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Why Is Journaling Helpful for My Mental Health?

I work with many clients who are anxious and/or depressed related to their personal life or professional life, and sometimes both. My job as their clinician is to better help understand possible reasons why my client is anxious and/or depressed, and then to provide possible coping strategies to better manage their anxiety and/or depression. I often recommend clients to journal in between sessions. Many clients typically respond by saying, “Sure, I’m open to journaling, but how and why can it actually help?” I do love my clients’ transparency and them wanting to explore the reasoning behind any of my clinical recommendations, which I always explain to them of course!

I recently read an article from The New York Times, that touched on this very topic, “Now is the time to start keeping a journal” by author Glenn Kramon. 

Below are the key points from Kramon’s article regarding the importance of journaling. 

  • Stress reduction. Research has shown that journaling is a stress reducer and can also reduce depression. It also allows you to release your feelings like you would be venting to a friend. When venting your feelings on paper, it helps you improve your self-awareness, and for some it can create new insights about themselves and their surroundings. 
  • Coping with chaotic moments. Journaling can also be a useful coping mechanism when life hits you with some unexpected chaos and/or grief. Through journaling it can allow you to sort out your thoughts and move forward. It can also help you to look back at your mistakes and make improvements for the future. It can also decrease your anxiety. Many times, when someone is experiencing an anxious thought, it is incredibly circular, but when you write down an anxious thought, the anxious thoughts then become linear and clearer. 
  • Gratitude and honest thoughts. Not only does journaling help when feeling anxious or sad, it is also a great way to reflect on things you are grateful for. It is a nice memory book if you will, to look back on some of the most special moments in your life, whether it is your wedding day, birthday, or the day you gave birth to your child. Honest journals are also the best journals. Many times, people will only post their “highlight” real on social media, leaving out some of the not so pleasant moments of their life, whereas, in a journal, it allows you to keep it a 100% real with how you are feeling each and every day. 
  • How can I start journaling? Make sure to start journaling slowly. Maybe that looks like just writing a sentence or two that day. Some people prefer to write with pen and paper, some like to type, and many of my clients prefer to simply jot down thoughts in their phone on a notes app. Journal in whatever way feels best for you. There really is not a wrong or right way to journal. You also don’t need to write something every day, but it can be helpful to write a short sentence of what happened on a Tuesday if you are journaling later in the week on a Friday. 
  • Goals & Intentions. Many times, clients also find it helpful to write down their goals and intentions in their journals. Research has also shown that when you write something down, you are more likely to accomplish it, the reason behind that is because it simply makes the goal more of a reality. 

Journaling may not be for everyone, but I do encourage everyone to at least try it once. If it works, that’s great, but, if it doesn’t work for you, at least now you know to explore another coping mechanism when feeling anxious and/or depressed!

If you are currently struggling with anxiety, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them online, or call us at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment for in-person therapy or online counseling in Chicago.  

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