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Have you ever written something where every word was an unburdening of spirit? Perhaps you put pen to paper and captured a treasured moment in such detail that revisiting those pages is a vacation in itself?
There are many benefits of journaling that you can tap into to bring mental peace and happiness. For this very reason, many therapists and psychologists recommend keeping a journal for therapeutic purposes.
Have you ever kept a journal? If not, now is the time to start!
What Is Journaling?
Journaling is different from keeping a diary. As kids, we all probably had a secret diary where we wrote about boys or girls we had crushes on or complained about the unfairness of extra homework.
These diaries were probably your first attempts at journaling, but they are quite far from what a journal is and certainly don’t bring any of the benefits of journaling to the table.
The essence of journaling is about abstract thinking, reflection, and new insights. It’s not a place to complain or engage in self-pity. There are many different types of journals, and none of them have the sole purpose of recording negative thoughts. Sadly, our overwhelming emotions of loss, anger, and sorrow are usually the driving force toward venting on paper.
The beauty of a true journal is that it provides you with a safe space to plan, fantasize, interact with prompts, and keep a record of how you got through tricky situations.
Journals have the intention of helping you get through things, recording things so you can revisit these later, or leaving a piece of yourself for future generations.
A journal is your mind on paper—and, no matter how bad things get, your mind is never only negative, so a journal shouldn’t be a place where you only vent. If you do vent, then there should be a resolution or plan to move forward at the end.
Tips to Get Started with Journaling
So how do you start a journal if you’ve never kept one before? Thanks to the amazing advances of our printing and digital age, there are many different ways to get into journaling.
You can invest in a daily journal with writing prompts, where there is a phrase or instructions to reflect on for the day. Likewise, you can sign up for an app online that sends you a daily journaling prompt to reflect on and interact with on paper.
There are journals for:
If you don’t want to take the commercial route into journaling, you can easily make your own journal using a blank book of your choice.
Hardcover is always popular, and choosing between lined, unlined, or alternating pages are also great options. If you like making your own paper, you can even create your own hand-bound journal to make the experience even more personal.
A few tips to help whet your appetite for journaling include:
Different Types of Journals
There are many different types of journals, and each offers its own unique plus points, but not every journal type is perfect for every person. Here are a few of the better known options:
A Curated Journal
Curated journals are specific with daily prompts and defined lines to write on. These are typically page-a-day journals, where the space for reflection is limited.
This kind of journal is a popular starting point for those new to journaling. However, it can prove too restrictive for a more free-spirited individual.
If you want to record your dreams for reflection, then a dream journal is ideal. Usually, a dream journal is a simple book where you can write what you dreamed as soon as you wake up in the morning or during the night.
Since you may be a little groggy when you write after a dream, it’s quite popular that these are large-scale books with double-spaced lines.
A Food Journal
Keeping a journal about food can be a liberating experience if you are struggling with food issues or poor health. From recording your daily meals to planning future food goals, your food journal can be an intimate recording of your life with food and nutrition.
A Gratitude Journal
Practicing daily gratitude can be a challenge if you’ve only ever focused on the negative in life. Yet, the experience of keeping a gratitude journal can help refocus your mind, bring awareness of blessings, and greater self-awareness to your life. There are many good reasons why you might want to express gratitude daily.
A Travel Journal
Some of the world’s greatest travelers and explorers kept journals which have inspired future generations and informed our knowledge of history. They certainly had no idea how important their journals would become, but keeping a travel journal is a great way to memorize and celebrate your experiences on the road.
Your Reading List Journal
How often do you read something amazing in a book? A line? A quote? Or even a spectacular plot can really make an impression on you.
Writing these in a journal is a great way to keep track of these, reflect on them, and build a library of your feelings too. Even keeping record of Bible verses that matter to you and reflecting on these is a great idea.
You can also consider creating the same for favorite movies you’ve seen or series where you recall a special moment on screen and how it impacted on you.
A Change Journal
Life is about change. Some are big, some are small, and some are so utterly unique that not recording them is almost a sin. Keep a journal of a change or changes in your life, such as during pregnancy, a record of your firsts (first interview, first kiss, first time on a plane), and moving in with your partner or getting your own place.
Why Is Mental Health and Happiness Important?
If someone tells you to start exercising to ensure you have good physical health, you won’t question their wisdom, yet we easily snort when someone tells us that writing in a journal is a good way to look after our mental health. How strange that we may not yet see the full value of keeping a journal.
But science has proven the full benefits of keeping a journal, and aside from helping with depression, improving memory, and aiding in clarity of thought, there are many mental health benefits that make journaling a real health investment.
Mental health is more important than physical health. Of course, all the buff gym bods may argue this point, but without good mental health, you are less likely to even make it to the gym.
True health and happiness start inside. Your journal is the best way to channel your energy from inside (the subconscious mind) to outside (your health).
