Dealing with a mental health condition can be difficult, but keeping a journal can be helpful. This can help you deal with stress, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Also, you can use the journal to improve your habits and behaviors. To get started, choose a convenient time to write every day and challenge yourself to write whatever pops into your mind for 20 minutes. Use the journal to process your feelings or work on your self-improvement goals.
Part 1 of 3: Get into the habit of writing
Step 1. Decide if you want to keep a paper or digital journal
In general, writing by hand helps to process thoughts better. However, it is important that you choose the format that is most convenient for you. Keep a paper journal if you like to write by hand, or use a word processor if you prefer to write on the computer.
- A paper journal allows you to be more creative with your entries, in case you want to add some art to it.
- You can incorporate information into your digital journal from any device by using Google Docs. Download Google Docs for free through the app store. Then create and edit documents on any device that has such a program.
Step 2. Write in the journal every day to receive more benefits
It is important that you form the habit if you want to use the journal to improve your mental health. Pick a time that is convenient for you to write. Then take on the challenge of doing it every day. Schedule this block of time into your routine just like any other important appointment.
- For example, you can write every morning when you wake up, during your lunch break, or before you go to bed.
- If you are traveling by bus or train, you can use this time to write in your journal.
Step 3. Set a timer for 20 minutes and write until it rings
When you start writing, set aside a short block of time so you don't find it overwhelming. Start with 20 minutes, but feel free to adjust the time to best suit your needs. While the timer is ticking, write down everything that comes to mind by hand or on the computer.
While the goal is to write about your thoughts or stressors, don't worry about it at this point. It's okay if you write things like "I don't know what to say" or "I can't think of anything right now." If you continue, you will begin to discover your inner thoughts
it's okay to keep typing after the timer expires. The purpose of this device is to help you feel that your writing practice has a certain structure, which can help you get started more easily.
Step 4. Don't worry about spelling or grammar
The journal is for you, so it doesn't matter if you use proper sentences or spell the words correctly. Allow thoughts to flow freely without editing the writing.
If grammar mistakes really bother you, it's okay to go back to your writing and correct it later. However, it is not necessary
Step 5. Get creative with formatting if you don't like writing sentences
You can receive the benefits of the journal no matter how much you hate writing or don't know what to say. Don't worry about writing sentences or paragraphs. Try different formats for the tickets until you find the one that is right for you. Here are some ways to express yourself:
- Make a list.
- Write a poem or song.
- Incorporate images to express your feelings or thoughts.
- Write a letter to someone.
- Write a story whose main character is you.
- Use bases to form sentences that you acquire through your therapist or the internet. Some examples are "The time when I feel most upset is when …", "I feel better when …" or "I feel most concerned when …".
- Make a bullet journal.
Step 6. Make your journal a place free from moral judgment
Take the liberty of writing what you feel without controlling your thoughts. Don't attribute negative emotions (like guilt or shame) to what you write. You have the right to have thoughts and feelings, and practicing journaling is your way of dealing with them in the healthiest way possible. Don't judge yourself for taking this big step to resolve your inner conflicts.
For example, you may feel guilty for feeling angry about something that happens one day. Don't judge yourself for feeling this way, because it is an absolutely normal reaction. Instead, congratulate yourself for working on your feelings through your journal
Part 2 of 3: Dealing With Your Thoughts and Feelings
Step 1. Express whatever comes to mind when you sit down to write
The best way to use the journal to process your thoughts and feelings is to write about the things that happen in your life every day. Talk about the things that happen to you, the way they make you feel, and any concerns you have. Keep writing until the time is up or you feel better.
For example, you can write something like "I felt sad today because it rained all day. I think the weather affects my mood. I wonder how I can feel better on gloomy days."
Step 2. Write in the form of an interior monologue if you are not sure what you are feeling
Sometimes it's hard to tell what's going on in your mind, and that's okay! To write in the form of an inner monologue, write down any words that pop up in your mind, even if they don't make sense. Don't worry about punctuation or sentence structure. Keep writing until you recognize that a main idea or theme comes up, which will tell you how you feel.
As an example, this type of input might be something like "I'm sitting here not knowing what to say it's been a long day and I'm tired but I can't determine why I feel bad today and I think it's because things haven't worked out for me. way so maybe I have to change something but what can I change "
Step 3. Release negative emotions like anger, sadness, and jealousy
All people deal with relapses and conflicts, and sometimes it is difficult to overcome the strong negative emotions that these situations cause. Fortunately, the journal is a tool you can use to process these emotions and identify next steps. Write a complaint or complaint about how everything goes wrong. You can also write a letter to a person who has hurt you without sending it to them.
