Write Your Way Out of That Corner

Journaling is a frequently recommended activity for people experiencing stress, whether it’s caused by physical illness or emotional strain.

Spending a little time to label your emotions and recognize triggers for negative reactions help many journalers identify their concerns and prioritize which ones to tackle first through problem-solving or recalibrating their responses.

While growing up, many children and adolescents benefit from writing in a diary, a place where they can share their deepest thoughts and emotions without fear of judgement or interference. Keeping a journal or diary (the words are pretty interchangeable, though diaries are defined as having daily entries) serves the same purpose for adults,

Research has shown that journaling can reduce anxiety for women living with multiple sclerosis, help college students and others struggling with depression, allow trauma victims to heal more quickly and improve memory and focus for people of all ages.

Best of all there are no hard-and-fast rules. You can buy a pretty or sleek notebook for the purpose if you like, type it on your computer or phone, or grab whatever stray scraps are on hand at home or work.

You can use words, pictures, photos, songs, diagrams — whatever language makes sense to you at the moment.

Yet there are some things you can do to help ensure you get the most benefit from your journaling habit:

  • Journal at consistent intervals. Like any other habit, journaling is most easily ingrained into your schedule by doing it around the same time every day or attaching it to a compatible daily activity like drinking coffee at home or during breaks in your workflow.
  • Quantity doesn’t mean quality. You don’t have to write pages at each setting to make progress, especially at the beginning. Try making a rule of writing one sentence down every day or two, adding to it only if you want to. More often than not that’s enough to get you started on a more extensive entry.
  • Don’t look for perfection. This is the time to let your thoughts flow onto paper without worrying about spelling, punctuation or if what you’re writing or drawing will make sense to anyone else. The journal is for the unfiltered you, and there’s no reason to show it to anyone else unless it would be helpful for you.
  • Read what you’ve written. Give yourself time to read over your entries, again without letting “mistakes” trip you up. This is crucial for spotting unhealthy triggers and patterns so you can begin to see them for what they are and step away.
  • Use prompts when you feel stuck. When you don’t know how to begin or want to try a different approach you can find tons of websites or books with writing prompts, both practical and fantastical.Here are a couple to start with: “What made me feel good today?” “How can I improve tomorrow?” “Is there a hobby I would like to start?”