Having good mental health makes it easier for you to succeed in life, deal with challenges as these arise, and maintain a reasonable equilibrium in your life.
Happiness will help you find meaning, celebrate wins, and overcome failures with more gusto. Using your journal, you can develop better mental health and happiness, and here’s how.
11 Benefits of Journaling on Happiness and Mental Health
Journaling can improve your mental health, boost your happiness, and bring balance to your life. There are several benefits to journaling, and these all lead to a healthier mindset and general feelings of happiness and contentment.
1. Getting in Touch with Your Feelings
Perhaps one of the best benefits of journaling is that it allows you to express and explore your feelings. When you are more fully aware of what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way, you will begin to develop emotional intelligence and self-responsibility.
Knowing what your feelings are and why you experience them can also improve your overall happiness, plus it will remove some of the confusion that may be triggering mental health challenges. Self-discovery is what makes life worth living.
Tip: Write down what you feel as you feel it, and then write down the events leading up to those feelings. Finally, write a conclusion regarding your feelings, but do so in a textbook style so you read the analysis and not your feelings.
2. Slowing Down and Clarity
In a busy life, it can be really challenging to figure out what’s happening and how you can or should be functioning in each situation. Journaling is a great way to slow things right down. At the end of the day, when the hectic rush has finally stopped, it’s a great idea to journal until you feel calm and tranquil. You will even notice you write more slowly and with better clarity in your writing.
Tip: Write by hand has the benefits of being peaceful, and this translates better when writing on paper than when typing.
3. Better Immunity
Keeping a journal is a great way to beat stress and boost your immunity. Stress causes an increase in free radicals, which can lead to inflammation and general poor health. By keeping a journal, you are better able to resolve challenges that create stress, thereby reducing stress, which improves your immunity.
4. Improves Problem Solving Skills
To be happy, we have to find ways to resolve challenges that crop up in life. It’s hard to plan a solution when you only think about it. However, with the aid of journaling, you can create a deeply reflective way of seeing a problem and then getting to a solution, which will lead to happiness once the problem is resolved.
Journaling builds your problem solving skills.
5. Reach Your Goals
When your journal defines and explains your goals, it increases the likelihood of your goals being achieved, which will make you very happy. Since journaling also reduces stress, it can help you reach your goals with minimal effort.
6. Change Your Mindset to Growth
Humans aren’t too fond of change. However, a growth journal can track everything from your garden’s growth rate to the height of your children.
Seeing how growth (aka change) isn’t a bad thing can help you become less fearful of the unknown. It can also help you be more positive about life changes.
7. Stress Reduction
Life can be pretty overwhelming. When we feel like we’re not coping, it helps to talk to someone. But what do you do when you’ve got nobody to talk to? You write in your journal.
A journal can be your personal sound-board, a safe space where you can unload and then make sense of things. A 2011 study found that writing about your test worries at school can help improve performance and reduce pre-test stress.
8. Helps You Know Yourself
We are so often pressured into conforming to society’s required version of us that we lose our authenticity, which leads to feeling lost in your own mind. With journaling activities, you can rediscover who you are, what you believe, what you like and dislike, and your dreams and goals. Journaling helps you discover yourself in unique ways that build character and independence.
Tip: Journaling about yourself can help you when you develop the habit of future-self journaling. Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time? What about in 10 or 15 years’ time? How would your future self differ from who you are now?
9. Improves Mental Health through Positive Thinking
If you’re a negative Nancy, you’re likely to look at the world with a “can’t” spirit instead of a “can do” attitude. Your mental health will suffer when you are negative about everything. Journaling can help you identify your negativity and what triggers it. With journaling, you can also track your changing mindset and cultivate a more positive life outlook, thereby becoming mentally healthy and resilient.
10. Keep Perspective
All too often, we feel as if a situation is the absolute end of the world. While the situation may be bad, journaling can help you really assess to what extent the issue is a problem for you.
With reflective writing, you can develop a better and more logical perspective. With a healthy dose of perspective, you will find that some problems become less intimidating and emotional.
11. Journaling Heals
As you’ve learned, journaling can help manage stress and develop perspective, but it can also help your mind to heal. With great journaling prompts, you can write your way to better mental health and improved happiness.
The combination of positive thinking, planning, and perspective on life’s challenges all work together to help foster a healthy mental landscape where you can see yourself, practice acceptance, and engage in self-love.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is about becoming more self-aware, learning about yourself, managing your challenges and developing a more resilient mental paradigm so you can live happy and free. Not all types of journaling will appeal to you, but one will… and you’ll know it right away once you start writing.
Journaling is an essential tool for getting to know yourself and reflect on your experience in life. A great way to get into journaling is to use likes and dislikes prompts, such as these 200 likes and dislikes to spark a conversation with yourself.