According to Statistics Canada, more than 1 in 4 Canadian workers stated that their life was “highly stressful” in 2010. In 2019, stress continues to be one of the most prevalent issues faced by Canadians on a daily basis with work often being cited as a leading cause for stress. This is probably why stress has fast become one of the most popular topics of discussion in the mental health community. While many de-stressing techniques, such as yoga and mindfulness, have been gaining popularity over the past few years, one technique in particular stands out because of its simplicity and accessibility to everyone (and the fact that most people already know how to do it): journaling.
Put simply, journaling involves the act of writing down one’s feelings and thoughts, often about a particular event or situation. The key is to allow the writing to flow out naturally without feeling the need to edit, correct, or censor what is being written.
The freedom of being able to gather all your mental clutter and put it down on paper is said to be useful in alleviating anxiety and stress as well as helping individuals cope with depression and trauma. This in turn can help people function and perform better in their day-to-day lives. A study conducted by Michigan State University in 2017 found that writing about one’s worry about an upcoming task or event can help individuals perform tasks more efficiently. By allowing individuals to “offload” any anxiety associated with the task, journaling can essentially reduce the need for the brain to spend effort or time on the worry and instead just focus on performing the task itself.
Not only is journaling a healthy way to vent out and overcome negative thoughts and emotions, it can also build self-awareness as well as help identify ongoing problems that you are struggling with and find possible solutions. A self-help article on journaling by the University of Rochester suggests that journaling can help reveal one’s trigger points for anxiety and stress and determine ways of managing those stressors. Similarly, depending on the writing prompts used, journaling can also be used to guide your mind towards unearthing positive things in your life, becoming more acquainted with who you are, or making important life decisions.
So, how does one go about starting a journaling practice? There is truly no right or wrong way to journal. The key is to not worry about perfecting the writing but simply letting yourself express how you feel on paper (or any writing device, such as your smartphone or laptop). It might be helpful to use some writing prompts, such as the ones listed below, to guide your writing process.
Examples of writing prompts for journaling:
- Did I feel stressed, anxious, angry, or frustrated today? What made me feel that way? How can I cope with this feeling next time?
- Did something or someone make me laugh today? Describe the moment.
- Complete the following sentence: Today, I felt happy and/or relaxed when…
- Complete the following sentence: Today, I am grateful for…
“Journaling for Mental Health – Health Encyclopedia”. Retrieved from www.urmc.rochester.edu
Levine, D. (2018). Can you boost your mental health by keeping a journal? Retrieved from www.health.usnews.com