Did you know that writing in you has been helping me mentally and emotionally? It has, and I’ll tell you all about it.
When you think of a diary, it might conjure up images of a frilly pink notebook covered in flowers and hearts, that little girls write in about their crushes, or their day at school. In fact, the word ‘diary’ comes from the Latin diarium (“daily allowance,” from dies, “day”). This roughly means, it’s a book that is written in daily.
In this day and age, the idea of a daily diary has become a little dated, but the concept of taking the time to write about your thoughts and feelings is making great strides in the field of psychotherapy and mental health treatment. And these days, we call it “Journaling”.
In fact, a small study conducted in 2018, discovered that emotion-focused journaling is directly associated with a decrease in stress and an increase in well-being.
According to psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., this result is because, when a person takes the time to write down their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, “They can often be better understood and appreciated.” She goes on to say that, through journaling, “The person can view the stressors in a more detached, objective fashion. This can lead to the creation of better stress management and coping techniques.”
The same study also found that when adults, that were experiencing anxiety symptoms, journaled about a stressful or traumatic experience for 15-20 minutes, they experienced a decrease in anxiety, a decrease in overall mental distress, and an increase in feelings of well-being. All of this, in just one month of consistent journaling.
But what about those of us that struggle with depression? Well, a 2013 study found that when people with major depressive disorder wrote about their thoughts and feelings surrounding an emotional or stressful event, even for just 20 minutes a day for three days- they showed a significant decrease in their depressive symptoms.
Wow. So where do we begin?
You can begin by finding a way to write, that is comfortable for you. Do you prefer pen to paper? Typing on your phone? Or typing in front of your computer? Though some therapists are partial to writing by hand, especially for professional-led inner child therapy– Most experts agree, that typing is just as effective. So write in whatever way is easiest for you.
Once you’ve found a safe password-protected document to type on, or a notebook and a private drawer for it, it’s time to get started.
Beginning a journal might feel a little awkward at first, but that’s ok. This journal is for you and you only. So there is no need to edit and certainly no need to criticize. This isn’t an assignment or a test- it’s an act of self-care for you to use as you’d like.
One way to gain a little focus is to write about any stressful event that has happened that day or in recent days, and really focus on writing about how it made you feel. Write about your worries, your fears, your hopes, and your dreams.
You may find that just getting it all out of you, starts to provide just enough space between you and the stressor, that you are able to get some perspective on it, and can also lead to a deeper and more healing session with your therapist.
If you find that you are writing about too many stressful or painful things- take a break, and change gears. One great way to do this is by keeping a journal of things that you are grateful for. This can be anything from the first buds of spring to the sandwich you had for lunch.