Tips For Getting Started On Your Journaling Journey

Sometimes we call a trusted friend to work through our emotions and gain insight into a situation. Or maybe we vent to our spouse, trying to uncover the true source of our anxiety and stress. It's important to wade the mental muck to process our feelings and release them. When they're bottled up inside, they can rupture. And even if you don't consider yourself to be a writer, putting pen to paper and getting down what we're going through can be immensely beneficial for our mental health. From gaining a clear narrative of an emotional event to processing old trauma that's resurfaced, journaling is a wonderful therapeutic exercise. It's even been shown to help those with PTSD (via Positive Psychology).

"For clients who are managing their mental health, I recommend journaling daily because it provides an opportunity to unload thoughts and emotions that may cause them problems. Additionally, it provides a metric to monitor progress or even patterns," said Ebony E. White, LPC, NCC, ACS, an assistant clinical professor in the counseling and family therapy department at Drexel University, in an interview with POPSUGAR.

If this sounds like a tool that may help you manage your mental health, here's how you can get started on your journaling journey.

Release worry and judgment about what your journaling

The first thing to remember when journaling is that you aren't writing something anyone is going to read. This is for you and only you. No need for your writing to flow smoothly and look neat on the page. If routine helps you feel grounded and secure, aim to journal at a set time each day. If that feels like just another item on the to-do list, then plan to pull out your journal when you feel overwhelmed or need clarity. "Journaling is a tool that is meant to be calming and one that allows for the release of everything that one may be feeling," said Ebony E. White, LPC, NCC, ACS, an assistant clinical professor in the counseling and family therapy department at Drexel University, in an interview with POPSUGAR.

You may be surprised if you sit down to write about an argument with your sister but end up writing about an adverse experience from high school you never fully processed. Let whatever comes up flow out into your journal. A lot resides in the subconscious, waiting for its chance to be expressed and released. Or, you may find that you sit down to write during your scheduled journaling time, and nothing comes up. In this case, try writing simple facts about your day. There is no wrong way to journal, and there's also no need to worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. 

Different types of journaling

If you find yourself craving more structure or guidance when journaling, you can tune into several different types of writing to access your well of emotions. Sometimes there are walls built around our vulnerable centers, and it does require some gentle motioning to unlock what's been stored inside.

Stream-of-consciousness writing is particularly impactful for those who don't know where to start or may be harsh on themselves. It's pretty self-explanatory -– you simply let your consciousness stream, meaning you write without pause. Whatever is on your mind, you put it on paper. Set a goal for yourself, like five solid minutes of stream-of-consciousness or three full pages. "Journaling has been seen as a connection to your subconscious mind and will allow you to express yourself freely," said Brittany A. Johnson, LMHC, in an interview with POPSUGAR.

Gratitude journaling is another highway to feeling better. Write down everything you're grateful for, big or small. What-is-going-well journaling falls under the same umbrella. Simply jot down everything in your day that didn't go wrong. This shift in perspective is naturally uplifting. Visual journaling is another method that will prove useful for those experiencing emotions they don't quite understand. Drawing our emotional state, mood, or energy can unveil a lot about what we don't have words for.