Journaling For Mental Health - Sarah Spratt, Spratt Designs
“The Soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The Challenge is to silence the mind” – Caroline Myss
If you spend anytime online then you have most likely seen posts advising that Journaling can help with good mental health, in fact, it might not end just there, Clinicians often advise those struggling with mental health issues, big and small, to look into journaling.
Journaling has changed a great deal, when I was a child it was about keeping a secret diary, normally about the people I was in total love with. The journal hidden somewhere you hoped to god that your Mother never found, for fear it might be read. Now there are terms like Bullet Journaling or Dream Journaling, Art Journaling, Junk Journal and many more, floating out there. I confess here that I have got myself somewhat into Bullet Journaling since the Author/Creator Rydar Carroll brought it to the world. Since then there has been appearing the craze of these beautiful Bullet Journal Spreads surrounded with creative art that many people aspire, social media has been flooded with a raft of time-lapse videos. Disclaimers; I am no expert on journaling, I’m not sure if a person ever is. I have shared quite openly my love for journaling, and I run a craft business and have created for myself stencils to help me add flourishes of art to my pages, that I then introduced to my shop for others to buy. I wanted to say this before I launch into what I do so you know where I come from and what I am about. So right now, I want to talk to those out there, that think or have been told that a bit of journaling will help with their well-being. Your there online seeing all those terms and pages wondering how you can achieve that and where to start. Let me start with you don’t have to, you don’t have to jump from never writing anything down to beautiful artistic spreads you share with the world. You don’t have to become a Bullet Journaling guru overnight, but if this is something you want to become then there are some great books out there to take you through the method basics, perhaps I’ll do a quick guide in time. Journaling for well-being can be as simple as putting pen to paper and getting the thoughts jumping round your head onto paper. That sometimes can be very difficult to do, here I am hoping to give you some tips to journaling for well being, they are not firm rules and you can take or leave whichever you choose. In society we tend to put on a face, we tend to control what and how we say things, often we put on our OK face. It’s OK not to be OK, it’s OK to be angry, sad, happy or any emotion you are feeling in your writing, this is your journal, it is your emotions. It’s also OK to have days where you don’t want to write anything, sometimes where nothing comes from the mind to the pen too. I will say however to try and write everyday if you can, why? Well, after a few weeks daily journaling becomes a habit, you can even miss it if you don’t do a daily entry, but by skipping days the mind can get complacent and that habit can fall to the wayside and then you find a journal with only a few entries because you stopped putting in the effort. Journals and Pens, as I’ve said it can be as much as a scrap bit of paper and a pencil, however, I do love a beautiful notebook journal and I write with a fountain pen, just to feel more like I am writing a book when I make my entries. It’s up to you, but it can be exciting picking up your special journal to write your journal. Tip 1: Index This tip is one I really recommend. Number your pages, I like to number the bottom right corner of every Right facing page (so every other one) so like 1,3,5,7 etc. but number how you like. If you struggle with numbers, you can always Letter each page. Then allocate room at the front on the Journal to put your index (yes you can put it at the back too if you want). I like to divide the page into two columns and then number down the columns leaving a line between each number to give me room to write. Tip 2: Title It sounds like a book doesn’t it but putting what kind of journal and the start date, I know when I look inside the front cover exactly which book this is, I also add the end date when finished. This proves very useful if like me you collect pretty notebooks and have several the same. Tip 3: Date At the start of each daily entry I put the date. You can then if you want to put the date on the index, since some entries might be a page and others may ramble on across several. I save my index for other things I’ll mention later. Indexing the date means you can find it at a quick glance. Tip 3: Music I’m dyslexic and when I’m struggling to focus or write I put classical music on. There are some clinical papers written on the effects of classical music helping with the dyslexic brain and aiding it to focus. I was told this in my uni days and have used it ever since, in fact, it’s on now while I’m typing this. Tip 4: Where to start You may find your own way of getting the thoughts from your head to the page, but it can be difficult to get started. It is common for the mind to whirr with problems and worries. So, stop, think of something good that happened that day, be it the sun was shining, the snow fell, a favourite song came on the radio. That good thing set that down on the page first, calm the mind and bring it into focus. Tip 5: Hit me with the bad things Now, this might not be as easy as you think. We often feel bad about focusing on things that are nasty, we feel