If we are to consider how journaling can benefit your mental health, let's begin by understanding more about the mind and what contributes to keeping it healthy. There is no doubt that food and being physically active will all support a healthy mind, what else does it need?
It won’t surprise you to know that the mind is designed for thinking. A healthy mind requires development (learning), stimulation (games, crosswords, puzzles), creativity (hobbies, gardening), innovation (using your imagination). These functions help you learn, recall information, solve problems, plan and organised. As humans, you can use these different functions at once through multitasking, however recent studies remind us the brain is actually more effective when focused on one task at a time rather than juggling various thought balls at the same time.
The mind also requires rest, to relax and switch off from thinking. Every time you use your mind you are firing neurons stimulating brain activity. If you think of your mind as a computer, how many tabs do you have open at one time?
The term ‘monkey mind’ is often used to describe the nature of the mind, meaning: unsettled, restless, fanciful, whimsical, confused, indecisive, uncontrollable. Jack Kornfield in his book ‘A Wise Heart’ depicts ‘the storytelling mind’ as an endless stream of thought and commentary along with our experience.
“Thoughts make a good servant, but a poor master.”
The following key points suggest why indeed the simple act of writing words onto the pages of your journal can be an effective way of taking care of your mental health:
The process of writing helps you to articulate what it is you want to express.
Activating the left side of the brain (the analytical, rational hemisphere) keeping it occupied, leaving the right hemisphere (the creative, touchy-feely side) to wander, explore and play, allowing your creativity to flow.
The act of writing encourages you to ‘express’ how you are feeling and can be a good way of processing your emotions.
The process of writing connects you to a different part of the brain that is not accessed by thinking alone.
It’s a relief to offload what’s on your mind, reducing the mental stress of overthinking.
The act of writing assists you in making important connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviour, increasing self-awareness.
The ability to write encourages you to step back from being caught inside the drama of your mind, gain perspective and become mindful through your ability to begin to see things differently.
Your journal is for you only, not for anyone else, its a place for you to feel safe and comfortable being open and honest with yourself which over time may develop into greater self-awareness and a degree of self-acceptance.