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Start a Journal for Mental Health

Kick off 2021 with a healthy new habit.
After a year like 2020, protecting our wellness has taken on a whole new importance. Wearing masks, washing our hands frequently, and social distancing have aided in safeguarding our physical health. But what can we do for our mental health? One easy and effective thing to do is to keep a journal.

Journaling has a number of well-known mental health benefits. They include:

  • Improving mood
  • Reducing stress
  • Enhancing your sense of well-being and happiness, especially when you include entries focusing on gratitude
  • Reducing intrusive thoughts
  • Reducing situation-specific anxiety or depression beforehand (ex. taking an exam)
  • Improving working memory
  • Strengthening emotional regulation skills
  • Imparting mindfulness and perspective

Journaling has also been proven to be especially helpful to those recovering from trauma and PTSD.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you get started:

Start small
If you are not ready to spill your own personal memoir, don’t worry. A few sentences or even bullet points about your day, your feelings, or even the weather are perfectly fine to get you in the habit of putting pen to paper.

Make time to journal
Whether it is just before bed or with your morning coffee, making the practice a part of your day will allow you to reap the mental health benefits of regularly setting down your thoughts.

Keep it around
Don’t let yourself forget about journaling. Keep your notebook in plain sight – on your bedside table or next to your laptop – so you are more likely to pick it up on a regular basis.

Be kind to yourself
A journal is the perfect place to get out disappointment, frustration and anger. It is also a good place to set goals, track progress and remember the good times, no matter how small. These help you see the bigger picture, and stay positive and focused on moving forward, even when a year like 2020 comes calling.

Be creative
There are no rules to journaling, aside from expressing your inner thoughts and feelings. How you put them on the page is up to you. Point style, cartoons, word art, and stream of consciousness style entries are all wonderful ways to process on paper.

Embrace analog
There are plenty of journaling apps and blogging platforms out there. But consider using a paper notebook for your journaling. Handwriting offers powerful sensorimotor benefits that are proven to enhance working memory and emotional processing.

Be honest
Truly, be yourself. Your journal is your place to dream, scream and scheme, with no one to judge you. To fully reap the mental health benefits of journaling, being truthful is a must.

So go ahead, get started. Pick up a notebook and start 2021 with a healthy new habit. Your mental health will thank you.