What is journaling?

Simply put, journaling is “writing life down.” Writing in a journal is an opportunity to pause at some point in the day to write down what’s on your mind.  There are really two key objectives to keeping a journal:

What does writing have to do with taking care of myself?

As has been stated previously on this website, the more you know, the more active role you can play in overcoming depression.  That’s true not just for understanding your diagnosis and the specifics of your treatment plan, but for knowing yourself as well.  When it comes to getting to know yourself, a journal can be a powerful tool. 

Studies have shown that journaling can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health, and can make psychotherapy more effective. The previous section of this website dealt with positive self-talk, and contained several suggestions for thinking less negatively and more constructively about yourself.   For individuals looking to become more attuned to their thoughts and more skilled at turning them around when they become counterproductive or destructive, a written journal provides a place to “catch” those thoughts, hold on to them long enough to reflect on where they came from, and experiment with how a different way of thinking might impact a given situation.

There is no right or wrong way to keep a journal.  But here are some tips on starting to journal, based on the experience of people who journal regularly and find it helpful:

What should I write?

Every person’s journal is different.  Here are a few of the things people keep track of in their journals:

It’s important to note not only life’s positive events, but the negative or stressful events as well. Research indicates that journaling can help people face stressful events, lessening the impact stress can have on their physical and emotional health.

People recovering from a depressive illness may choose to also include information in their journal specific to their symptoms and treatment. 
For example:

Who can see my journal?

Remember that a journal is first and foremost a personal tool. It’s there to help you sort out the day’s events and your reaction to them. You need to feel that anything and everything on your mind can be shared in your journal, and that it is “for your eyes only.” Take whatever steps you feel are reasonable to protect your privacy and ensure that others don’t have access to your journal.

Although your journal is a confidential tool, you may find it helpful to share insights you have gained through journaling with your healthcare provider.  For example, if you use your journal to track your symptoms and any side effects of your treatment, this can be very useful information to share during your regular appointments.