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How to support your mental health by keeping a journal

Lucas Cappel
Lucas Cappel

Freelance writer and an educator

| Wed, June 27, 2018 | 11:10 am
How to support your mental health by keeping a journal

A journal allows you to have a conversation with your inner self and discuss even the deep secrets you cannot share with your friends, family or therapist. (Shutterstock/File)

Mental health is a very sensitive issue and should be handled with utmost care.

A huge part of the world’s population suffers from mental disorders, including depression and general anxiety disorder. Some people suffer from such disorders and don’t even realize it.

Therapy as a treatment for depression allows you to talk to a psychiatrist and express all that you are feeling. A journal, on the other hand, allows you to express yourself freely. A journal allows you to have a conversation with your inner self and discuss even the deep secrets you cannot share with your friends, family or therapist. If you put down in words your fears, frustrations, goals, failures and expectations, you feel less anxious.

If you're feeling depressed or anxious most of the time, professional help is needed. But if you currently lack the courage or resources to seek professional help, keeping a journal might be an option.

How to write a journal

When you make up your mind to start writing a journal, make sure you are ready to make it a lifetime habit that you would enjoy. It’s supposed to be a fun way of expression. Nobody will check your journal, allowing you to include even extreme feelings, like hatred or stupid fantasies.

The following outlines how to go about this:

  1. Write as often as possible. This allows you to include details as they happen.
  2. Always have a pen and paper. Having writing material allows you to write whenever you see or feel something.
  3. It need not be on paper. You can also keep your journal on the phone or a computer.
  4. Read other journals. This mainly applies to anyone who is just learning to keep a journal.
  5. Ensure that you are completely honest. Every detail you put down should be the truth, especially your feelings. 
  6. Divide your journal into several parts, that is: to do, frustrations, feelings, etc. It’s important to set some goals; however, do not set goals that are too high and unachievable. This could cause disappointment and slow down the healing process.
  7. Add dates to your journal, as that makes retrieving information easier and faster once the need arises. A dated journal also allows you to see whether your condition is improving over time. For patients whose therapists use the journal, it helps them identify when to stop using antidepressants.
  8. Go through your journal after writing; this helps you establish whether there is anything you might have forgotten. Reading through it also relieves you of the anxiety.
  9. Try out new styles. This includes writing conversations that you wish to have, writing letters to yourself, etc.
  10. Keep it simple. Your journal does not have to be perfectly neat; you are allowed to scribble things even in the middle of the night.

The importance of journaling  

Up to 6.9 percent of the American population has undergone at least one major depression breakdown. Psychologists explain that when a patient starts keeping a journal, the occurrence of depressive breakdowns reduces quite significantly.

1. Journaling helps people identify their triggers

This is done by looking at what time the symptoms get worse. If it happens during daytime, then work is your trigger, and when it happens in the evening, family relationships might be the trigger. Once you identify your trigger, it’s possible to avoid them next time.

According to Cynthia McKay, a psychotherapist in Denver, most people are very surprised when they read what they have written, since a journal brings your feelings and thoughts to the surface. This, however, aids in self-awareness, since you might realize a fear that you did not know about before writing it down.

2. Putting things into perspective

Most people confess that writing down their fears makes their problems seem smaller and more manageable. Since the journal contains both positive and negative experiences, reading some of the happy moments that you wrote down can give you a new perspective on life, and you get to realize that life isn’t really that bad after all. This aspect of changing people’s views about life has greatly reduced the number of suicides committed by people with mental issues.

In some instances, where for example a woman suffers from postnatal depression, she might be encouraged to write about all the good things that are brought about by having a child. Also, she could include her expectations of the child, the plans she has for the future of the baby and what she would want the child to be when he/she grows up. She could also be asked to list the negative effects of having a child and compare. This has proven successful especially for women who did not want anything to do with children.

3. Distraction

Having a day job or being a housewife can be boring. Having a journal breaks the monotony, since a considerable amount of time is used to write. It’s also a cost-effective way of mental therapy, since all you need is pen and paper.

You learn how to manage your time. A journal serves as a timetable, where it gives you a well recorded sequence of how you do things. You might, therefore, find yourself following that schedule most of the time.

Whenever you feel like throwing a punch or downing that bottle of vodka, why not grab a pen and paper instead? (dev/kes)

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Lucas Cappel is a freelance writer and an educator, who currently works as a managing editor of Custom-Writings. Lucas has a deep-rooted passion for the philosophy of knowledge and the human mind, which he strives to share through his work and personal writing.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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