Journaling is a great way to let go of whatever is going on inside. It’s a therapeutic tool used to support mental wellbeing, aid pain management and even improve sleep. The applications of this technique are far and wide, making it a tool you may want to incorporate into your own wellbeing journey.
I’ve been using journaling to improve my sleep, manage my migraine pain and to shine a light on my mental health, helping me catch those negative thoughts before they become my reality.
How does it work?
Journaling is essentially getting out whatever is running around inside our heads. It does not need to be in written format, and no one else needs to know what we’ve communicated.
By talking or writing it out we are allowing the free flow of our emotions, rather than suppressing them. Essentially when we write, we are using the left side of our brain to articulate abstract feelings such as emotions in a verbal format. This engages the brain in a challenging manner leaving the right side of the brain free to make the lightbulb connections and suggestions we didn’t know were there.
Chronic pain can be linked to keeping our emotions in and not expressing them. Think about if you have a migraine or other pain flare-up, is it a result of not speaking your truth, or is this a contributing factor? Writing it out gives us the outlet without a direct confrontation allowing us to gain some clarity and perspective on the situation.
How do I get started?
Often, I’ve recorded my inner monologue while driving home at the end of a stressful day, or I’ve repeated positive statements of calm and safety while heading into a busy day at work. These have not involved a pen and paper but using an audio recording app on my phone. But then I also have a nice notebook I like to use in the evening to write it out – whatever works best for you and encourages you to make regular use of journaling.
If you Google journaling there are over 61 million hits, that’s a lot to wade through when you just want to get started. So here’s a few ideas to get you going.
- The Diary – this is a bit of an entry point level journaling suggestion. Writing in free form about your day, thoughts, worries and emotions with no real structure or goal. This is a great place to start forming the habit and to begin to allow some of the benefits to seep into your life.
- Using a prompt – this is where we work in a focused manner, offering the thoughts an organised structure. A great place to start working through specific issues such as stress in the workplace or managing grief.
- Lists – I love a list and sometimes this is exactly what we need to get the brain moving in the write direction. The key here is to keep writing and then have a look back at what we’ve got down, with the opportunity to notice links and to view ways to move forwards.
- Unsent letters/emails – we’ve all stood in the shower drafting an email to our boss telling them exactly what we think of them and how we’ve been mistreated. Ok maybe that’s just me, but there are plenty of times we may have been wronged and not had the chance to say our piece – this is a great way to get those feelings out. You might be surprised how you feel at the end of this one.
- Future biography – I like this one and have used it a few times. When I do this one, I head to a random page at the back of my journal and write it there so I can find it at a later date. To do this one, imagine your life 5, 10, 15 years from now and consider how it feels to have the perspective of time. You write to your present-day self with words of encouragement, wisdom and reassurance that this too shall pass. This one is also nice for manifesting your future.
Journaling is a wonderful tool to have with you on your healing self-care journey. It’s portable and offers the chance to engage the brain to support your wellbeing. Try a short yoga practice, such as this one for a lower back release, or a guided meditation to calm the mind before you sit down to write. Moving or meditating before you begin a journaling exercise is a great way to cut through physical or mental discomfort, opening up space to get to your inner wisdom.