Healthy Brain, Healthy Mind: 3 Reasons To Start Journaling

Don’t Let it Get Trapped In Your Head — Write it Out, Get it Out

By NAU senior Megan Leddy

More times than we recognize, the answer to most of our problems is held in our fingertips.

My Story Hi, I’m Megan — a functioning highly sensitive person with codependent tendencies and a great desire for control.

I often get caught up in the thoughts in my head. When these thoughts and emotions are left unchecked — it can be easy for me to form unrealistic perceptions of myself.

Turning to pen and paper has been my way for regaining control of my inner dialogue and help kickstart my path to self-discovery.

The journals I’ve completed since picking up the habit in January 2021.

Journaling & Me

Journaling grants me the freedom to be fully transparent with myself — putting me in charge of my narrative. And, it’s a highly accessible tool that can be added to your own mental-health-toolbox to pull out when necessary.

My first journal at the beginning of my mindfulness journey.

It can be easy for us social primates to move through life adapting and responding to the many societal queues around us. Especially with today’s “hustle-culture” mentality, the fast movement within every facet of our lives can quickly become overwhelming.

Journaling allows us the opportunity to stop, rest, and reflect.

For those still hesitant — here are three reasons you should pick up that notebook lying around.

1. Journaling Evokes Mindfulness

The act of journaling is a form of mindfulness on its own.

Taking the time to sit down and put pen to paper forces you to be present in that moment. I’ve always appreciated this meditative aspect — where the mind and body connect.

In today’s technological age, it has become more and more habitual to pick up our phones and (whether consciously or subconsciously) distract ourselves from sitting with tough emotions.

It wasn’t until I began my mindfulness journey in January of 2021 that I became aware of my own non-sustainable ways of coping.

When I would feel my anxiety begin to creep in, my default response was to grab my phone and search for a place that I could try to silently hide away until it passed.

(Spoiler: this only made it worse)

Once I had developed my habits of journaling and meditation, I found myself more in-tune with certain self-destructive behaviors and was better able to catch myself from deeper spirals.

It wasn’t easy, though. Choosing to sit and face the uncomfortable never is.

But it’s this part that is key to rewiring some of the dopamine responses in your brain that have been tampered by social media.

Creating a ritual that involves journaling is an excellent form of self-discipline, because there is likely some type of initial resistance.

2. Journaling Reduces Stress

If you read my previous blog post on how I befriended my anxiety, you may recall that one of the seven steps to reaching “thrive state” is stress and emotional mastery.

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed due to tangible or intangible reasons, writing it out is a healthy practice to transfer thoughts out of your mind and onto paper.

During moments of high anxiety, I’ve found the physical act of writing to be helpful with releasing adrenaline that often comes with panic attacks.

When your body enters fight-or-flight mode, often your sympathetic nervous system is feeling triggered and incredibly overwhelmed — leaving you scatter-brained.

I always compared this to feeling like a chicken with its head cut-off 🐓.

Journaling allowed me to actually do something related to my stress. Instead of keeping it all inside and giving it the opportunity to manifest into something bigger — I just one day decided to write it out instead.

A page from my gratitude journal, “The Five Minute Journal.”

The focus toward putting pen to paper and using the ink to craft shapes that form letters to form words, was enough of a physical act for my stress-induced adrenaline to transfer itself to.

The more I wrote, the more I felt my mind clear and my body relax.

3. Journaling Boosts Emotional Intelligence

e·mo·tion·al in·tel·li·gence —

the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically

One of the benefits I’ve experienced with talk-speak therapy is the self-awareness that comes with hearing your thoughts being spoken out loud to an objective source.

Similarly, seeing them written on paper can be helpful for recognizing how your thought-processes work and catch yourself from certain repetitive patterns.

Journaling can be an incredible way to monitor extreme moods, and can serve as a private space where you can be completely honest with yourself.

Another example for how journaling can take any form you want. This is a morning and night “Mood Chart” taken from my roommate’s journal.

Tips for Getting Started

I know, this section may seem a bit ridiculous considering journaling is literally just writing, but it can be a daunting task for many when it comes to picking up the pen and seeing a blank page.

For those who perhaps aren’t as comfortable tapping into complete vulnerability, the best way to start this habit is to follow a set of prompts to slowly ease your way into it.

Writer Kate Arends Peters has an excellent article detailing what journaling prompts can be good for certain occasions of the mind.

My own personal go-to is Thoughts vs. Reality.

I first write out the negative thoughts I’m having, then challenge those with what is actually happening. I do this daily to monitor the stories I tell myself, and follow that with a list of 10 things I’m grateful for.

Youtuber Claudia Kai also walks through some self care ideas that you can add to your bullet journal to help build this daily habit:

As with any habit, it’s important to actually make time to build it. Whether you set aside time every morning, once a week, or before bed — try to make it a priority. And make sure to pay attention to how you feel afterwards!

Also, remember there is no one right way to journal.

No matter if you write in the mornings or at night, or if your entries involve a series of non-comprehensible brain dumps, prompted responses, or a combination of both- this is your practice.

Be compassionate as you begin this journey to connecting with your deeper self.

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