The show is almost over, the final curtains are about to come down on 2021 and a new year will ring in.  Despite all it’s shiny newness this time of year can evoke a series of bittersweet emotions.  It’s no secret that these past two years have been extraordinarily challenging; riddled with uncertainty, fear and loss which when coupled with the holiday blues can cause even the jolliest to feel down in the slumps.  For those who struggle with anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses these emotions are usually amplified making them feel as though things are spiraling out of control.  Although a new year holds so much promise, so much hope and new beginnings, those things can be hard to see when you feel unstable.  Studies have shown that keeping a journal can be helpful in tapering off some of these feelings and very beneficial for one’s overall mental health.  We at the Dismas Home of New Hampshire encourage all our residents to join in the popular act of starting a journal at the beginning of a new year.  

Where should I start?

The clean, crisp, blank pages of a journal can be so intimidating because they are flawless and you may not know where to start but rest assured there’s no right or wrong way to journal.  Here are some tips that can help you get started.

  • Write what you want.  Your journal is your personal place, use it however you like. Whether you choose to write about your past experiences, the hope for future endeavors or last night’s dream, your journal is a safe space to express your feelings, no need to sugar coat.
  • Even when you’re busy. Set aside a few minutes to write, which will help this become a habit.  Whether you choose to write daily or weekly it is best to have a consistency which can help you outline your emotional state, triggers, and progress.
  • Make it easy.  If pen and paper does not work for you, use an online journal or an app on your phone. Journaling doesn’t have to look traditional.

What are the benefits?

For those who suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression,  journaling can help you expel some of those intense spiraling thoughts trapped within you and spill them onto an external source.  This way those pent-up feelings and thoughts are now in the open and have less power over you.  In turn, seeing your feelings in black and white can help you sort through them one step at a time rather than feeling consumed by all of them all at once.  Studies have shown that journaling can help with boosting moods, improving self-awareness, improving memory power, diminishing post-traumatic symptoms such as intrusion or avoidance and the list goes on.  In short, the benefits of keeping a journal for people who suffer from depressive symptoms are quite clear. It helps them maintain a positive frame of mind, allows them to confront and diminish negative thoughts and emotions, and gives them the opportunity to enhance their sense of well-being.  For those dealing with anxiety symptoms, journaling can help you explore the experiences that make you anxious, detect your emotional triggers and clear your mind of thoughts that won’t leave you alone.  A huge benefit for anyone who chooses to journal is that it can help you establish, track and achieve the goals you set for yourself as well as keeping you accountable to those goals. Talk is cheap but reading your own words back to yourself somehow has the ability to keep you on track which can help improve the quality of your life. 

Journaling it therapeutic

It is obvious that journaling is therapeutic not only for those who suffer from mental illness but for everyone regardless of your support system.  Your journal is like a non-judgemental best friend with who you can tell your deepest feelings without fear or hesitation.  You may not know where to begin each time you want to make an entry but rather than focus heavily on it, use prompting questions such as what made me happy/sad today?  What am I grateful for? What do I wish someone told me about life? What is the most important thing to me?  What goal do I want to focus on most?  If you are struggling with prompts there are plenty of great resources online or speak to one of our staff members at the Dismas Home of New Hampshire we would be more than happy to help you.  Our journals are for us and us alone which allows us to be authentic, honest, and transparent with every thought and feeling.  While journaling has many benefits please keep in mind that it is not a substitute for getting treatment for a mental health issue.  If you are experiencing feelings of sadness, anxiousness, or are worried and stressed please reach out to your care team or a mental health counselor for help.  Happy Journaling!

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