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Journaling Towards Better Mental Health

Read Time: 4 minutes

Manage anxiety and stress in the time of quarantine 

 

Anne Frank was only 13 when she started writing on her famous diary, well-loved by future generations. For two years, she details her triumphs and loss inside an attic apartment during the second World War before her Jewish family was sent to the Auschwitz Death Camp. Amid toil and suffering, she writes, “It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals; they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

 

I vividly remember when I read it for the first time. A narcissistic man-child was elected as President of America and a former dictator was laid to rest in a cemetery reserved for heroes. I was angry and depressed; it was the only thing that could calm me down.

 

Whether we like it or not, we live in uncertain times and truth be told, it’s bringing out the best and worst in people. While we remain safe in our homes—a privilege not shared by many—there are a number of tangible ways to care for our mental health and well-being, including the life-changing habit of journaling.

 

The Art of Journaling

Journaling is a useful tool for self-exploration and stress management. Reserving time to process your thoughts through writing—and even illustrating—allows one a form of “release.” This can even be as simple as jotting down things you’re grateful for; it provides a needed shift in perspective. Scientific studies show that journaling improves cognitive functioning, strengthens immune system response and counteracts the effects of stress.

 

Where to start? Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages is an easy, purposeful way to begin; you may even do this sporadically. It’s basically three pages of longhand writing from your stream of consciousness, first thing in the morning. She shares, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages. They are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind—and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.” Feel free to alter as you see fit!

 

RELATED: COVID-19 Anxiety: How To Take Care Of Your Mental Health

 

I reached out to bonafide, shall I say journal keepers, on how they started journaling and how it heavily impacted their lives.

 

Nadine Co (23, video creator)

 

Wonder: When did you start journaling, and what made you start doing it?

I don’t quite remember, but I think that it was around 2013 [when] I started journaling—on actual pen and paper, for my eyes only. (Not something that I would share online on a Tumblr personal blog.) I was 16 years old, about to go to college, a new turning point in my life.

 

I started because I wanted to capture my memories and feelings at a specific point in my life. I like that you can write, draw and stick memorabilia to further remember things, sort of like a time capsule.

 

W: Have there been positive effects on your mental health ever since you started journaling?

Yes! Journaling allows me to let things out. I don’t try to make things sound pretty or anything when I write in my journal. I am able to process events that happened, see recurring feelings—good or bad—and am able to find or think of a solution to certain problems. When you’re writing in a stream of consciousness, you may sometimes gain a shift in perspective and see things in a different light.

 

Usually, when I feel anxious and helpless, writing helps soothe me. I am able to list down the tasks that I have to get done and make a game plan on how I can accomplish said tasks. If I have a lot on my mind, just writing everything out, sort of like a brain dump, helps me feel less jumbled. I can sort of offload some information in my brain and give way to processing.

 

I also don’t pressure myself when I journal. I don’t do it every single day but when my mind/soul craves it. I do, however, commit to to journaling about things I’m grateful for every week.

 

W: Do you find yourself filtering your thoughts when you’re writing?

Not really! I think my journal is the place where I can be just Nadine, no filter needed. Also, random fact, [for] every journal I start, I put down my intentions for my journal on the first page, and I always write down that it’s a safe space for me to write freely.

 

RELATED: Simple & Quick Meditation Practices to Help You Focus on Your Goals and Manifestations for the New Decade

 

Nina Pineda (21, content creator)

 

 

Wonder: When did you start journaling, and what made you start doing it?

I’ve been journaling since I was a kid! I got started because of my love for stationery. I used to not be allowed to go to the mall with my friends but my sister could, and she’d always come home with a new notebook or lettering sets that she’d share with me (sometimes!). We were also tasked with keeping a journal in grade school!

 

W: Have there been positive effects on your mental health ever since you started doing it?

For sure. When my mind is racing, I find the act of putting pen to paper comforting and, as soon as I start writing, my brain slows down and I’m able to think more clearly. When I’m going through something, writing it down allows me to make sense of things better. Getting it down is also a sure way of getting it out of my head.

 

W: Do you find yourself filtering your thoughts when you’re writing?

I used to! Now, not so much. I’ve been trying Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages on and off for a while, so sometimes I’ll have a whole page of just me saying “Blah blah blah.” Literally. Whatever it takes to get the junk out of my head! Better on the page than inside my head!

 

 

RELATED: Instagram Accounts to Follow for Your Mental Health

 

It is true, journaling proves to be a creative necessity in times of agitation and panic; prominent professionals, writers and innovators believe so, too. But have hope, and believe that this is not permanent. As Anne Frank would say, “I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” During these tumultous times, keep yourself in check by being present, staying indoors and keeping a journal.

 

 

Art Alexandra Lara

About The Author

Visual Storyteller. Explored the entertainment industry in my early 20s, eventually found my voice by telling people’s stories. Finding joy in writing about empathy, beauty and literature. Always a photographer.

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