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.

LOL!

Everyone likes a good laugh!

It is the ultimate feel good, stress release. Children laugh around 15 times an hour where as adults it averages at 15 times a day. To be fair, life is usually a more serious endeavour for an adult. There are bills to pay, responsibilities and well, just surviving. I’m not saying that life is completely stress free for children, sadly many have very difficult lives. However, it seems that a good chuckle doesn’t come as easily for the grown-ups of this world; which is a shame because it is so good for us!

Did you know?

The saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’ does have some scientific backing. It may not be the best medicine per se, but it definitely helps us stay healthy.

A good laugh reduces stress and physical tension. It can actually induce a relaxed state for 45 minutes.  

Laughing is good for our immune systems. When our stress levels are reduced, our immunity strengthens.

Laughter releases endorphins – the happy chemicals. This feeling of happiness even dulls any physical pain.

It also helps in maintaining healthy blood flow and proper functioning of blood vessels. This helps in promoting good heart health and protects us against any heart diseases.

Laughter burns calories! Laughing for 10 to 15 minutes can burn nearly 40 calories. Do this every day and it equates to a 3-4lb loss over a year.

A study in Norway concluded that people with a high sense of humour live longer than those who didn’t laugh that much.

It reduces tension and anxiety. This can enhance our moods and improve resilience too.

Laughing is incredibly contagious.

Laughter together is one of the easiest ways to keep relationships healthy, exciting, and refreshing.

While our sense of humours may vary, the act of laughing with others is the ultimate form of connection. On a personal level, I know that when I have shared a belly laugh with someone that our relationship has reached a new level of intimacy. You know, the kind of hysteria that is so consuming it’s almost impossible to catch a breath. It is such an amazing feeling, one we could all do with more of!

“Laughter is a sunbeam of the soul.” Thomas Mann

So, whether it’s cheesy jokes, a naughty stand up or funny videos of cats playing the piano. Anything that makes the corners of your mouth twitch – fill your boots with the stuff!