In my work with children and adolescents, their parents will initiate therapy in a quest for “tools,” “skills,” “strategies,” and “resources” to help with some issue. Adult clients ask for these things too. Very often, people seem to be looking for tangible ways to lessen the symptoms of depression or manage anxiety – a solution to a problem.
As a psychologist, I find this interesting and how we think and talk about mental health in general. How many people do you know who make journaling a daily practice? My guess is, not many. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that knowing ourselves – developing self-awareness – is not always top of mind as a possible solution to mental health problems.
However, if we think about treating mental health issues in a series of steps, one of the first steps will typically be developing awareness about our own habitual patterns.
- How do we feel in certain situations?
- How do we react in response to those feelings?
- How is our communication interpreted by others?
- How do we interpret their reactions to us?
- What effect do those interpretations have on our relationships?
- How do we make meaning, and how does that meaning inform our understanding of the world and our place within it?
The average person does not spend a lot of time tuning in to their bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions moment-to-moment. However, when we notice what’s happening and begin to name the patterns we distinguish in our day-to-day lives, we have an opportunity to stand back and look at what’s happening from the position of an observer. We liberate ourselves from needing to identify with every thought, emotion, and behaviour as though these constitute some hard “reality” that defines us. We increase our freedom to think about alternative options and to make new choices which, in turn, can liberate us from situations that make us feel stuck, as though we don’t have different options.
Sometimes we really don’t have different options. At those times, we are faced with making choices about the attitudes and perspectives we hold and how these impact our sense of wellbeing.
Journaling daily is a very elegant tool for coming to understand ourselves better. It can foster self-awareness and self-compassion. It can help us organize our thoughts and set priorities. It can help us clarify our feelings when we experience mixed emotions. It can train us to become observers of ourselves and empower us to identify new possibilities for our lives and relationships. Journaling can be a powerful tool to transform our mental health.
If journaling seems too daunting, even just doing daily reflections, such as those in My Viva Plan, can yield significant positive benefits and empower us to engage more fully in our individual wellness journeys. Consider giving My Viva Plan a try if you would like to experience the benefits of simple daily reflections. Or, check out the resources online for bullet journaling and see if you can create a daily practice for yourself. Chances are, you won’t regret it!
Faye Gosnell, M.C., R Psych
Revive Wellness |My Viva Inc.