The importance of keeping a journal.
Growing up, you might have kept a little book or even pieces of paper (as I used to) hidden in places only you know (I used to burn or eat them up to destroy evidence). You might not have called this little book a diary or a journal but this became a serious confidant to confess your struggles and the ‘itchy sins’ without having to fear punishment and/or judgy eyes. I remember how good it felt to get rid of the emotions and anxious thoughts by putting them on paper before eating them up or burning them.
Fast forward, many years later, the habit fades, and there is this feeling that once you start entering the adulthood stage you need to deal with struggles head on. This feeling is a lie. It becomes murkier in an all-depressing sense.
The concept of journaling still makes sense in adulthood. As a matter of fact, it makes more sense because with adulthood comes many more responsibilities that need your attention. And this can be very stressful and can lead to depression.
So what is journaling?
It is simple! Writing down your thoughts and feelings to allow yourself to understand them with clarity. More importantly, if you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, finding a consistent way of writing down your thoughts in a journal can be quite helpful in allowing yourself to gain control of your emotions and track your emotional health.
Using a mood journal to keep track of mental health
If you ask anyone who has sat in a patient seat as a result of depression and anxiety or any kind of mood disorder, you will realize how volatile the feelings can be.
Stability comes but only in bits. One moment you are ok, another moment you are moody, your emotions travel down the unwinding long spiral of panic and sadness all over again.
For this reason, keeping a mood journal can be extremely beneficial. By keeping a daily log of your emotional temperature, you can start to identify the patterns of behavior and are better equipped to catch a depressive episode before a full-blown relapse happens.
Benefits of keeping a journal
Journaling your thoughts is an outlet in itself. To let out negative thoughts, overwhelming emotions whether good or bad. It is very helpful in tracking and managing your mental health. The following are ways journaling is helpful:
- Manage anxiety
- Reduce stress
- Cope with depression
Journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by:
- Helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns
- Tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them
- Providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors
When you have a problem and you’re stressed, keeping a journal can help you identify what’s causing that stress or anxiety. Then, once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and, in turn, reduce stress.
Keep in mind that journaling is just one aspect of a healthy lifestyle for better managing stress, anxiety, and mental health conditions. To get the most benefits, be sure you also:
- Relax and meditate each day.
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly—get in some activity every day.
- Treat yourself to plenty of sleep each night.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
Ideas to include in your journal
Tracking your mood can be one of the best ways of taking care of mental health. A journal is all you need to begin this journey. We suggest a few ideas to include in your journal. These ideas will help you keep track of your mood and eventually help improve mental health.
The entry time and date
This is not as obvious as it may seem. It is important to keep track of the time and date to avoid cases of forgetting, especially for journals that are blank. Write down the time, day of the week and the complete date.
The length of sleep and how you sleep
A person’s mood will definitely be affected by how long they sleep. Which makes hours of sleep an important record in your journal. It is not given that the moods will fluctuate on the same day you had less sleeping hours, but in the course of a few weeks, months or years, the fluctuations will come knocking. The circadian cycle is easily disrupted by inconsistent sleep patterns which eventually fluctuate the hormones of the body that regulate sleepfulness and wakefulness (serotonin) as well as fluctuations in body temperature.
Sleep affects our appetite, our reflexes, and how effectively we deal with stress. By keeping track of sleep patterns over a span of time, we can predict fragile moods and work to get ourselves back in balance.
The Menstrual cycle
Five days before the 28 day regular occurrence, women experience a dip in their mood. Ovulation triggers a number of symptoms in some women, and this runs until the onset of menstruation. Some of these symptoms may be an indicator of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Why is it important to record the Menstrual date in the mood journal? Because it will help you know the days you should expect to be fragile. It is a good precaution for preparedness
Scale and describe the mood
Include a yardstick in your mood journal. Try to describe the mood in the best way possible. Describing your mood at different times of the day helps you to track the fluctuations and draw their patterns hence deal with them better hence better mental health.
Scaling helps attach the intensity of the thought, the pain and the depression. Where can you place it between 1 and 10 (1 being the least and 10 the highest). You can also use other methods like feeling emojis, symbols or colors. Whichever is simple and makes sense to you in your tracker.
Write down the daily triggers
Whether you are dealing with chronic anxiety or not, there will always be a trigger to a stressful moment. Jot down those triggers. Bad day at the office, stubborn kids, incomplete assignments on deadline day, rowdy touts, misunderstandings with your husband, a bad word in the bus, name them. Write them all down in your mood journal and by so doing you can try to make sense of the dips and spikes in your mood.
Every time you see a doctor right down the treatment regimen given. You are right to ask questions of why you are being put on a certain test and given certain drugs. You can find here some of the questions to ask before a treatment regimen or a medical test.
Secondly, write the medications and treatment plans in your mood journal. By writing them down, in their exact amounts you are taking, you can see for yourself which ones seem to be working, which ones aren’t, which ones cause side-effects that you can’t tolerate, or which dose seems to be the most therapeutic.
You have a much more invested interest in your wellbeing than does your doctor, so you need to stay on top of your treatment plan and contribute your well-informed opinions to conversations about which medications to try and how much.
Keeping track of your mood can be work. Hectic and time consuming. However, in itself is therapeutic and fulfilling. Every time you record events and triggers in your mood fluctuations, you increase your chances of getting better mental health. This is the right path to mental wellness. Start journaling today!