Do you keep your fears, worries and concerns bottled up? Are you emotionally overwhelmed? Failing to express how you think and feel can create an intense emotional pressure.
And “as that emotional pressure builds, it seeks a way out,” says Jason Drake, LCSW. “Sometimes that way out looks like arguing, yelling, or other similar behavior. Journaling provides a healthy, safe way for those thoughts and feelings to be released.”
Writing your thoughts on paper helps you make new connections and reframe your perspective. Imaging putting a magnifying glass on your thought process.
For example, if someone has social anxiety with frequent thoughts about everyone looking at them it’s helpful to write down the fears. "The fears can be things like 'everyone will look at me’ and ‘everyone will laugh at me,” says Jeni Woodfin, LMFT. “It gives you the opportunity to look at that thought, outside your head, and creates the opportunity to question, ‘is that fear real?’ Oftentimes it’s not.”
Getting the fears literally out of your head and putting them in front of you can help you spot and stop irrational beliefs in their tracks.
“Journaling is something that allows you to focus purely on yourself and your thoughts, which is harder and harder to come by in a world of technology,” says Psychologist Jessica Myszak, PhD.
How much time should you spend journaling?
First, it’s helpful to set attainable expectations so you don’t get overwhelmed or feel guilty if you don’t keep up, Dr. Myszak explains.
Start with setting aside 10 minutes daily to get into the practice of writing. By setting a manageable goal, it gives you permission to do what you need that day.
Also, be consistent. Try journaling the same time each day (mornings or evenings is most popular). Drake says journaling right before bedtime brings its own set of benefits. It is not uncommon for many of us to have the stressors and challenges of the day impact our ability to fall and stay asleep.
“When we journal right before bedtime, we are able to put down in writing the stressors and challenges of the day,” Drake states. “Then, once we are finished writing, we close the book on it for the night and can put those thoughts, well, to bed. Putting the stressful thoughts and feelings to bed can allow for us to get to sleep and have a good night’s rest.”
Once the time of day is established, Woodfin suggests coming up with a series of questions. These questions are designed to create benchmarks showing progress and growth.
“I will frequently recommend questions that include three things the client is grateful for, something related to the experience, behavior or feeling that client would like to change, and also something to allow the client to learn to give themselves grace and forgiveness,” says Woodfin. “It’s easy to journal about successes, and journaling about wins is important! It’s also important to write down mistakes and failures. This gives us the opportunity to learn and practice forgiveness of ourselves. We learn to embrace our humanness.”
Answering these questions can help you create a narrative to look back on your personal development. And all you need is 10 minutes each day to reap the benefits!
How often do you journal? Let us know in the comments. And while you're at it, make sure to subscribe to Silk + Sonder today.