Google Docs. Download Google Docs for free from the app store. Then, create and edit documents on any device that has Google Docs.
- For instance, you might write in your journal every morning when you wake up, during your lunch hour, or just before bed.
- If you commute by bus or train, use that time to write in your journal.
- While the goal is to write about your thoughts or stressors, don’t worry about that right now. It’s okay to write things like, “I don’t know what to say,” “This feels stupid,” or “I can’t think of anything right now.” If you keep going, you’ll start to uncover your inner thoughts.
Tip: It’s okay to keep writing after the timer goes off. The purpose of the timer is to help you feel like there’s structure to your journaling practice, which might help you get started more easily.
- If your grammar mistakes really bother you, it’s okay to go back and correct them at a later time. However, this isn’t necessary.
- Make a list.
- Write a poem or song.
- Incorporate images to express how you feel or what’s on your mind.
- Write a letter to someone.
- Write a story with you as the main character.
- Use sentence stems from your therapist or online. These might include, “I feel most upset when…,” “I feel my best when…,” or “I’m most worried about…”
- Make a bullet journal.
- For example, you might feel guilty for raging out over something that happened in your day. Don’t judge yourself for getting upset because that’s a perfectly normal reaction. Instead, pat yourself on the back for working through those thoughts in your journal.
- You might write something like, “Today I felt really sad because it was raining all day. I think the weather affects my mood. I wonder how I can help myself feel better on gloomy days.”
- As an example, a stream of conscious entry might look like this: “Sitting here just not knowing what to say it’s been a long day and I’m tired but I can’t figure out why I feel down today and I think it’s because things haven’t been going my way so maybe I need to change something but what can I change.”
- Write something like, “I can’t believe Alex didn’t give me the help she promised. I really thought I could count on her. I wanted to yell at her until my face turns blue, but I don’t want a bunch of drama from my mom.”
Tip: Writing down how you feel can help you calm down and find the words you need to communicate your feelings to others. After you express yourself in your journal, review what you’ve written and decide what you need to do next to address the issue.
- You might write your mood in a word or use a symbol. Possible moods might include “happy,” “sad,” “stressed,” “indifferent,” or “angry.” You might rate your moods on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being mild and 5 being severe. Write something like, “Depressed (4).”
- If you’re going through a crisis, you might re-read your entry right after you wrote it or later that same day.
- If you want to improve your overall mental health, review your posts after 3-4 months.
PART 3.Using Your Journal for Self-Improvement
- For instance, you might keep a page in your journal to track your progress on your goal. Write an action plan, document when you work on the goal, and check off each step.
- If your goal was to meditate every day, you might block off time to meditate in your schedule and download a meditation app. Then, keep track of how often you meditate, how long your sessions last, and the benefits you feel after meditation.
- Alternatively, give yourself a sticker or check mark on days you work toward your goal or new habits. As an example, give yourself a smiley face sticker each time you do self care, a check mark for every glass of water you drink, or a star each day you cook a meal at home.
- You might write, “Today I feel anxious (3) and uncertain (2),” with the numbers representing the severity of your symptoms.
- If you’re on medication, keep track of when you take it to see if that has any affect on your symptoms.
- For instance, let’s say you think that you’re stupid. You might list examples of times you’ve said something really smart, topics that you’re particularly knowledgeable about, and any education that you’ve completed. From there, you might say, “I’m really smart when it comes to history and helping people organize their stuff.”
- You might only need to make 1 pros and cons list to help you make a decision.
- For instance, let’s say you’re deciding whether or not to get an emotional support animal. Pros might include, “Having comfort,” “Never feeling alone,” and “Feeling happy when I see my companion.” Cons might include, “Need to clean up after it,” and “Have to do paperwork.”
- However, it’s helpful to make multiple lists if you have several different options. As an example, you might make multiple lists if you’re deciding which treatment option to try.