• Amanda A. Vacca, M.A, LMHC

To Journal, or Not to Journal, That Is the Question...

I can’t tell you how many times I introduce the idea of journaling to my patients, and have them respond with, “you mean like a diary?” In some ways, yes! If you were a child who kept a diary, think about what this did for you. Think about the things you would divulge in your diary, and how guarded you kept it (maybe with even a lock on itツ). In some ways, the two are synonymous; but one difference is that diaries are books that have us record things as they happen, whereas journals delve a bit deeper.

There are so many powerful benefits to journaling, especially when used in the context of therapy. It’s more than a diary and it’s more than just simply “writing”! Journaling can help you prioritize your fears, problems, and concerns; it helps you track symptoms and recognize triggers. The benefits have been explored through extensive research, making journaling an awesome therapeutic intervention. Research studies have shown that journaling contributes to a boost in memory, mindfulness, and communication skills. Studies have also found that journaling can promote sleep, stronger immune responses, and confidence!


So, are you wondering where to begin? I encourage the people I work with to be as creative as possible. There are no rights and wrongs in this process! Some people enjoy bullet journaling, while others prefer free-writing or writing prompts. Journals can also be used to log and later process dreams, goals, and lists. Whatever you choose, the benefits are just as awesome!

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started...

FInd a focus! Decide what sort of journal you’ll want to begin. Consider what your goals are related to journaling. Perhaps you want to strengthen your organization skills and time management; for this, bullet journaling might me ideal. Maybe you are looking to enhance relaxation skills and mindfulness practice; so you might opt for a gratitude journal or free-writing. You can search the web for endless ideas on styles of journals!

Consistency is key. Pick a time of day that’s best for you. I encourage people to journal in the morning, as it’s often a nice way to start the day. On the other hand, journaling at night can be a great way to quell racing thoughts or anxiety before bed. Set a goal for how many times you’d like to journal, and stick to it!

When in doubt, use prompts. Journal prompts are great ways to get started, because they give you some focus and acclimate you to the process of writing. I also find that prompts give you motivation! Here are some prompt ideas I love:

  • I will never forget the silver lining in this situation...

  • The best bit of advice I could give to a younger me is…

  • The quality I admire most in others/myself is…

  • If I could ask any person just one thing, it would be ____ and I would ask…

  • A sentence that stopped me in my tracks and changed my outlook was…

  • Make a list of 30 things that make you smile.

Happy journaling!

Amanda

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