How Journaling Saved My Mental Health, From The Perspective Of A Previous Skeptic

I remember keeping my first journal when I was in sixth grade: the cover had pink and blue flowers, the lines were wide-ruled, and it was primarily filled with lamentations about not Justin Bieber not "wifing me up". Until recently, I always associated journaling with these silly experiences and didn’t see what it could do for me now that I’m older. What was there to write about anyway? Turns out, after years of neglect and straight-up laziness, picking up an incomplete journal whose last entry was dated back in 2014 was the best thing I could’ve done for myself this past year. 

writing in journal on desk Photo by NeONBRAND from Unsplash Through journaling, I became my own therapist. The time I saved to write before I went to sleep became an opportunity to fully explore my thoughts and feelings without worrying about how anyone else would receive them. It was probably the only time in the day that I fully listened to myself without the influence of others. Sometimes I wrote page after page, whereas other times I felt uninspired and only managed to write a few lines. What I realized, though, is that there is always something to say and that even if it’s short, it’s worth writing down.  

One specific way that journaling has helped me is by giving me the space to talk things through with myself. I’ve always been a huge worrier and ironically would spend a lot of my time worrying about potential bad situations instead of doing something to prevent those situations from happening. I can get stuck in my head easily and get bogged down with overthinking and stress to a point where it’s debilitating. However, by physically writing down all my fears and insecurities, I can talk myself into thinking rationally again. It’s easier for me to come back from spiraling when I can read back my thoughts and see that I’m, frankly, being ridiculous. 

woman writing in notebook Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels Especially now, journaling can help us make sense of our experiences over the last twelve months. We all need space to process the overwhelming events that have occurred this past year, and rather than relying on another person to release all those pent-up emotions onto, journaling provides more productive venting and introspection. The act of writing forces us to gather our thoughts more than if we were to speak them out loud; by doing so, we are pushed not only to confront our feelings but also to organize them and clarify exactly what they are.  

Thoughtful woman writing in notebook at home Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels The hardest thing about journaling is sticking with it. It can be easy to lose motivation, especially when there are many other things to do. Sometimes it’s hard to carve out time in the day to write, and that’s okay. The key is not to put pressure on yourself and to treat it less as a chore and more as something you’re treating yourself to doing as a way to relieve the day’s stress. Maybe journaling won’t have life-changing results for you, or maybe it will, and you’ll find yourself looking forward to it every night. If it manages to ease your mind at all, even in the slightest, I hope you continue to cultivate your writing and that it brings you peace in the process.