With World Mental Health Day just behind us, it is important we all take some time to reflect upon how we can improve and maintain our mental health. One way I do this is through keeping a journal. Often our preconceptions about journalling prevent us from utilising our notebooks in a meaningful way. However, it is an excellent tool for maintaining good mental health, it helps us understand ourselves, our goals and our problems more deeply. Give the following steps a go to begin a successful journey into journalling!
Write down the day's events and the feelings you had, as this allows your mind to process them as things of the past and leaves you ready to accept what tomorrow brings. Basically, it helps you to be more present. Normally I jot down what I ate at each meal, what I did that was productive and what I did that was fun, but don’t be afraid to confront things that are bothering you (so many of my journal pages are filled with mini rants!). By writing your thoughts down you give your mind permission to let them go, not in the sense that they will never bother you again, but they will no longer be sitting at the forefront of your mind.
Reflections are great for beginners as it shows you where you need to take action to improve your mental health. I use the following reflection prompts:
What excited me today?
What drained me?
What makes me feel in control?
If you do this regularly, you’ll soon see patterns emerge and know which parts of your life you need to change. One thing that helped me feel in control was learning to start my day by completing a chore, normally the washing up, although I could do this anytime of day by doing it first thing, I feel more productive and more in control.
Write down five things you’re grateful for. They can be small or big but just make sure they are genuine. I like to do five as minimum, I hate to sound overly positive, but I often find myself exceeding this minimum! I like doing this exercise last as it ends the experience on a positive note.
Your journal should be free of the feeling of obligation. Only write when you want to, if you’re forcing yourself to do it, you’re probably not going to feel the benefits. Remember, it is your space to fill however you wish. I often find mine is quite boring! Just a list of what I’ve done and plan to do, but it gives me a sense of control over my life, and it makes my goals clearer to me, whether it’s what I want to achieve today or in a year. Now I know how to journal, I no longer dread it. I don’t feel bad when I don’t write every day, I feel comfort knowing that it is there for me whenever I need it.
Remember! It’s an on-going process, after a while you’ll begin to understand what you want to get out of it, it might help you stay organised, or it might help with your anxiety. Try searching online for prompts, in the beginning you’ll be discovering things about yourself, dreams, goals, insecurities. And after a while you’ll find that you keep coming back to the same prompts, the ones that work for you.
Oh, and make sure you get a cute notebook – this helps with motivation!
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