Mental health journals

New year, new notebook?

Keeping a diary or diary is an adaptive way to deal with difficult or confusing situations, said Dr. Eric Storch, professor and vice chair of the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.

“It gives the opportunity to write things down and get perspective,” Storch said. “Perspective comes when you write it down on paper, rather than letting it float around with no clear specificity. Where journaling can also be very helpful is in inducing a sense of catharsis.

Does journaling really help a person’s mental health? TikTok would make you think yes. A few social media trends this year point to keeping a journal or “manifesting” better mental health for yourself; the trends include vision boards, bullet journaling and shadow work journaling.

However, journaling is just writing things down, Storch said. The idea of ​​”manifesting” is what he calls magical thinking.

“Without behavioral follow-up, journaling can be limited in scope and utility,” Storch said. “It’s not enough to write it down; linking a behavior to what you have written down is central here.” Setting goals and activating behaviors are the next steps that can improve the effectiveness of journaling, he said.

Keeping a journal can provide clarity and objectivity about an event, memory, or feeling. It also helps a person formulate a behavioral strategy of thinking it through and then executing an action plan – all in the hope of feeling better.

Here’s how you can effectively keep a diary:

  • Spend time on yourself and writing: Journaling is an activity that is about perspective and releasing tension and energy. For someone, only the activity is adaptive and useful. Storch said it can help reshape a person’s thoughts and give them a chance to reset.
  • Formulate an answer: If something unexpected or surprising happens, a diary can help a person calm themselves down and find an appropriate behavioral response. However, the absence of a behavioral response limits the benefits of keeping a diary.
  • Formulate a strategic plan: Writing can be cathartic; however, journaling should have a sense of purpose. After writing about something that happened or a painful memory, move on to writing what to do next.
  • Do other things: Keeping a journal is just one of several coping strategies. Exercising, spending time with loved ones or a therapist, cooking a meal, going to the movies, or other activities – each can help a person gain perspective.

Storch loves ceramics. “For three hours I think of nothing but how to make this ball of clay do anything but fall over.”

The key to improving your mental health is having multiple coping strategies and safely confronting situations when they arise, he added. Try not to dwell on the awkwardness of what happened; act instead. And know that not all mental health strategies, such as journaling, can work for you.

“For some, a diary can be very useful. For others, exercise can help clear the mind and gain perspective,” he said. “Whatever it is, I think it will be positive to have some diversity of coping skills and flexibility in applying them.”

Through Julie Garcia

Mental health journals

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