"Ugh. My therapist, friends, and family all think it would 'help me' to journal, but I don't see how."
"I'm sure this would help me, but I don't know where or how to start."
"I try to journal but I don't think it's helping, so I stop."
"I feel like I'm doing it wrong."
We've ALL had these thoughts and feelings.
Research shows that journaling can help decrease severity of:
Stress / Anxiety
Journaling has a few functions linked to mental and emotional wellness:
Organizes your thoughts - Racing thoughts is a common symptom of mental and emotional distress. It's like you cannot tackle any of it and the faster it whirls around, the more distressed you feel. By putting those thoughts into words on a page (paper or otherwise), you slow down the whirlwind and establish a structure for those thoughts.
Puts your feelings into words - Often distress hurts in seemingly indescribable ways. By finding the words to express how you feel, you create a baseline to chart a course toward feeling "better." For example, grieving a death involves a multitude of feelings that need targeted (e.g., anger, sadness, loneliness, disappointment, fear, worry). When I put those feelings into words, I know what feelings I want to improve rather than an abstract "grief."
Exposes patterns - You may be making connections between events, thoughts, and feelings that you did not realize until you began to document your story. This may help you identify triggers for certain thoughts and feelings, or help you question what it is about those situations/events that tend to get you thinking or feeling a certain way.
How to Journal Effectively
There is no wrong way to journal! Seriously.
Some people enjoy jotting down something every day, while others spill over pages only when something upsets them. Some write on paper or elaborate journals, while others may type or talk into an electronic device. People may choose to share their journal with their therapist, friends, or an online community. Other people prefer to maintain their journal privately.
Do what works best for you. This means you have to TRY. Give journaling a chance, try different methods or routines. The goal is for it to be helpful and not a burden.
If you're stuck and want help making this tool more effective for you, we're here to help.