Something that I suggest to many of my clients is keeping a journal. There are many benefits to this practice and it’s not as challenging as at first it might seem, because there are no rules; the format and content are totally up to the individual.
So, why keep a journal? Well, the first benefit in my view is that it can help slow your mind down and get those thoughts that crash around your head under some sort of control. You see, it takes more time to put your thoughts down on paper, than it does to speak them and of course thinking itself is laser fast so the process of writing itself can slow the thinking down and sharpen the mind.
Another great reason for keeping a journal is to help you see patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour. For instance, if you experience something today that you commit to writing, and then experience something similar on another day in the future, having these instances recorded can give you the opportunity to compare the circumstances in which that experience arose. For instance, lets say that you have a feeling of anxiety on a particular day and you record all that happened around that time in your journal. You might have a similar experience on a later date and comparing your journal records might reveal similarities in what brought the anxiety on. With this new awareness you can try to make changes that give you more control. Similarly, on a particular day, you might record that your mood is low. If you keep a good record of what was going on for you around that time, you may start to see patterns in what causes your mood to drop so positive action can be more easily planned.
There are also creative benefits to journal keeping. Many people use a journal to scribble down insights and ideas throughout the day that may be connected to their job, goals or tasks. Using a journal in this way can give you a sense of creative satisfaction as the task in hand becomes more rounded and complete. In fact, for many people the journal itself becomes a creation and I have seen some very imaginative uses of a simple notepad.
Keeping a journal is easy as there are no constraints. You write whatever you want. You do not have to concern yourself with spelling, neatness or perfect grammar. The goal is just to write. Indeed, there is a type of writing called free writing which is just as it sounds; write anything that comes to mind without overthinking for as long as you like.
So, where to start? In my experience, writing by hand has greater benefit than using a keyboard. This is because it is more physical, more personal without tools such as auto spell checking. But its up to you, pen and paper, or modern technology, you decide. If you use a notebook and pen, these are obviously cheap and easily accessible. If you wanted to really invest in the process, specialist journals and beautiful notebooks as well as smooth running pens are also widely available from high street stationary stores. How you do it is your call.
I suggest at first that you put aside 10 to 20 minutes at the end of the day to write in your journal. This can have the benefit off loading the stuff of your day out of your head and onto paper. It can also give a structure to your new day tomorrow. This can help with sleep.
As you progress, you can take time out throughout the day as you see fit.
There really are no rules. If you use a journal to help throughout a period of therapy, you can agree with your therapist how a journal might help.
Good luck, happy scribbling and get to it! You never know how journaling might benefit you.