One of the many hardships of the Covid pandemic is the social isolation we feel.
The surge of mental health issues resulting from the social distance and quarantine requirements has been well documented, with some even calling it our “mental health pandemic.”
As we look for ways to wrestle with the feelings and emotions that come from having our lives on hold, one especially helpful way to liberate ourselves from negative thoughts is through journaling.
Yes, you may have to get past the connotation of journal writing as an activity associated with lovelorn adolescent girls. But, in fact, journaling is a practice utilized by some of history’s greatest minds—Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Marie Curie were all avid journal writers. We don’t have to be good writers or even decent spellers to keep a journal. Our journal is meant for our eyes alone.
Entire bodies of research have documented the benefits of journaling—not only for mental, but also physical health. The simple act of shifting, processing, and capturing our thoughts—even venting nagging emotions or disastrous events—has been found to have cathartic effects.
Expressing thoughts in writing can empower us to work through unhelpful thought patterns or come up with solutions for working our way past them. It can even help us find the humor in some situations.
If that’s not reason enough to try journaling, consider these other well-documented positive effects:
>> Reduces pent-up stress
>> Lets go of negative thoughts
>> Calms and clears the mind
>> Enhances self-awareness
>> Promotes a positive frame of mind
As you try to stave off the blues while waiting for an end to the pandemic, give journaling a try. To get started, commit to writing for at least five minutes, four to five times a week. Don’t be surprised if these journaling sessions soon grow to 10, 15, or even 20 minutes as you start to investigate all the pent-up thoughts you’ve been carrying around.
If staring at a blank page feels intimidating at first, here are some ways to break through your writer’s block:
1. Reflect on what you’re grateful for. Even in bleak times, we can find aspects of our lives for which we can feel grateful. It may be for loved ones, for the comforts of home, or for the gift of life itself. Focusing on what we have, rather than what we’ve been forced to live without, will help put any sadness into perspective.
2. Chronicle events from the day. Simply taking time to write down what we accomplished or with whom we made contact through the day can not only improve our memory but help us reflect on any knowledge or insights we may have gained.
3. List and track your goals and dreams. While it may feel as though pursuing our dreams is on hold until after the pandemic, keeping our goals and dreams front and center through journaling is a way to regularly check in and keep our thoughts future-focused. We may even find ways to take action now or fine-tune our strategies.
4. Confront a painful memory. Often, what causes anxiety are circumstances in which we feel we’ve been mistreated or misunderstood. When these memories weigh us down, journaling is a way to lighten the burden. Try writing a letter to the person you need to forgive, even if you don’t intend to send it. Work through what it would mean to let go of the hurt.
5. Use mixed media. If you’re more visual in your form of self-expression, feel free to embellish the pages of your journal with photographs, drawings, pictures from magazines, ticket stubs, pressed flowers, and more. Doodles, random margin notes, and cartoon-style blurbs are all fair game.
Once you’ve completed each journal entry, read through what you’ve written and take a few moments to reflect on it. You may have final thoughts to add or come up with actions to take after you’ve processed your ideas.