Hoping to Start Journaling in the New Year? Here's How to Do It, According to Experts

Hoping to Start Journaling in the New Year? Here's How to Do It, According to Experts

Hoping to Start Journaling in the New Year? Here's How to Do It, According to Experts
Posted on January 21st, 2023.

While you probably kept a journal as a child, you may have put it down for good somewhere in your early teens. 

But it may be time to pick it back up again because experts say that the practice can have a host of benefits, from improving mood to boosting mental health.

Though, if you've tried to do it recently, you may have found yourself staring at a blank page wondering what to write and how exactly you should be doing it. For anyone who has resolved to get back into the practice in the new year, we spoke with two psychologists to find out everything you need to know about journaling.

What are the benefits of journaling?

Studies have shown that various types of journaling can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve memory and even boost immunity.

"Journaling also improves mental health and allows for stress relief, because it can provide a safe space to unload your pent-up thoughts and feelings," says Dr. Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist based in Sonoma County, California. "In general, whether it's after a therapy session or just after a long day, it is a safe space just to put everything out there and close it up."

Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, a licensed psychologist in New York City, told us that it also helps you look at your thoughts in a more objective way. "Oftentimes we approach our thoughts as facts which can get us into trouble when we believe our most anxiety-provoking thoughts without hesitation," she says. "The process of reading a biased thought outside of your mind can provide an alternative outlook and [help you] see things more clearly."

When should you be journaling?

Instead of being rigid about your writing process, Romanoff said that you should simply make it part of your routine. "The best formed habits are paired with activities that you already do or enjoy," she says. "For example, if every day you drink coffee in the morning, try to work in 10 minutes of journaling during that time. Or if you used to watch a show after dinner, try to supplement that with journaling."

And while it may be tempting to sneak in a journaling session right before you turn the lights off for the night, Manly recommends keeping your journal outside of your bedroom. "Oftentimes we churn up some thoughts and feelings that might be uncomfortable or really intense, so we don't really want to be doing that in our sleep space or keeping it in our sleep space," she says. "We want our sleep space to be very sacred and quiet and feel very gentle."

What should you write in your journal?

One of the key elements of journaling is to remove judgment from the process, Manly explains. People tend to overthink the grammar and context of what they're writing or question what would happen if someone else read their journal or if they reread their entries later on. "You want to put any of that kind of judgment aside," Manly says. "Because if you don't, you're actually hurting the process."

When it comes to what you're writing, there are a handful of different approaches that you can use — and you can switch it up, depending on your needs. "You can engage in various types of journaling," Romanoff says. "Sometimes it feels helpful to get it all out through a journaling ‘vent session,’ other times you might want to be more structured in your journaling."

If you're looking for the latter, a helpful strategy can be to create a thought log, Romanoff says. This type of journaling centers around a triggering event or situation that elicited a strong reaction. To try this, you'll note the thought associated with that moment, the consequence or behavior of that reaction and then, most importantly, create a rational counter-statement to it.

For example, say your supervisor at work is angry. "Your thought could be, 'I must have made a mistake — now I’ve done it. They’ll fire me for sure,'" Romanoff says. The consequence, then, is that you might feel sad and anxious, and will spend time obsessing over the mistake. In this situation, she said that the rational counter-statement could then be something like this: "'My supervisor could’ve been angry about anything. They are usually happy with my work, so even if I’ve made a mistake it isn’t a big deal.'"

Another option if you're looking for something a little more structured? Try a guided journal. "Guided journals are helpful for people who are unsure how to begin journaling or what they would like to work on," Romanoff explains.

Source: Today 

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