we should always say we are alright and that all is OK. The world isn’t like that, we spend every day with bits of good and bits of bad. When we are on form we can juggle and deal with all that but when our well being is affected it can be hard to keep all the thoughts in check. So, layout the bad things, not just as facts, put down how they make you feel, how they make you react. Include any actions they caused that might have been bad, annoying or even good. I can fill pages while doing this, don’t be afraid to tell the pages all the emotions you are going through. Why do that? Well, it’s part of reflection, its not only looking at the bad things in life, its acknowledging how they made you feel and react. That way you accept that they are happening, not denying them. This allows you to process them rather than trying to push them away. As we know pushing something away, trying to ignore it only makes it come back bigger and affect you more. I often find that getting them out onto paper is like emptying them from my mind, I deal with them. If it’s a problem I often find a solution and help myself to move on. If its something that has no solution, it often helps me to acknowledge that and move on from it, rather than letting it spin round and round in my head like a washing machine. Tip 6: Interruptions When our well-being is out of kilter so is our mind and thought patterns can be totally random. So, if your mind interrupts you with this week’s shopping list, don’t worry, add a space/line and write your shopping list. Remember the index, yeah now you get it, go to the index and pop in the shopping list against that page, but include the date it’s for, then when you are checking the index you know which shopping list to look up. Once you’ve done that, add a space/line and go back to where you were. Tip 7: Details Details Part 1: I like to give a lot of details, since becoming a spoonie (A person living with Chronic Illnesses) my mind isn’t the sharp tool it was when I was a stage Manager. I find putting in as much of the detail that is in my head not only good for me, but helpful with the brain fog and poor memory I now have. If I reflect back on my journal in years to come, I want to know the feelings that the good and bad things were causing me that day, I won’t be able to do that if I have glossed over the details. Details Part 2: Be detailed on your details, if you spoke to Tony, put Tony’s surname, where he is, how you know him, what his appearance is like. It may seem daft at the time to record that much detail, but having read some of my teenage diaries I regret not having put that detail into them as I have no idea who the person is I am talking about. Tip 7: Finishing on a high We don’t want to spend all our time journaling about all the worrying bad things the world is giving us after only putting just one good thing, that’s not the way for a positive mental attitude. Take some time here and find some good things that happened to you today. Did someone say hello, did you do something stupid, was it a special day. When things are bad it can be hard to come up with good things to put down. So here is where I challenge you, find three things at the end of every journal entry that has been good to you that day or made you smile or you are looking forward to, go on I know you can do it and if you find more than three, great, keep going. It doesn’t matter how small the thing is, if it’s good its good. That way at the end of the day you find things to lift your well-being. Really can’t find anything. Then make a list of everything of one colour in a room, each day work room to room or colour to colour. Make a list of things you want to listen to or watch; remember with these lists to index them then you can find them again when you want a play list or a boxset binge watching day. Tip 8: Reflection It is at this point that I reflect on what I have put in my journal. For me this is where I add my art (in my case stencilling) around what I have written. From adding boarders or flourishes to sections of an entry to adding little pieces of art in the gaps at the ends of lines. I use this to help me go through what I have written and to also brighten up what I have reflected on each day. However you do reflection is entirely up to you, but I do feel before you close the journal on that day it is a great way to conclude the days feelings and emotions. What should you take away from journaling? Well, it’s different for every user. I can only tell you my own personal experience. I spend all day home alone, with only a cat for company trying to run my own business with chronic health conditions. My husband would get home from a full day of working in the NHS, to then have me launch an entire day of my thoughts at him before he had even got changed. Journaling allowed me to do that at paper instead of him, it helps me to rationalise my thoughts, process them, deal with them. Then, when I did speak to my hubby it went back to being more of a normal end of the day type of chats, with just the bits that I really needed to talk to someone about. I found my productivity to be better as my mind wasn’t mulling over the thoughts from the day before, unless they were thoughts that still needed to be in my head. That’s what I took away from it, try it see what it can do for you. Well there you go, eight tips to get you started with some well-being journaling. I hope you give it a go and if you want to get into any of the other journaling styles there is plenty of help out there online.