Exercises for Mental Health
The Power of Journaling
During my sophomore year here at UNH, I took a class for a major requirement called, “Stressed Out: The Science and Nature of Human Stress”. Besides learning about the actual chemistry and physiology of stress responses in the human body, we spent a lot of time learning about different stress management exercises and had time to discuss and reflect on those experiences. Of course we covered the basics; yoga, deep breathing, etc. But one day we did a journaling exercise. At first I was skeptical. I thought “how is writing in a journal going to relieve some stress?”. I mean, wouldn’t it just make me more stressed? I was under the impression that I was going to think about my stress and write about my stress and then magically, I would feel better. None of it made sense.
But I decided to give it a shot. I was told to simply write every thought (as it occurred in real time) that I had on paper. It was all for me and my eyes only, so I felt more secure in this. The exercise lasted only 10 minutes but it felt like less than 2 minutes. As my thoughts transferred to paper I slowly started to feel my stress melt away. It was as if my brain was being cleansed of all negative thoughts and feelings. At the end of the exercise I felt energized for the day and found a lot of clarity with a few conflicts that I was dealing with at the time. Problems were solved and I just felt happier. So it worked! Now that I have shared my personal experience with you, I can share more of the specifics of the benefits of journaling and a few tips to help you get started.
Some of the benefits of journaling include:
Clarifying your thoughts and feelings: Jotting down your thoughts and feelings can help you find clarity in any confusion or indecisiveness that you may be feeling as an effect of stress.
Know yourself better: After practicing journaling consistently, you can go back and read your notes and start to make connections. You can identify things that make you feel happy and confident and even see relationships that may be causing some toxicity in your life. It’s like looking at yourself from an outside perspective.
Solve problems: Conflicts with those in our lives are inevitable. Instead of letting your frustrations brew into anger, write down your thoughts. This can help you let things go and even see if it was all just a misunderstanding.
Like all things, practice is key to success. To feel the benefits of journaling more often, it should be done with consistency. If you are interested in journaling, set a small goal of doing it once or twice per week for 10-15 minutes at a time. Then build from there. It is also key to write quickly and forget about grammar and punctuation. By letting go of all the “pressure” of writing, you can allow yourself to express yourself more freely. Don’t think just write. Remember these are for your eyes only.
Although journaling may not completely solve all of your problems, it can be one small piece of the puzzle to becoming the best version of yourself. Be open and be vulnerable. Answer the call to courage and start journaling today to relieve some stress! As always, stay safe and be well.