For those who have trouble expressing their feelings aloud, you should really try journaling. Yes, this might sound an awful lot like something your therapist might say, but it’s something to think about. Journaling is one of the most effective ways of getting your thoughts and feelings out in a noncommittal way. Journals don’t have to be pretty and creative, they just have to be a safe place for you to be able to communicate what’s going on inside your head. When I first started journaling, I wrote all my entries as poems. Not only did this allow me to become more in touch with myself, but it allowed me to be able to channel my feelings into a positive outlet. Of course, no one expects your journals to all become Pulitzer Prize winners, but seeing your negative thoughts and emotions surrounded by flowers and in the form of stanzas instead of unhealthy behaviors is a great feeling.

Studies have shown that journaling is a wonderful de-stresser, right along side running and taking long baths. However, while going out for a jog or sleeping for a few short hours may seem like something that everyone is capable of– it’s not. Taking your own well-being and care into your own hands is never as simple as just getting more exercise and taking baths with scented products; it’s a complicated and hard process. Journaling, in a way, is easier than those other options. For one thing, physical efforts might be hard if your having an anxiety attack, so running probably won’t go too well. And while some of us can afford the luxury of fizzy bath bombs, others are stuck with plain old tub water which defeats the purpose of #TreatYourself. Journaling is easy access and affordable! Your journal doesn’t have to be leather-bound or moleskin, it just needs enough paper for you to get down your thoughts.

Here are some tips to guide you along in your journaling experience:

Don’t Overthink It

Journaling is meant to be relaxing! You’re not going to be able to relax if you’re trying to make your journal look like something from a Pinterest board. Focus less on the appearance of the journal and more of what you’re putting into it and what you’re getting out of it. Do you feel lighter? Are you translating your feelings more easily? These are the things that really matter when you’re journaling. If your journals happen to be the next MoMA exhibit than so be it, but don’t let that be the reason you get into it.

You Don’t Have To Use Paper

A lot of people will say that writing your feelings down with pen and paper is the only way to do it, they’re wrong. If you are better at typing than you are at using a pen– type away! Journaling is supposed to make you comfortable and there are no preset ways on how you should go about finding your comfort. Typing can feel like a smaller commitment than writing and that might be exactly what you need. If you feel that scratching away with your favorite gel pen is the way to go then by all means, go ahead! Either way, this process is about you.

Don’t Edit

Journaling is about what you feel in the moment that you’re journaling, if you edit something out, how are you going to move forward? So what if something doesn’t make sense or a sentence is a bit jumbled, it’s how you feel and that’s the important thing. Editing your journal can be tempting but remember, it isn’t about how it looks, it’s about your healing. Mistakes, both literal and grammatical, are important.

Journal The Positives

All of your entries don’t have to be negative, positive things are good to reflect on too! If something good happens, journal it! In fact– for every negative, journal a positive one also. Did you make a good grade on a test? Write it down. Did you feel fat today? Write it down. Every feeling and every emotion that you have is valid, but an essential part of healing is realizing that no matter how bad things get, there will always be a positive in your life; even if it’s small.

Flip Through Your Journals 

There will be a time when you feel like you can’t go on. When that time comes, flip through your journals to see how far you’ve come. Maybe you’ll have to flip through one or maybe you’ll flip through ten, but that’s not important. The person in the pages won’t be the same person who’s looking at them. This is your journey and it might not be easy. But if you take the time to reflect on who you were, maybe you’ll be able to see that who you are at present is better and happier.

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