Journaling for Mental Health: How to Start Journaling and Keep at It

Whether it’s for reflection and introspection, stress-relief or just to keep a record of memories, journaling is a very useful tool for mindfulness. Many mental health practitioners recommend building a journaling habit to help improve our overall well being; and, we at Twillo are big believers of it too.

Now, we receive many questions from customers who want to start journaling but are unsure of where or how to start. So, we have decided to start a new blog series - Journaling for Mental Health, where we’ll address all these questions and help you get started with and build a journaling habit.

Let’s dive right in!

So… What Exactly Is Journaling?

It is the practice of regularly recording what’s on your mind so you can unload and free up some mental space. Journaling allows you to put down your thoughts in written form so you can reduce inner mental chatter. This, in turn, gives you a chance to observe your thoughts objectively from a distance, reflect on them, and reorganise your mind.

How does this help? Journaling helps us become aware of ourselves and get more insight into our behaviours, habits and patterns so we can learn from them in the future. How and when you journal can impact the kind of benefits you will experience. For example, you can journal before work to gain more focus and improve concentration, by doing a brain dump of everything that is distracting you. Or you can write down your thoughts and worries to help with anxiety and overthinking. Making lists and writing down action items is also a great way to ease the mind of unnecessary stress and burdens allowing more space for creative thoughts and ideas.

There are many forms of journaling - for example, gratitude journaling, bullet journalling, art journaling, morning pages, travel journaling, anxiety journaling, observational journaling etc. Different people may choose different forms of journaling - remember it’s not a one-size-fits-all concept. You can experiment with several forms and you don't even need to stick to one. Try them all, and try them as often as you like. Keep different books for each, or use one journal for everything. Find whatever works for you.

How to Get Started With Journaling?

Most people mistakenly think that journaling must be about writing for long hours. There’s no need to do that. Instead, here are a few simple tips to get started:

1. Start by sitting in silence for 10 minutes everyday

No phones, no TV, no books. Just sit in a comfortable place where you don’t be disturbed and let your mind run wild. Don’t try to stop the thoughts, simply observe what comes and goes. Write down what you’re thinking if you feel like it - paragraphs, bullet point lists, unstructured notes, anything that works for you.

2. Write about your day

One of the easiest ways to start journaling is by simply recording what your day was like. What you did, where you went, what you ate and so on. Add a little note to each update, about your thoughts too. Soon, it will begin to flow naturally and you will notice yourself recording your thoughts with more ease.

3. Observe your feelings and name them

Sit down with a notebook and observe your mind and mood. Are you feeling angry, hurt, upset? Or joyous, excited, content? Pay attention to what feelings are coming up at the moment. Identify, acknowledge and name the feelings you are having without any self-judgement. Next, write down what is causing these feelings, what other thoughts it is bringing up, and what you plan to do next. Let the words flow without trying to over-analyse or structure them. Simply recognising your feelings and writing down your thoughts is a great way to start journaling.

A Few Tips to Help You Stick With It

1. Be real, not perfect

Most often, people quit journaling because of the pressure they put on themselves to be perfect. Why? Journaling is a space for you to connect with yourself, and not something that anyone will ever see. So be as raw, vulnerable and messy as you feel like. Spelling mistakes, bad handwriting, incoherent sentences, jumbled thoughts - it doesn't matter. Look at it as a way to unload your mind, at your own pace, and in your own way. Write freely and without hesitation - because this is just between you and your journal.

2. Set aside a dedicated time to journal

While it is not mandatory to journal every day, it is more effective if you do (a few missed days don’t matter; but consistency in journaling, like anything else, is what will make this practice work best for you.) There are several ways to imbibe it as a habit - you can set a daily alarm or reminder, or do it first thing after you wake up or right before you’re going to sleep. One tried and tested method we recommend is attaching the habit of journaling to another activity you do everyday. For example - journal while having breakfast, or when you are waiting for your afternoon chai to brew. This way, the daily activity will become a trigger to remind you to journal, and this will soon become a habit too.

3. Start small

Don’t try to do too much too soon. Don’t try to fill pages and pages on your first day, or expect to have some magical revelations soon after you start. Instead, start small - write only a few lines everyday, or start with a daily gratitude list. Spend only 5 minutes on daily journaling, or make it something you do at a particular time every weekend. The more accustomed you get, the more you’ll enjoy it and thus reap its benefits once it becomes a consistent habit. 

So, are you ready to get started? Let us know how it goes and if you have any more questions. Stay tuned for more updates about journaling routines, tips and more!