I’ve always loved writing and journaling, even when I was little. (I so wish I had my elementary, middle and high school journals!)
Journaling counteracts negative effects of stress, improves cognitive functioning, strengthens the immune system, and even decreases asthma and other health conditions!
On the downside, for those who are perfectionists, journaling can be really challenging because they are trying to make things so “perfect” they can’t focus on the thoughts they are trying to access. Hands can get tired, also. For some, journaling causes more stress – a great remedy for this is only keeping a gratitude journal.
For me, journaling gave me a place to empty out my thoughts. When we’re anxious (or depressed), all we can think about is that thick cloak of darkness that we’re seemingly always enveloped in. I talked about my experience to those I trusted, but I hated feeling like I had nothing else to talk about (“So, today’s anxiety wasn’t so bad.. I felt my heart racing a few times, but I didn’t try to go to the hospital.. I told myself I wasn’t having a stroke.. me, me, me, some more about me..”).
So I turned to my journal instead, where I poured my heart out about every stupid thing I thought about. I could get all of those insecure and destructive thoughts out. I would also write about my “song of the day” that perfectly conveyed how I felt that day, which I was too embarrassed to share with anyone else. I chronicled a lot of things that occurred, and realized from that I had PMDD because I only experienced extreme emotions in the 2 weeks before my period was coming. This was immensely helpful for my mental health, because I thought I was suicidal and/or bipolar – what a relief to know it was just hormones and there was a pattern and some reason to it.
I rarely wrote when I was happy, because when I felt good, I wanted to be OUT and enjoying life.
Last month, I was cleaning out my closet and discovered my old journals, so I took out some time to read all of them, from cover-to-cover, in about a week’s time. Rereading my journals used to always gave me a thrill. I used to thoroughly enjoy reading about my adventures and the things I went through; it was like reading an auto-biography of a famous person, with all of their abuses and excesses and recovery and redemption and ’round and ’round again…So riveting and exciting!
This time when I read the journals, I just felt empty and incredibly sad for the woman who wrote those pages. I just wanted to shake her and say, “You don’t have to do this! There’s another way!” That author was so different from who I am now that I had to force myself to finish it. THAT NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.
So, when I finally finished, I tossed them out into the garbage and felt no hesitation about it (right after I snapped a quick pic of it, that is).
I certainly don’t regret this last decade of journaling. It beyond served its purpose. I thought it supported me when I couldn’t support myself, but really, I was the one supporting myself all along. So, I highly recommend journaling: for self- counseling, for organizing and making sense of thoughts, for daydreaming, for detecting patterns, and so on. There is no limit, and I hope you find journaling as helpful as I did. For now, I only feel the need to “journal” here, and am immensely grateful for all my journaling did for me. 🙂