The pandemic caused worldwide mental health issues from the moment lockdowns were put in place. Among the many stressors placed on people’s mental well-being were financial crises that people were forced to contend with, the paranoia of getting infected with the virus, and coping with the loss of loved ones. The world has been in the vicious throes of the pandemic ever since.
During times like these, some people like to bottle up their emotions, while others, of the more vociferous inclination, talk about their mental anguish to feel better and release the built-up stress. However, there are various ways one can go about sharing one’s feelings.
Journaling is the perfect choice of expressing pent-up feelings, without having to worry about being criticized or judged for feeling or thinking a certain way.
Types of journaling
Numerous types and techniques of journaling are practiced by individuals seeking mental well-being. Each type has its own set of unique benefits for mental health. Some of the most popular journaling types are:
Gratitude journaling involves writing about the things one feels grateful for. The primary purpose is to inculcate the habit of gratitude by reminding oneself of the good in one’s life, no matter how insignificant that good may seem.
Anonymous letter journaling is your opportunity to vent your frustrations and disappointments onto a page regarding a person, place, event, or whatever that is the cause of your distress. The letter, although specifically addressed at something or someone, is never meant to be sent.
Trauma recovery journaling is a form of therapeutic journaling that is often recommended to people with severe mental health issues induced by trauma or substance abuse. Recovery centers, like the Delphi Health Group, include journaling-based therapy in their daily schedules for recovering users.
Additionally, this journaling technique helps patients work through their own traumatic experiences and might involve perspective-shifting writing drills recommended by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) experts.
Stream of consciousness journaling suggests that one scribbles the stream of thoughts going on in the mind without passing judgment over one’s thoughts or correcting one’s own grammatical errors.
Positive effects of journaling on mental health
No matter the type of journaling you choose, the motive behind each is to provide you with an improved outlook on life and to be able to cope with stressful mental challenges. Some of the worthwhile mental health benefits of journaling include:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Based on research, journaling has been found to reduce stress and anxiety in patients with chronic psychiatric illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and stage fright. The stream of negative thoughts experienced by these individuals often affects their judgment, resulting in unpleasant outcomes.
With Journaling, a more analytically-produced judgment is rendered after sifting through the uninterrupted pessimistic thoughts, thereby, avoiding the impending consequences of choosing and judging aimlessly. The pandemic caused normal people to display abnormally high anxious behavior. A trusted method in the CBT space, journaling was the only easily accessible yet highly effective tool for addressing mental health issues.
You might ask, what is the relation between the body’s immunity and journaling? Because journaling is as effective as meditation at relieving stress and pressure, it helps with lowering cortisol, a stress hormone responsible that when elevated compromises our immunity. So, when you journal, your cortisol levels drop, thereby, improving the overall function of your immune system.
With enhanced immunity, there are lesser chances of catching infections. Journaling not only lives up to its reputation for being an excellent mental health tool but, in showing its effectiveness at boosting our immunity, it proves that it’s so much more than just a writing exercise.
Reduces depressive symptoms
When lockdowns were imposed, amid soaring death rates from COVID, a lot of people suffered, for the first time in their lives, episodes of extreme depression and hopelessness, generally marked by a lack of energy, disturbed sleeping patterns, constant feelings of sadness and sorrow, and, in more severe cases, suicidal thoughts.
A visit to the hospital was unthinkable for a lot of people for fear of accidentally contracting the virus. Without access to proper counseling and therapy, journaling was the only healthy conduit available for processing depressive thoughts.
Improves cognition and memory
Journaling involves recalling and writing down events happening in one’s life as accurately as possible, irrespective of whether the events are good or bad. A constant recollection of thoughts on paper provides us with windows to the past, and when after a long time has passed, those journal scribblings will take you back down the memory lane and onto some fond and bitter memories.
You’ll begin to feel nostalgic about your past as you associate each entry with a specific event in your life, flashes of which will flicker in your memory as you read. Your cognitive functions will benefit from this exercise in recollection, and might help you delay, or completely forego, the onset of dementia in old age.
Helps in trauma management
If you’ve had COVID, or cared for a family member with COVID, then you’ve probably gone through the traumatic stress of the disease. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental disorder that refers to the stress experienced after the passing of a traumatic event.
Psychologists suggest using trauma journaling for people who have been through a traumatic experience because it helps you come to terms, on your own self, with the reality of the trauma.
Whether you are experiencing strong emotions because of having come so close to death because of COVID, or you’re tending to a family member in the grips of the disease, journaling can help you overcome PTSD symptoms most commonly experienced by people during and after trauma.
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Journaling is an extremely effective therapy technique that is usually recommended for patients suffering from mental health issues. There is no doubt that COVID caused a lot of mental health problems worldwide, and with no access to in-house counseling sessions, journaling turned out to be the most effective yet universally accessible tool for processing difficult emotions and thoughts.