You can write something like, "I can't believe Maria didn't help me like she promised. I really thought I could count on her. I want to yell at her until my face turns blue, but I don't want a jealous scene from my mom."
Writing down how you feel can help you calm down and find the words you need to communicate your feelings to others. After expressing yourself in a journal, review what you write and decide what you need to do to address the problem.
Step 4. Track your mood every day to identify your stressors
Recording your mood in the posts will help you recognize the patterns triggers can cause. Write how you feel during the day before or after journaling. Also, rate your mood on a numerical scale. Then, check your mood to see what helps you feel good and what puts you off. This can help you make positive changes to improve your overall mood.
For example, you can write your mood with a word or a symbol. Possible moods include "happy," "sad," "stressed," "indifferent," or "angry." You can rate them on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lightest and 5 being the strongest. You can write "Depressed (4)"
Step 5. Reflect on your inputs to better understand your feelings
To get the most benefits from your writing habit, reread what you've written later. Think about what you said and how you felt. Use this information to make better decisions in the future. Also, a good idea is to rephrase your thoughts so that you can think differently about things in the future.
- If you are in a crisis, you can reread the post after writing it or later the same day.
- If you want to improve your overall mental health, review your entries after three to four months.
Part 3 of 3: Using the Journal as a Self-Improvement Tool
Step 1. Keep track of your progress toward your goals, good habits, and positive behaviors
Use your journal to set personal goals and work to develop positive habits and behaviors that you want to incorporate into your life. Record the steps you take towards your goals and monitor your progress. Also, write or cross out when you adopt positive habits or behaviors.
- For example, you can have a page in your journal to record your progress toward a goal. Write an action plan, document when you make progress, and cross off each step.
- If your goal is to meditate every day, you can set aside a block of time in your schedule to meditate and download a meditation app. Then keep track of how often you meditate, the length of your sessions, and the benefits you experience after meditation.
- You can also reward yourself with a sticker or check mark on the days you work toward your new goal or habit. As an example, you could assign yourself a smiley face every time you take care of yourself, a check mark for every glass of water you drink, or a star for every day you cook at home.
Step 2. Document your symptoms, in case you undergo treatment for a mental illness
Keeping track of your symptoms will help you determine whether you are progressing or which treatments are best for you. Write the symptoms you experience at the top or bottom of your journal entry each day. Rate the intensity of symptoms with a numerical scale to better understand them. Compare them with what happens in your day to identify patterns.
- For example, you can write "Today I feel anxiety (3) and uncertainty (2)". The numbers represent the intensity of the symptoms.
- If you take medication, keep track of your taking times to see if they have any effect on your symptoms.
Step 3. Keep track of the evidence for or against your beliefs about yourself
You may have a mix of positive and negative beliefs about yourself. Sometimes many negative beliefs can make depression and anxiety worse, even if they are not true. When you experience negative thoughts about yourself, write down the evidence you have to believe or not believe in them. Use this practice to see yourself in a more positive light.
For example, imagine that you think you are a stupid person. You can make a list of situations where you have said very clever things, subjects you know very well, and any education you have completed. From there, you can say, "I'm very smart about the story and helping people organize their stuff."
Step 4. Make a list of advantages and disadvantages if you have an important decision to make
Important decisions are always difficult, but sometimes they can be more overwhelming if you are dealing with mental illness. Fortunately, a journal can help you identify what to do. Draw a line in the center of the page and list the advantages of a choice on the left side, and the disadvantages on the right side. Create a list for each option you consider. Then, choose the option that benefits you the most.
- You may just need a list of pros and cons as a guide to making your decision.
- For example, imagine you want to decide whether to adopt an animal for emotional support. The advantages can be "to be comforted", "to never be alone" and "to feel happy to be accompanied". Disadvantages can include "cleaning the dirt" and "handling the papers."
- However, it is helpful to make multiple lists if you have different options. As an example, you can make multiple lists if you want to decide which treatment to try.
- Keep your journal with you so that writing is convenient for you.
- If you do therapy, consider keeping your journal with you. However, you don't need to share your writing with anyone, unless you feel comfortable doing so.