Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday's Mental Health Moment

Let's talk about my favorite topic today: Journaling.

I began writing and keeping journals in elementary school.  I can still remember my first diary.  It was blue and had a cheap gold lock on it.  The key was tiny and bent every time I unlocked the diary.  Eventually, I lost the key and just broke the lock off.  I don't remember what I was writing about in that little book, but I remember using colored pens and practicing my cursive.  Third grade in Mrs. Weller's class, I looked forward to two things: Cursive and Mrs. Weller playing guitar for us.      

Early on, I learned that writing was an outlet and served a very therapeutic purpose for me.  Even though my only publication was in a literary magazine published through my college, I consider myself a writer.  Not a professional writer, but a writer at heart.  I've written fiction, poetry, essays, research papers, a literature review, songs, book reviews, and non-fiction.  Keeping a journal probably my favorite form of writing because I can put whatever I want on the page.  There are no rules.  I can even misspell words, use incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, and not care.  (Not much different from this blog, huh?)  It is something I find to be relaxing and I often write in my journal right before I go to sleep at night.  

What are the benefits of keeping a journal?
(These are just a few of my personal benefits that I have found through my writing.  I'm sure anyone who keeps a journal could come up with their own list of benefits.)

  • It is a tool that helps me reflect on the day before I begin a new one.
  • I use it to set and assess goals.  They say that when you write down a goal, you are more likely to accomplish it.  I have found this to be true.  
  • When I pass on, my journals and writings will be something I leave behind.  I wish my grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even my parents kept journals.  
  • I've been in many different mindsets and my journals reflect that.  I can look back on my writings and see how many struggles I have gone through and how I came through each one a better, stronger person.  
  • It's cheap therapy! 
  • When I journal, I tend to be more motivated to accomplish things.
  • Eases stress and allows me to vent about whatever I want to vent about.  Sometimes there are burdens on my shoulders I don't want to talk to another person about.  My journal is non-judgemental.    
  • I use my journal as a reminder to stay focused.  To stay positive.
  • It's a record of things I don't want to forget.  

So, you've never journaled before?  How do you start?

First things first, you need a journal.  It can be anything.  A notebook, a calendar (yes, people journal in calendars), a journal, a sketchbook, a photo album.  This is your baby.  Find something that works for you.  My favorite place to find a journal is Barnes and Noble.  They have a huge selection, but some can be a bit expensive.  Try shopping online.  

When I studied abroad in Belize, we had to have a journal.  It was an ecology course, so they wanted us to have sketchbooks instead of lined journals.  In addition to journaling, we were supposed to sketch some of the things we were observing.  This was three years ago and this completely changed the way I journal.  I no longer buy lined journals.  I like the freedom of having a completely blank page to fill.  These are the sketchbooks I purchase and you can find them in a variety of colors at Barnes and Noble.    
8x11 Sketchbook
$9.95 at Barnes and Noble
*As a personal preference, I avoid spiral bound journals and sketchbooks.  They come apart easily and the pages tend to fall out.

I work in Inpatient Behavioral Health and one of my favorite groups to teach is a group on journaling.  Unfortunately, most of my journals are in storage and I don't think I'd be comfortable bringing them to work to show patients the endless possibilities of journaling.  So, I started one that I could bring to use as a demonstration journal and I am having a blast with it!  Here are a few sample pages:

A few things I do in my journal:

  • When I journal about the day, I always put the date somewhere on the page.  
  • What I write (Not always all of these in one entry... just some ideas of things to include):
    • Something that made me laugh
    • Something I learned
    • An event that occurred (a holiday, a current event, a birthday, a storm etc...)
    • Something I could have done differently
    • Something kind someone did for me
  • Write lists!
    • Lists of "Favorites"
      • Favorite Songs
      • Favorite Movies
      • Favorite Places
      • Dream Travel Destinations
      • Favorite Places I've visited
      • Favorite Useless Facts (I have way more of these than anyone needs!)
      • Favorite Restaurants, Foods, Beverages
      • Favorite Summer Activities
      • Favorite Winter Activities
      • Favorite Apps
      • Favorite Websites
      • Favorite Coping Skills
      • Favorite Unhealthy Coping Skills 
      • Favorite Childhood Toys
      • Favorite Memories
    • Accomplishments
    • Goals 
      • Include steps to achieve them!
    • Positive Words to Use More Often
  • Make a page of favorite song lyrics
  • Go somewhere and just make observations of what you see! (At a park, a coffee shop, the mall)
  • Write down quotes that you hear throughout the day
  • Make a page of your favorite quotes from movies
  • Make a timeline of your life so far

I'm sure this is the first of many journaling blog entries I post.  In the meantime, go unleash your inner writer!!  

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