Trigger warning: brief mentions of depression and suicide
For so long, my stereotypical view of someone who journaled went something like this: a beautiful fitness guru who woke up at 7 a.m. to go to spin class, ate a yogurt bowl with bananas and granola at Hamp for breakfast, and went back home to shower and jade roll her face. After this, she sat down, lit a candle, and wrote gratuity about her body and mind. She then went to class, got straight A’s, and posted to her wellness Instagram about her day. Yes, I know this is such a stereotype and completely in my own head. But, getting into journaling felt borderline corny to me for this reason. I am a “normal” person; I love spin class, pilates, and lighting the occasional Yankee candle, but I am by no means someone who matches any of the aforementioned criteria. And just to set the record straight, I absolutely hate bananas.
I’ve had a long mental health journey since adolescence. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and seasonal affective disorder, not to mention I lost a cousin to suicide during my sophomore year in high school, which was devastating for my family. I have tried just about every coping method in the book: triangle breathing, grounding, meditating, antidepressants, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. About a month and a half ago, my therapist suggested that I get back into journaling to help cope with my emotions, and I was like, first of all, ew. Second of all, I thought, “I just do not fit this ‘grateful fitness girl’ image.” But after wrestling my own brain, I picked up that journal and I wrote. I’m so glad I did.
I had attempted to journal in the past, but I had struggled a lot with what to write. I couldn’t get past the fact that it felt like a diary. Not that I don’t still laugh at my fourth-grade diary, but I simply didn’t want to look back at myself in the present and cringe like that. One of the biggest things that helped me with this was being vague regarding my situations and focusing more on what I was feeling. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what the situation I was dealing with was. It matters how I sorted out those big emotions I was feeling, and how I can take a situation and learn from it in the future.
Another thing that really helped me was buying a nice journal. I know this is a little silly, but it really does make a difference. If you’re struggling like I was to get into journaling, take a day, go somewhere like Barnes and Noble (my journal place of choice), and buy yourself a nice journal and some cute pens. It will motivate you so much more to pick up the journal. If my journal didn’t have a ton of my personal information in it, I would totally display it as an apartment decoration.
Lastly, approaching each journal entry with mindfulness helped me immensely. In the beginning, I had such a rigid journaling schedule, which made it much less enjoyable. Journal when you feel like it. Make a structure to write things you are grateful for each time or don’t. At the end of the day: your journal is yours. You can use prompts or not use them, write about feelings or poems, or literally just scribble. It is all about learning how to feel good about yourself.
Journaling has plenty of benefits, like managing anxiety, reducing stress, and coping with depression. Even if you aren’t someone who has a mental health disorder, you still have mental health. Taking time to care for yourself is something super important we all should do, and journaling is something you can do to accomplish this. So to my journal: thank you, and I’m sorry I was so mean to you at first. I guess I proved to myself there isn’t only one type of person who journals, huh?