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October 7, 2022

The Power of Journaling for Mental Health
Author: Krishnni Khanna

Mental health is not just a concept, it is a significant aspect of human health. During the first year of the COVID pandemic, I fell into a dark void of depression and anxiety. Like most people dealing with mental issues, I was bottling up all my sadness, anger and frustrations until it ended up exploding. Entering the school premise again for taking offline examinations or meeting my fellow classmates, didn’t change much about my situation rather made me feel more disoriented and out of the place. I switched to journaling on my mother’s advice. At first, it didn’t make much sense to write the how’s and the why’s of my day but soon, it became a way to channel the emotions I found too hard to deal with at the moment. Writing became a new form of healing for me. I was surprised how a year of depression and anxiety disappeared in a few weeks.

Coming across the research of Prof. James Pennebaker from the University of Texas who conducted a study on four groups of undergraduates only grounded my belief in the theory. All of them were asked to write for 15 minutes for four nights. Three of the groups were asked to write about traumatic events in their lives, while the fourth group wrote about trivial topics. All four groups were tracked for the next six months. It was found that the groups who wrote about traumatic events every day for fifteen minutes had fewer visits to the health center and possessed a better emotional quotient.

Journaling is an efficient way to express yourself without having to cope with social anxiety. Keeping a journal is a habit that not only people with mental issues should foster rather by everyone. It is an aspect of a healthy lifestyle that also assist your routine and tackle day-to-day stress.

Benefits of Journaling –

The following are the benefits of journaling for mental illness-

– Deal with stress, fears, shames and/or any attended feelings- Keeping a journal can help you identify the cause of anxiety or stress that will enable you to work on a plan to resolve the problems.

– Develop emotional intelligence- Since journaling helps you become aware of your thoughts, it cures unresolved problems and trauma and helps determine when and how to express emotions. Thus it helps develop emotional intelligence.

– Identify symptoms for mental health problems and emotions- It helps you recognize triggers by tracking any symptoms day-to-day, thus journaling also helps in identifying negative thoughts and mental ailments beforehand.

– Gaining self-awareness and a deeper understanding of yourself- It helps you accept and acknowledge your feelings without invalidation and provides an opportunity for positive self-talk. Thus, providing self-awareness and a deeper understanding of yourself.

Taking care of your mental health is a lot more accessible and easier than you think! So spend 5-10 minutes every day or maybe even twice a week to write out your emotions – good or bad. If you don’t know where to start, a few possible writing prompts are:

– “Recall any shameful/fearful/ frustrating/upsetting experience and how it made you feel.”
– “Describe your ideal day and why it is ideal.”
– “What was the highlight/pain point of your day/week?”
– “Who is someone who caused pain/annoyance/frustration in you? Why? How? What would you say to them if they were here?”
– “What is something you wish your loved ones knew about you?”
– “What are you grateful for?”
– “What are some things you wish you had? Why?”
– “Write an appreciation/forgiveness letter for yourself.”
– “How do you feel about yourself? Why? What could you do to love yourself more?”
– “How can you improve the quality of your life (internally or externally)?”
– “Write a message to a younger version of yourself.”

Our brain is a significant part of our bodies and well-being. For it to function well, it’s important to take care of it by tending to our thoughts and emotions daily. And writing is a creative tool to use to take a step forward in self-healing, toward a better you.

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