Journaling for mental health and self awareness
By Amina Maikori
There are over 300 mental ailments in the world. And while certain countries are able to meetup with the high number of cases that require psychologists, some do not even have an adequate number of trained personnel to handle mental health cases.
Journaling - which is a form of writing done in the first person narrative - is being used by some as a form of first aid. I have been journaling since I was a child - more as a means of documenting my plans and activities. In the last three years however I realized that journaling does far much more than that.
Forms of Journaling
Sometime in 2017, I picked up a journal I kept when I was 18 and was startled to realise that many things I do today are as a result of things I’d written down as Plans years ago. I also found I was able to empty my very busy mind; it was calming for me and I resolved to do it more frequently. Now here’s a really great thing about Journaling- it can be done in a variety of ways: Artist, Leonardo Da Vinci’s journal has a series of sketches and drawings that are believed to have been the foundation for his creativity. Singer Janet Jackson says she uses her music as a way of journaling. Mine is done through writing mainly but as a Multimedia Specialist, I like to incorporate a variety of forms and share with people in a Course I’ve titled, ‘ Journaling Your Way To Self Awareness ‘.
The power of questions
They say that you are as powerful as the questions you ask. I agree and also believe you are as self aware as the questions you are able to answer. Journaling enables you to do both- it is the most therapeutic form of writing if done properly. It enables you to be Self Aware by building within you the power to accept responsibility for your successes as well as failures. The right sort of questions will enable you to search within.
The advantages of journaling
Writing down the bubbling thoughts, hurts, joys- because it’s supposed to represent a cocktail of thoughts and actions will cut down your anxiety. Journaling enables you to document thoughts and later use them as a reference point. Being able to unearth your mind and pinpoint deep worries in itself gives a sense of relief and lift your mood.
Most people are worried about their careers and finances. This eventually spreads to other aspects of their lives.
I also discovered that:
Some bad experiences have led some to unconsciously block out important details of their past.
Many have experienced depression or extreme sadness at some point of their lives.
People have close friends they are afraid to confide in. It’s easier to pretend to be fine rather than admit they have challenges.
So this is where the art of journaling comes in. I define it as an honest conversation with yourself, a safe space free of judgement.
Journaling as a first aid
Just in case you missed it, I am a writer and a multimedia Specialist, not a psychologist.
I live in a society with growing cases of suicide and mental issues that are not being properly addressed because seeing a psychologist is not a norm. Aside from this, many with psychology degrees do not actually practice.
The scarcity of psychologists isn’t just common to Nigeria but also to large economies like the US. A significant number of people who need a psychologist in the US do not have the required insurance. So what can they do?
Enter Journaling. It’s affordable and once learnt can be a lifelong tool that can act as a sort of first aid to determine whether you are depressed or have some sort of clinical mental issue.
US psychologist, Dr. Kali Cyrus says: ‘If you are feeling sad or down and are not sure why, journaling is a way of exploring why that might be."
Easy ways to journal
Guard your privacy: When people first started journaling it was mostly with hard prettily bound books. Today the digital sphere gives room to document our activities on our smart phones- mostly in the notes section but everyone knows that! Passwording your entries will give you the confidence to write from your heart, knowing that no one has access to it.
Practice a short Self Awareness exercise: Sit alone in a room- not watching TV or listening to music or playing on your phone. Just sit there still for about 10 minutes. Then ask yourself , how happy am I today? Write your answer down along with at least two reasons for it. Don’t forget to put down your date for each entry.
Write Daily: Writing into your journal daily will help you notice patterns. It is only when we notice patterns that we can move to change them. That’s when we can begin changing the things we do not like in our lives.
Amina Maikori is a Writer and Multimedia Specialist. She is the author of ‘The Demystification Of Stephen’. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @aminamaikori.com. On LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/amina-maikori-b8a7474. You can also subscribe to her blog www.aminamaikori.com