Journal Writing: A Powerful Mental Health Tool to Reduce Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting over 40 million adults each year. If you are one of those people, you know how debilitating it can be. Anxiety can keep you from doing the things you love and make everyday tasks feel impossible. Thankfully, there are tools that can help. They include regular exercise, healthy food habits, and sleep. But there is one that can be surprising to some: journal writing.
Traditionally we cater this blog post to our creative writers out there, but truly, everyone is a writer, so let’s discuss how journal writing can help reduce anxiety and improve your mental health, whether you’re a writer professionally or not.
Journaling: A Powerful Mental Health Tool
First, it gives you a space to vent all the pent-up thoughts and feelings swirling around in your head. Often, we vent verbally to friends or family, and while that connection opportunity can be great, it can also be destructive if you’re really just talking about someone else behind their back. Venting in writing allows you to say whatever you want, so you can feel free to think it without judgment. Then, you can witness what you’ve written and identify the lies your brain is investing in.
Second, it allows you to track your progress and see how far you’ve come. This is important for two reasons: one, it can be easy to forget how bad things used to be when you’re in the thick of anxiety; and two, it’s a reminder that change is possible. When you look back on old journal entries, you might be surprised at how much calmer and happier you sound.
Third, it provides an outlet for creativity. We all have creative energy inside of us, and when we don’t allow it to come out, it can get pent up and cause anxiety. Journaling is a great way to express yourself creatively without having to worry about what other people think. You can write fiction, poetry, or even just lists of things you’re grateful for. A timed 10-minute free write starting with a writing prompt or a question is a great way to manage this.
And finally, it can help you make connections and see patterns that you may not have otherwise noticed. This can be anything from recognizing that you tend to feel more anxious when you don’t get enough sleep to understanding how your diet affects your mood. Once you identify these patterns, you can start to make changes that will help reduce your anxiety in the long run.
If you’re not used to journaling, it can feel daunting to start. But here are a few tips to get you started:
Find a comfortable place to write where you won’t be interrupted. It could be at a desk, in your bed, or even outside in a park. The most important part here is choosing a calm place void of distractions.
While I don’t believe in putting off a good thing because you’re waiting for the perfect circumstances to exist, I do think writing is more fun when you invest in a good notebook and pen that you enjoy using. This will make the journaling process more enjoyable. That being said, I’ve gotten plenty of good journaling done borrowing a few pages from my daughter’s school notebook or using my notes app on my smartphone.
Set aside some time each day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. You can always write for longer if you’re feeling inspired, but starting small is better than not starting at all. A proper therapeutic free write consists of 10 minutes of uninterrupted writing. Set a timer and keep your pen on the page until the timer beeps.
And most importantly, don’t worry about perfection. This is for you and no one else, so write whatever comes to mind without judgement. If it makes you feel better about it, you can shred the pages when you’re done. But getting the thoughts out of you and down on paper means your thoughts are not longer running unchecked in your head.
Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out in the open. It can help you vent, track your progress, and express yourself creatively. It can also help you identify patterns that contribute to anxiety and make changes to reduce its impact on your life. Just start with 10 minutes per day and go from there! Then watch your anxiety melt away.
For other awesome tips on health and wellness, check out this blog we’ve been into lately: Scattered Musings.