Journaling is writing down or keeping a record of your thoughts, experiences, insights, and feelings. It’s simply writing down your thoughts and feelings so you can understand them more. It also helps your document your life.

If you have a chronic illness, keeping a journal can help you track your symptoms, drugs, and hospital visits. Keeping a journal is a great tool for managing not just your mental health, but also your physical health.

Health Benefits of Journaling

Stress Relief
When you journal, you get to freely express your emotions and thoughts. You can then begin to identify the cause of your stress. When you are able to identify your stressors and triggers, you can begin to work on a plan to resolve them.

Manage anxiety and depression
Journaling helps to track your feelings and thoughts. It helps you identify thought patterns and emotional triggers that can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression. You can then learn ways of controlling them better.

Strengthens Your Immune System
Research studies indicate that writing expressively can help people with terminal or life-threatening diseases. According to psychologist James Pennebaker of the University of Texas and Joshua Smyth of Syracruse University, writing about emotions and stress can boost immune function in patients with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, and arthritis.

How To Get Started Writing a Journal

Dust Off Your Pen and Paper – You don’t need anything special to keep a journal; in fact, purists believe that using pen and paper is the best way to journal because you can carry it with you anywhere and you don’t need technology. So, there will be no excuses.

  • Do It First Thing in the Morning – Don’t procrastinate about keeping your journal. It’s best to do it in the morning before you begin your day so that you have the right frame of mind for the day. Plus, you only need five to ten minutes
  • Do It Last Thing at Night – Another time to do it is before bed. This works especially well for gratitude journals. Write at least 3 things you are grateful for that day. That way you can go to sleep thinking about all the things you are grateful for instead of things you’re worried about. This is also useful for unloading your thoughts and concerns about the day on paper and you can free your mind for a good night’s sleep.
  • Write Often – Whenever you choose to do it, try to set it up so that it becomes a ritual and a habit. Journaling every day is going to be more effective than just doing it when you feel like it.
  • Start Simply – Don’t start being worried about style and substance right now; just work on the daily habit with pen and paper (or if it’s easier for you, a computer or smartphone). Don’t make it hard – just get going.
  • Begin with Today – Start right now and write about your day today. That’s the easiest thing to do. What of significance happened today? How did you feel about it? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?
  • Try Different Types of Journals – Once you develop the habit, you can start trying different types of journaling like a bullet journal, or a vision journal, or maybe even a project journal for your next project.
  • Keep It Private – The main thing to remember about your journal is that it should be kept private. The only exception is if you want to share thoughts with a therapist, counselor, or coach. Or if you want to turn it into a book or course, to help someone else overcome whatever you overcame.

How to Make Your Journaling More Effective

  • Set Up a Comfy Journaling Spot – Find a good space you can journal in each day, one which is relaxing and without stress. Some people like to keep their journals by their bedside so that they can quickly write in their journals each night when they get into bed. Some people prefer to write sitting on their favorite chair while preparing for the day or even sitting at their desk. Just choose somewhere you find comfortable and will not be disturbed.
  • Choose the Right Style of Journal for Your Needs – The type of journal you want to keep depends on how you plan to use it. You may want to track a project, in which case you’ll need a project journal. If you want to simply document your life, you’d want a classic journal.
  • Use Your Journal to Work Through Life and Reach Goals – Don’t just write in the journal; actively seek to improve something in your life – whether it’s the thoughts that drive your feelings or improving your actions so that you experience more success. Write about your goals in different areas of your life and your plans to achieve them. You can also use your journals to document your successes and achievements and note areas of improvement.
  • Consider Using More Than Writing to Document Your Life – You don’t need to just use text. You can use images, pictures, tickets, and other memories inside your journal too. Sometimes a few pictures and mementos mean more than anything you can write to help you remember.
  • Read and Reflect Occasionally – Take at least a few minutes to re-read parts of your journal. Once you’ve kept it for a year, it’s fun to go back and read the same day from last year to find out what’s different now and what’s the same and why.

Keeping a journal will help you deal with the things that happen to you as well as the things that may happen in the future. Writing your experiences helps you remember what you did right and what you did wrong. It helps you improve your decision-making capacity for similar situations.

However, it won’t solve all your problems. So, do seek the services of an experienced mental health professional if you need help.