Imagine you are back in high school.
Your English teacher has just revealed the next assignment: a five-paragraph essay on the book you most recently read in class (you read the book, right?).
How do you feel about this assignment?
Are you excited by the prospect of putting your thoughts down on paper? Are you groaning inwardly because you don’t think you have anything to say? Are you worried that you have something to say but you won’t say it in a way that impresses your instructor? Are you concerned that five measly paragraphs simply won’t be enough to contain all of what you have to express?
Your answers to those questions go some distance toward revealing whether or not you think of yourself as a writer. Some people truly enjoy putting their thoughts and ideas down on paper; others decidedly do not. For those in the second category, there might be any number of reasons for their dislike of writing—from finding it a tedious process to worrying about the various grammar and punctuation rules.
But what if we thought about writing a bit differently? Imagine that you took a few minutes each day to write about something important to you or something you have been thinking about. There are no rules. It doesn’t have to be any particular length. It doesn’t have to address any particular topic. It won’t be read by anyone else, so you don’t have to worry about your grade. You just take some time to reflect and jot those reflections down.
How do you feel about this opportunity?
If it sounds appealing, you might consider taking up journaling—because even if writing assignments in school caused anxiety, journaling can provide a boost to your overall mental health.
Some Notes from Some Journal Keepers of Note
I can shake off everything as I write: my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. – Anne Frank
You likely know the story of Anne Frank. She was just a young girl when her family was forced into hiding to evade the Nazis. Her diary has become one of the most admired and beloved books of all time. She valued keeping a journal as a way to take courage in the darkest of moments.
Keeping a journal of what’s going on in your life is a good way to help you distill what’s important and what’s not. – Martina Navratilova
To be a top-tier athlete like tennis great Martina Navratilova, having a strong focus on your goals is extremely important. Navratilova found that journaling helped her find and maintain that focus by allowing her to take stock of what was most important to her.
I don’t journal to ‘be productive.’ I don’t do it to find great ideas or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me. It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found. – Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur and “lifestyle guru” with plenty of publications to his credit. That is what makes this quote so important to heed. Ferriss journals for himself—not for anyone else. That approach allows for a freedom of expression that can be truly beneficial to the writer.
Keeping a Journal: Some Options for Getting Started
Want to give journaling a try? It is easy to get started. Grab a notebook, open a blank document on your computer, or rustle up some scrap paper. If it helps, you can choose to keep a specific type of journal. Options include (but are not limited to):
- A gratitude journal for jotting down a few things each day for which you are thankful.
- A stream of consciousness journal in which you just write down what comes to mind to see where the process takes you.
- An accountability journal for keeping track of your sobriety (and other) goals and noting your progress (or adjusting after setbacks).
- An art journal in which you express your thoughts in drawings rather than in words (or in a combination of both).
Remember, the key thing here is that your journal is, well, your journal. So how you use it to support your mental health is up to you.
Take Note: We Can Help You Improve Your Mental Health
At Peak View Behavioral Health in Colorado Springs, we can help you address mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and more. Committed to a personalized approach to care, we offer evidence-based, compassionate therapy that will lead to sustainable improvement in your overall mental well-being.