The Benefits of Writing and Journaling

By: Amy Morrison

Despite it almost having been a full year since the first lockdown from coronavirus, most people still haven’t completely adjusted to the huge difference in lifestyle. Quarantine life continues to take its toll on most people, mentally and emotionally, but at this point most people have figured out the best ways to keep themselves sane. However, there’s never too many ways to improve one’s mental health and one of the most effective ways for many people is writing or journaling.

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like though a tad more faceted than one might believe. The basic definition of journaling is using a form of writing to work through certain thoughts and emotions. Typically it’s used as a method of therapy by psychologists to get a better glimpse into their patients’ minds and how they feel in certain situations. However, there are lots of different methods of journaling in terms of everyday life rather than as a specific mental health benefiting technique. Working from this understanding of journaling, one can move on to the many different forms of journaling and how they help different people in various situations. 

The first method is one already mentioned: journaling for therapeutic purposes. Generally speaking when one is assigned to journal by their therapist, it’s in a specific way that the therapist assigns. This is usually keeping something of a diary where one jots down how their day goes while paying specific attention to their emotions and specific symptoms they may have. Keeping a diary helps in seeing patterns and repetition, which is beneficial for most people, as well as allowing therapists to more easily see what goes on in their patients daily lives. This is also a great tool for the patient themselves because it allows them to see their lives and how they’re living it from an outside perspective. Being able to look back at their feelings and thoughts can allow them to work through complex situations and figure out why they react a certain way to a certain event.

As a proven therapy tool, it’s no wonder that journaling was picked up by the populace as a whole. Although it has changed some because of its creative nature, the purpose behind the idea is generally the same: improving one’s mental health. Some of the most used methods of general journaling are free writing, unsent letters, reflection journaling, and worst case scenario journaling. 

Free writing and reflection journaling are pretty similar but have a few key differences. Both utilize writing without pause as part of the process as well as just writing all thoughts out. The purpose is also mostly the same. Both are used as methods to come to terms with complex emotions and situations as well as helping identify them in the first place. Some of the biggest difference is that free writing is basically just writing one’s stream of consciousness for a set amount of time. It doesn’t really matter what a person writes, just that they continue to write for the whole time. However, in reflective journaling there’s more of a set goal in mind to reflect on the day one’s had and work through any issues or difficult emotions that came up during the day.

Unsent letters and worst case scenario journaling are both methods that have a very specific process and use. Unsent letters are exactly what they sound like: writing letters to people but never sending them. The purpose of them is to help the writer come to terms with the relationship they had with that person and the emotions and thoughts that came up because of it. A lot of the times unsent letters can give a sense of closure to the writer who may never actually get it from the person they’re writing to. Worst case scenario journaling sounds a little counterintuitive but it can work. This type of journaling especially helps people who have a difficult time imagining horrible situations and get caught up in the “what ifs” of life. The process is to write out the worst case scenario one can think of, how likely it is to actually happen, and how one could and would react to said scenario. This helps the writer relieve some stress over the possibilities of a situation going wrong.

Overall, journaling and writing are insanely beneficial even to people who would classify themselves as “normal”. In the continuing troubled times, it’s always in one’s best interest to look after themselves and their own mental health.

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