What can keeping a journal do for my mental health?

lifestyle

A version of this article was originally posted in the IDONTMIND Journal.

When was the last time that you picked up a pen and paper and wrote something longer than a to-do list? If you’re like us, it’s probably been a while.

Journaling is one of those go-to prescriptions for improving your mental health that you know is probably a good idea, but you’ve always found a reason to avoid it.

There’s always a reason to not do something. Let’s calm your hesitations with some quick and easy reasons to give journaling a try.

It clears your mind, and it saves you time.

Yes, it takes time, but as you write, you’re detoxing your mind of all the frustrations from the past and releasing the anxieties of things in the future. Actively engaging with those thoughts and letting them go can cause your unfocused mind to be present afterward. It can help you save time throughout your day.

You may imagine journaling being something that takes up a ton of your time, but you can do a quick five-minute journal entry in the morning as your coffee is brewing, or even just three minutes right before you head to sleep. You’re still helping yourself – no matter how much time you invest.

You have so much to gain.

So let’s say you fill up pages and pages of a journal, and you don’t feel any different. Don’t sweat it – you may already be benefiting in a way that isn’t obvious. Research shows that journaling will:

It can be hard to notice anything changing or getting better, but trust that by taking a few minutes each day, you’re improving your mental health. You’ll never know if it works for you until you give it a try.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Does the idea of journaling send you back to an English class — and not in a good way? Maybe your handwriting isn’t flawless, your grammar isn’t perfect, or your sentences aren’t beautifully written. All of that is ok! Remember, you aren’t turning it in for a grade.

It’s easy to forget that this journal is solely for you. If you want to write with bullet points, do that. If you want to draw a picture, do that. This journal is your own private space to let everything go. Don’t let the fear of writing stop you from learning so much about yourself.

There’s so much to write about.

When you have something on your mind, you have something to write about. Your journal doesn’t have to be a diary filled with pages of all the exciting things you’re doing. Just be yourself, and write out all of the things going on in your head: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Your thoughts are important and worth writing out. 

If you feel stuck, try putting your pen to paper and writing out every thought going through your head. You can even write, “I don’t know what to write. Blah, blah, blah, this pen is blue…” It doesn’t have to be a narrative or even coherent sentences. Once you get started, it gets easier to write and you’ll get into a groove. Just write!

You can stick with it.

As with anything, the more you journal the better you’ll get at it — and the better you’ll feel. But it’s not like you have to journal every single day for three months to really see and feel the benefits. Even if you only write in your journal a few times a week, once a week, or even once a month, you’re still starting a journaling routine. 

Let’s say that you start out strong and are journaling every morning, but slowly you start feeling less motivated. Take some time to read back through what you’ve written. You may be surprised at the changes in your writing. And it could give you some inspiration to stick with it! 


It’s easy to say “journaling isn't for me”, but it could be what you’ve always been missing in your self-care routine. You just have to try! And you never know… journaling may become one of your favorite parts of the day.

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