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The Benefits of Journaling for Your Mental Health

Journaling is a common tool used in coaching and counselling as a means to guide a client to dive deeper into their thought processes, fears, concerns and emotions that have been suppressed or blocked. There are three forms of journaling that I’d like to highlight here and how each of them provides different benefits and is used based on where we are in our emotional and head space.

Expressive Journaling

When we have been raised to not express our deeper feelings and this is more common among men, over time these emotions get buried. What tends to happen is the smallest triggers create an overreaction. This is due to not addressing these emotions when they surface. But instead, are suppressed for an extended period of time. So the way forward is to journal our feelings. When we start to pen down stored emotions, we will be able to pinpoint what we feel and notice what took place internally (what we are actually feeling) and externally (the situation and/or the people involved). It gives us a sense of clarity and frees our minds to a greater degree. It can also be cathartic to no longer carry that in our hearts or minds. There is a sense of feeling liberated from holding on to narratives that have been stuck with us.

Expressive journaling is writing down how we feel, which simply means literally penning down on paper what has happened not from an objective space but from an emotional place. Some of the questions to ponder are: How did this situation make me feel? Why did I feel this way? What caused this emotional reaction? These questions can be a guide to getting started on the expressive journaling journey.

Gratitude Journaling

There is so much we want in life and it is important to have goals however being grateful for what we have promotes a sense of fulfillment and appreciation. It has a feel-good factor and oozes happiness. Gratitude journaling is about coming back to the present moment and noticing what we have today. Seeing that we have worked hard to achieve what we have (whether it is material or abstract). It took work to get to where we are today and for that, we can hold that space of feeling grateful.

Gratitude journaling is writing down what things or people we are grateful for today. Imagining not having something or someone or this growth and what would life be like without it. Be specific on what you’re grateful for and write that down. Think about the people who have made a huge impact in your life and write down what that would be like if they weren’t. Notice the small things people do for you, whether it is in the form of making you a cup of chai or texting you to say good morning. Gratitude is about truly not taking the small stuff for granted and being in the space of feeling blessed to have kind gestures done to or for you.

Reflective Journaling

Reflective journaling is used more for self-development. The idea behind reflective journaling is to look back at what we have been doing and how we can improve. It takes a bird’s eye view in order to make changes and grow. Some of the best ways of reflective journaling are to ask ourselves deeper questions along the lines of why are we doing this particular task. What is our bigger vision from doing so? It requires us to sit with ourselves to get to know what we want out of life. As we journal, it propels our minds to navigate through what brings meaning to our very existence.

Journaling is a tool that we all can benefit from depending on what we need more of or where we are in our lives. It gives us a chance to know ourselves better and to be more of who we want to be or rather the better version of ourselves.

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