As we head into another lockdown, it’s time for some self care; searching for ways to look after your body and mind to help you get through to the other side. One thing that I am a huge fan of, that has really helped to keep my mentally healt during these tough times, alongside exercise, is journaling.
Not just for the angsty teenage girls, journaling has become a hugely popular way of releasing stress and anxiety, getting all your hopes and fears out onto the page – for no one, but you – to see.
It can be so easy to go about our every day lives without appreciating things and realising how lucky we are so journaling forces you to stop, sit down and think about what you’ve got to be grateful for. As well as that, it’s a hugely cathartic experience as it encourages you to get out all the things you’re worried about. Once it’s there, in black and white, it all feels a little less terrifying, as if you have let out all your inner-most precious thoughts and feelings to your closest confidante.
Here are some of my top tips on how to start journaling:
- Write a positive letter to yourself at the start of this journal, as if you’re writing about a friend. Note down your positive qualities and what has prompted you to start journaling in the first place.
- Include gratitude every day, even if some days it’s hard to find. Pick something simple like a hot tea, the roof over your head or the fact the sun is shining.
- Date your entries as it’ll help you notice patterns.
- Don’t worry about what it looks like. The best thing about journaling is the fact that you can’t get it wrong! When I first started I thought that it had to look a certain way, to be linear and like a formulaic diary. I thought every day had to match in style, length and even tone. But, it doesn’t! If it’s messy or is full of mistakes, who cares?
- Try not to over-think it. Don’t imagine another person reading it; just write for you – whatever comes to your head! Write like no-one is watching or will ever read it (apart from you of course!)
- Be honest with your feelings. Write EXACTLY what’s on your mind. These could be seemingly trivial worries but to you they might feel massive. Write down goals and aims for the day – and beyond.
- Don’t let anyone judge you. Journaling is a self-help tool but it’s nothing to be judged for. In today’s society there is so much more focus on mental health and the importance of self-care, anyone who would criticise you for keeping a journal that helps you improve your mental health is quite frankly, not worth listening to.
- You can start with the same sentence if that helps you. For example, ‘Today I feel…’ This might help you begin each day.
- Set aside a dedicated time, perhaps first thing in the morning or just before bed, to do your journaling. Keep a routine.
- Pop a timer on your phone and start with five minutes and write quickly. Don’t give your brain a chance to edit how you really feel.
- Be consistent – write for 30 days in a row but don’t feel you have to fill up a full page each day.
- Try to see it as a release for your mind and not a chore.
- Go back and read past entries. After a while you’ll begin to see patterns and connect with your feelings even more. You’ll also be able to see personal growth when day-to-day that might not feel that evident.