As a writer — and also as someone who has dealt with anxiety throughout my life — I’ve always found journaling to be a very therapeutic outlet for me. A meditation, if you will.
Keeping a journal not only allows you to document the events of your life, but is also a way to get things off of your chest and onto the page! That’s the thing…I think as humans we hold everything in so much that it begins to boil over. Sometimes writing it down feels like a relief.
In relation to my generation especially — us eccentric Millennials — anxiety is extremely prevalent, and has even been called “the most anxious generation” (according to Gardenoflife.com). The reasons for this are a dime a dozen; from increased social media use over the years to “career crisis and choice overload” (Forbes).
But regardless of the cause and effect, it is important to know that there are ways to manage that anxiety! And journaling is one of them…
There are no rules when it comes to keeping a journal, diary, etc., but I will share with you what works for me.
I’d tried keeping a journal a few times as a kid, a teenager, blah, blah, blah. But it wasn’t until I took a poetry class in college that it became more routine. We were required to keep a journal and collect the events of our lives in there as well as different assignments that we’d eventually evolve into a poem for grading. This class really changed my life and had a significant influence on my future as a writer. It helped me discover my passion for poetry. That is what is so powerful about journaling too…you discover a lot about yourself while self-reflecting.
Then I read Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” — that’s when I really started to fill up journal after journal after journal! It became a meditative for me. I talk about this book ALL the time because it was not only impactful for me as a writer, but as a person going through the ups and downs of life in general.
“The Artist’s Way” teaches you to get into the habit of journaling every day — and hopefully so habitually that you set a specific time for it. Journaling just three pages, jotting down anything that comes to mind. Even if that means writing down “I don’t know what to write” for three pages straight. It’s an exercise that not only helps you to vent about your life, but also eliminates that negative voice in your head — that inner self-critic that may judge you for your writing or words. Move past it as hard as it will try to creep in and KEEP WRITING. This concept, that is used for writers and artists, can be transferred over to real life and dealing with anxiety and that inner voice once again that so many of us deal with throughout our day.
Another way to use journaling as therapy/meditation, is writing down mantras. At the end of my journaling, I will decide my mantra for the day and write it down five times to drill it into my head — whether it be, “I am present”, “I am strong”, or whatever mantra you need for your day!
There have been quite a few studies done on the correlation between journaling and decreased anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, “in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 281, No. 14) 107 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients wrote for 20 minutes on each of three consecutive days.” Out of these patients, 71 of them wrote about the most “stressful” occurrence they’ve dealt with. Revisiting these patients months later, “the 70 patients in the stressful-writing group showed improvement on objective, clinical evaluations compared with 37 of the control patients”. That is some powerful stuff. They also discovered that “those who wrote about stress improved more, and deteriorated less, than controls for both diseases”.
If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety or just needs a creative outlet, journaling or keeping a diary is such a great way of coping. Think about how carefree little kids are…how fearless they are when it comes to keeping a diary and writing down their deepest emotions and secrets without any judgement of themselves! Channel your inner eight-year-old. Be free. Don’t judge yourself for how you feel or how you write. Sometimes writing things down is hard at first, it challenges you to face things. But it is a great relief.