Treatment for depression normally consists of a combination of psychotherapy and medication such as antidepressants. But what are some daily activities that can help manage the symptoms of depression? Mental health experts have found evidence that journaling can help.
How can something as simple as journaling help alleviate depression? There are several theories as to how writing down your thoughts can have a positive impact on mood. Journaling can help you become more aware of your thoughts, according to psychotherapist Cynthia McKay. Expressing yourself in a journal can bring your thoughts and feelings to the surface. Many people are surprised by what they write (Robinson, 2017). Clinical psychologist Perpetua Neo says that journaling allows you to take control, “when we write things down, they feel more manageable.” Taking the time to write out your thoughts on paper forces you to put things into perspective, and can help put a damper on feelings of worthlessness and bring you back to reality (Robinson, 2017).
Journaling truly allows the patient to take an active role in their own treatment; it’s something you can do for yourself that in return makes you feel better. Charlynn Ruan, a licensed clinical therapist, says she often uses gratitude and affirmation journaling techniques with her clients in order to reinforce positive thinking and self-talk. Ruan also says that “writing about happy memories is especially powerful because depression tends to bring up negative feelings. It’s like retraining your brain” (Robinson, 2017).
Being able to recognize patterns in your moods is another benefit of journaling. A journal is essentially a way to track your symptoms and pinpoint your triggers. By looking back at past entries, you’re able to analyze what triggered your feelings and how to better handle stressful situations. For example, you may notice by reading your entries that you tend to have a more depressed mood when your work schedule is jam-packed and you have several important deadlines coming up. By recognizing this, you can better prepare yourself for these stressful times by planning some self-care time into your nightly routine or treating yourself to dinner from your favorite spot.
Depression is considered a mental illness that results from distorted thinking, meaning you may over analyze situations or jump to the worst conclusions without knowing the full story (Journaling for Anxiety, 2019). Recording your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a journal allows you to see patterns in distorted thinking and correct the thoughts to be more positive and realistic.
A journal can be used as a tool during therapy sessions too. The journal should be brought to sessions and used to jot down any key points you address during the session. Entries from the previous week can be discussed, finally, keeping a section in your journal with questions for your therapist can be helpful (Journaling for Anxiety, 2019). Being able to look back on past entries and realize how much you’ve grown and improved since you began treatment is another motivating factor to start journaling. Having written proof of recovery, better times, and happy memories can be helpful to look back during rough days or relapses in depression
Overall, it is clear that keeping a journal is an effective way to help manage depression on your own. However, it is still important to seek help from a mental health professional if you think you’re struggling with depression. Journaling is a tool to alleviate symptoms of depression, not cure them. Medication and psychotherapy used in conjunction are still proven to be the most effective forms of treatment for depression. Journaling gives you the opportunity to explore your own feelings, thoughts, and emotions on a deeper level and analyze your own thought patterns in order to help improve your depression.
Journaling for anxiety treatment and depression treatment. (2019, February 18). Retrieved April 05, 2021, from https://shermanconsulting.net/journaling-anxiety-depression/
Robinson, K. (n.d.). How to manage depression by writing in a journal. Retrieved April 05, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/writing-your-way-out-of-depression