Why Journaling? And How?
Updated: May 4, 2020
Amy Kate Isaacs, Founder of The Mindful Collective and GRLKND's very own Psychologist
How has the global experience of Covid-19 impacted your mental health?
I love an excuse for personal reflection so thank you for asking me! Hmm, lockdown has impacted my mental health in a variety of ways.. including overwhelm, mental fatigue, and that sense of a cat chasing its tail. As a psychologist, my workload changed. We were already providing online therapy so that transition wasn’t too difficult; however, we just didn’t have anyone cancel. Our collective were so keen to keep focusing on their mental health (which was amazing and I’m not-so-secretly chuffed about it) which led to more and more people needing to be seen pronto.
What's been your way of 'coping'? I’ve been able to settle these reactions with meditation, gratitude and being very aware how my own perspective is impacting my mental health. Sometimes my reality really wasn’t as bad as my thoughts would have led me to believe!! Which happens to all of us at times.
"Sometimes my reality really wasn’t as bad as my thoughts would have led me to believe!! Which happens to all of us at times."
The buzzword, 'journaling' has been circulating a lot during this time of mental-health focus. Give it to us straight, is there any benefit to this exercise? There is a lot of research supporting the benefits of journaling on our wellbeing (and, actually, a few differing opinions as to the brain processes behind these benefits). It’s a wonderful self-care strategy; however, like most self-care strategies it needs to be used mindfully to really benefit us.
One of the most potent examples of this is one of the classic journaling studies (from back in 2002!! in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine) by Ullrich and Lutgendorf. They found that people who wrote about their thoughts and feelings re stressful events developed a greater awareness of the positive benefits of the stressful event, than those who just wrote about their feelings.
This is because the writers were processing both their thoughts and emotions. Also, the people who wrote about their feelings experienced more severe mental health symptoms during the study if they focused on the ‘negative’ emotional experiences from the stressful event. This is so helpful because it encourages us to focus our journaling on both our thoughts and feelings to gain that juicy, deep processing that journaling can offer.
How good! I'm glad all of those years I pulled my secret diary out from under my mattress to debrief my day in middle school were actually beneficial for processing emotional experiences. I think it's time we dropped any stigma around keeping a journal and perhaps start writing consistently and mindfully, as part of our self-care routine! PS: We have 7 journal prompts available inside the GRLKND App, with space to add entries!
Let us know if it works (or doesn't work) for you!