There are many ways I could begin this article, and even as I sit here contemplating where to start or how to explain how I’m feeling, I find it difficult. Not because I don’t want to share my opinion or voice on mental health, but because everyone experiences things differently. What I have experienced and continue to experience may differ from yours, or maybe be similar. Although I am mainly writing about how journaling helped my mental health, it took me a long time to figure out that I needed to do something about the ways I had been feeling, and it took an even longer time to find an outlet that actually helped. I have tried working out, talking to family and friends, meeting with counselors at school, ignoring how I felt…the list goes on and on. The bottom line is that you may need to try a few (or many in my case) outlets in order to help your mental health, but know that there is always something or someone that can help. In the end, journaling worked best for me, and if you haven’t journaled yet, maybe it could for you too.
The main reason why I started writing in a journal wasn’t with the intention of helping my mental health, it was more to document events going on in my life so I could share specific memories with my own kids someday. I got the idea from one of my favorite movies that I had watched with some friends, Mamma Mia. In the movie, the main character finds her mom’s diary containing a past that she hadn’t disclosed to her daughter. I thought it would be cool to document things from my final year of college that I could look back on and share with my family in the future. Instead of a diary like the movie, I figured it would become more of a journal. I picked one out that was plain black leather with a red bookmark and blank lined pages, and didn’t start writing in it until I got to school in August.
At first, I only wrote about once a month, just about events that had taken place that were fun to experience. After the first couple of times I wrote in the journal, I began to write about how I was feeling besides just fun situations. I’d go more in depth about how COVID-19 made me feel, how stressed I was about work and classes, upcoming exams that I shouldn’t be worrying about (but was) since they were still months away, relationships with family and friends, etc. Basically anything I was feeling I would think about, fully process, and then put them into words on the pages of the journal. Once I began doing this and actually expressing my feelings, I slowly felt better and better, like a weight was being lifted off of me. I had never felt that way in the past when opening up to other people because I had always struggled with that. Even though I would talk about my feelings with others I would often hold back or keep information inside that I could have discussed with them. I tend to hold things in because I have always been a more giving person than receiving and am always more concerned with those around me being okay instead of also asking myself if I was. Something about knowing that I was writing for me helped me to fully process and come to terms with my thoughts – something I had never done before.
If you’re having any sort of trouble talking to others about your mental health, journaling might be a good thing to try. It has helped me sort out my feelings over time and think of solutions as to what I can do to change how I feel. Grab a journal or some paper to write on and go to a cosy spot that you love. Even if you still haven’t found an outlet that works for you, keep trying because everyone’s different and you’ll find one.