I was first introduced to the concept of journaling in school, when the teacher asked us to write down our thoughts as a way for us to practice cursive handwriting. Gradually, it became a habit. Somehow, writing was comforting and also helped me organise my thoughts. Now, I never call it a night without spending some time making note of the day that went by.
Journaling entails maintaining a diary where you can record your thoughts, recount your day, and feelings. In therapy, too, journaling is a recommended tool to recovery. Dr Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, rehabilitation and sports medicine department, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai explains, “Journaling can be recommended as a part of continued therapeutic process for stress management or can also be recommended for individuals who can utilise it as a self-management tool. The practice is often based on processing your emotions or gratitude.”
When you jot down your thoughts in a journal, it can have a tremendous impact on your mood. Dr Dordi elaborates, “Journaling helps you understand your concerns, fears and problems, tracks your day-to-day symptoms, which gives better understanding about your triggers and ways to deal with them, and also provides an opportunity to turn your negative thoughts into positive self-talk.” Once you know you stressors, you can work to look for solutions instead of focusing on the problem.
Additionally, Dr Dordi mentions that journaling can help you relax and meditate, take your mind off things, keep track of your fitness goals, and aid good sleep, once the thoughts that bother you are on paper and not in your mind.
Dr Dordi shares some of the benefits of journaling:
1. Reduces stress
Journaling is an incredible stress management tool, a habit that lessens impact of physical stressors on your health. Stress impacts your physical health greatly by attacking the immune system, which is why it is important to write about stressful experiences to help manage them in a healthy way. Try to journal before bedtime as a meditation ritual to help you unwind.
2. Sharp memory
Journaling helps keep your brain sharp. Apart from boosting comprehension, writing in a journal also helps you increase your working memory capacity, which improves cognitive processing.
3. Mood booster
Journaling is a brilliant tool for catharsis, and it can improve your mood and give you a greater sense of overall emotional wellbeing and happiness.
4. Improved emotional functioning
Journaling evokes mindfulness and helps you remain present while keeping perspective. It helps the brain regulate emotions. It provides a greater sense of confidence and self-identity, as once you know how you feel, you can act on them accordingly.
If you want to get started on journaling, here are some tips:
1. Try to write every day: Plan and set aside a few minutes every day to write. This will help you journal regularly and be consistent.
2. Keep a pen and paper handy at all times: So you can write down your thoughts as and when you want to. You can also keep a journal in a computer file. Remember, the more accessible it is, the easier it would be for you to write.
3. Don’t get into the trap of making structures: You can write whatever feels right. There are no rules when it comes to grammar and structure. It's your private place to discuss whatever you want. Let the words flow freely. Don't worry about what other people might think, as you are the only one with access to it.
Additionally, if you feel that there is a certain pattern to your thoughts, and how it affects your mental wellbeing, you mustn’t hesitate in asking for help from a mental health expert.