Keeping a Journal
No, not this kind of journal/diary.
I think that anyone with a mental illness should definitely try to keep a journal (especially if you are seeing a professional!) Even if you aren’t mentally ill, keeping a journal is still a good idea. Writing things down is a good way to keep track of your thoughts and feelings, and it also can help to foster creativity (Morgan recently said this in her blog post). The American Psychological Association (APA) recently did a study that showed the positive benefits of “expressive writing.”
This is getting jumbled. Let’s break it down:
What’s the best way to do it?
For this, I can’t give you a definite answer. The most basic decision to make is where to keep it. You can journal online, on your computer, or in a notebook (I use this one; it’s the most accessible for me). Then, it depends on what you want to get out of this activity; are you writing just to get ideas down and remember things that happened in your day, or are you trying to keep track of your emotions? For the former, any sort of free-flowing set up should work, so you don’t need to be too concerned about overall structure. If you’re looking for the latter, you can use a template (as shown below), or just write whatever comes to you. Again, it’s up to you.
If you’re journaling as a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (talk to your therapist about this), it may be best to do a sort of list that includes what happened (if anything), what thoughts occurred, what feelings you had, what behaviors occurred (if any), and if/how you restructured the thoughts. Again, discuss this with whoever you’re working with, as they may have a preferred or more functional format.
Why should I?
Well, if you are in therapy, it can certainly help you keep your feelings straight and give you reminders of what to discuss or bring up when you meet with whomever. Depending on how often you meet with your therapist, it may be hard to keep track of how things are going; I personally find it difficult sometimes to remember emotions that were present before yesterday.
If you aren’t in therapy but are still ill (or even if you’re well), writing can be a good way of sorting out your feelings and thoughts. Sometimes things get mixed up in your brain or you’re thinking too fast or whatever, so writing a sort of “stream of consciousness” may be helpful.
Writing a journal may also be a useful tool for you to work on fighting anxiety.
And as I (and many others) said before, writing regularly can help improve creativity and writing skills.
Can’t decide what to write about?
Here are some links to sites that have prompts. (These are all mental health based; if you’re looking for “creative writing” prompts, check here)
Good luck, friend!
Hannah Manley ’15 || Literary Staff