Dear Diary


How journaling can help us stay mentally healthy.

Our minds are busy places. It can be difficult to manage our daily lives, let alone our emotions and mental well-being. Yet just as we can compose a to-do list for chores and appointments, writing things down can also help us to stay on top of our psychological housekeeping.

Journaling has grown in popularity for many reasons. It may be as simple as organising all the thoughts swimming around in our heads. Getting them out and seeing them written down often brings a clearer perspective. Our brains are particularly good at clinging on to worrying thoughts and playing them on a loop. This can be agonising and pointless because while they are stuck on repeat, problem solving becomes virtually impossible.

Diaries have always been viewed as private and only for the eyes of the author. This alone is incredibly freeing. You can write exactly how you are feeling, no holds barred. It can also be quite useful if you are unsure what it is you are feeling. Writing things down can reveal the emotions hiding behind the masks of anger or irritation. Once we are aware exactly what is happening for us, we can take steps to return to a more balanced emotional ground. It could be that we are burnt out from taking care of everyone except ourselves. We may be unaware of how much we have been neglecting our own needs until we see it in black and white.

Make it a habit.

Journaling is something that works best when done regularly. The real insight comes from writing down the good, the bad and the horrendous! So try to write when you feel OK, when you feel fantastic and when you feel distressed or exhausted. This is all valuable information to look back on. Sometimes when struggling to cope it can really help to know that we have survived these feelings before. It can also help us to identify what has helped us to overcome difficulties in the past. A bit like having a personal manual for fixing (or at least easing) difficult emotions.


Track those moods.

Another useful aspect of journaling is the mood tracker. By logging your mood for the day, be it happy, sad, stressed, angry can help us identify any patterns or triggers. This information is a great way of managing our mental state and eliminating or preparing for things that may have a negative effect. You can make it fun by using certain colours or emojis for different moods. If you find you are tracking a sad mood, it may be worth stepping back and looking at what is going on for you at this time. Are you feeling lonely or missing someone? Do you need human interaction and what steps can you take to achieve that? Naming our emotions gives us the opportunity to take action which is both healthy and empowering.


How else can writing help?

Worry time.

If you find yourself ruminating about certain things or have worries constantly popping into your head, then worry time might offer relief. Firstly, allocate yourself a specific time, every day to sit and focus solely on your worries. It doesn’t need to be longer than 30 minutes. Then when a worry sneaks up on you, simply jot it down and tell yourself you will look at it during worry time.
This allows you to call the worries up in a controlled and calm way. Much better than a sudden intrusion of anxiety. There is less panic, and the worries often feel less overwhelming and easier to problem solve. You may even wonder why you were worried at all!

Random writing

This is exactly as it sounds. Just sit and write. It doesn’t even have to make sense, just dump all of your thoughts and feelings down on paper. Get them out of your head and lighten the load.

Write a letter you would never send.

This sounds odd but it works! If you are struggling with bad feelings towards someone who has treated you badly – tell them in a letter. Write down everything you wouldlike to say to them and don’t hold back. You can rant and rave all you like because they will never see it. Once you are done, rip it up into tiny pieces. This exercise is incredibly cathartic and a fantastic way of letting go of pain and anger.

Creative Writing

Self-expression is a great way if dealing with past traumas and difficult emotions. You could make up a story or write a poem. Or perhaps you could write about your own life experiences. Everyone has a tale to tell, and you may discover a hidden flair for writing!

Flashcards


Write some positive mantras on brightly coloured card. Words like “I am enough” or “I can cope with this” are examples but choose whatever speaks to you personally. You can carry them with you and look at them when you need reassurance or a boost. A fantastic tool for calming nerves before a big event such as a job interview.

No matter the form, writing is an excellent therapy tool. Whether you treat yourself to a top of the range journal, use a smartphone or simply scribble your thoughts on a notepad, the results will be the same. It doesn’t have to be perfect or clever (unless you want it to be). Our worries tend to look and feel quite different when written down. So take a few minutes, pick up a pen and let the ink work its magic.

Dear Jenny,

If you are reading this then you are probably having a rough day. That’s OK, I hear you and want you to know you’re not alone. We have had difficult days before and although the feelings are painful and all consuming I promise you, they will pass. They always do.

Please don’t be hard on yourself. I know you will be beating yourself up. What would you say to a loved one who was feeling how you are today? I imagine you would be supportive and non judgemental. Why not try and offer yourself the same kindness?

You are a wonderful person. Compassionate, funny and wise. Many people love you and would want to support you. If you feel able to reach out then that’s great. If not then that is fine too.

Today is about taking small steps. Things that have made you feel better before. Perhaps a relaxing bubble bath or some deep breathing exercises. Or stand outside and take in the world using all of your senses. Stay in the moment as much as you can. Cuddle the dog, watch a funny film. Cry, laugh or get angry and punch a pillow. Whatever you need, do it.

Take extra care of yourself Jenny. You are important and have so much to offer no matter what you thoughts are telling you today. Remember not to believe everything you think!

I’m right behind you, cheering you on and offering a hand to hold. Tomorrow, things may seem a little less tough. For now, just let things be. The bad days make the good that little bit more blissful.

All my love, Jenny xx

This is a compassionate letter I wrote to myself. I composed it on a day I was feeling mentally well and was functioning in my “adult brain.” This is the part of me that is rational, mature and able to see things in a more nuanced way. This part of me often disappears during difficult times to be replaced by my frightened and flailing inner child. When she comes into play she needs all the support I can give her.

So I placed this letter along with some other items I find soothing and uplifting in a box. My Compassionate Kit Box. I don’t need to use it often but it is nice to know I have it ready. It has been a massive comfort on many dark days.

It is so important that we nurture our inner child. They usually show up when we are feeling vulnerable and have an unmet need. Compassion and understanding are a really good place to start.

Compassion Care Kit

In my Compassion Care Kit I have the following items…

  • Compassionate letter to myself.
  • Positive mantra flashcards.
  • My nan’s headscarf and a picture of us together. These make me feel safe and happy.
  • Some childish erasers and marbles – I collected these as a child. If I am having a difficult day I will organise the marbles into colours or types. This nurtures my inner child as there is a positive childhood association. It is also quite grounding and soothing.
  • I will be adding some of my childhood books and a teddy once I collect them from my parents loft.
  • I may add some certificates. Past achievements are a positive thing to reflect on when my self-esteem is waning.

You can fill your care kit with whatever is meaningful to you. Like me you can start small and add to it over time. Choose items that make you feel good about yourself. The possibilities are endless!

Give it a go, do something nice for your inner child today!