Free Yourself: 5 Benefits of Journaling

Woman writing in her journal

I have always been aware of the idea of journaling but I have never heard it advocated as a practice as much as I have this year.  I am sure that is due to the challenging year that this has been.  Journaling has been suggested by many as a healthy way to process the many emotions that may be felt during these times.  Many people often confuse keeping a journal with keeping a diary.  They are similar but the main difference is that a diary is a record of what happened.  A journal is a record of your thoughts and feelings.  There are several benefits to journaling.

Journal to Relieve Anxiety and Stress

Have you ever had so much on your mind that it was just too much to process?  And after you talked it out you realized that your issue was not as bad as you thought?  Journaling is similar to talking something out with a friend.  Anxiety and stress can be eased when you write out your thoughts concerning those things that are making you anxious.  Journaling can provide you with clarity if it is a decision or circumstance that is causing you stress.  Writing out your thoughts on the issue that is making you anxious could greatly assist you with solving the issue or allowing you to see the big picture.  Either of these outcomes can ease stress and anxiety.

Journal to Recognize Patterns

Whether we realize it or not, we all have patterns.  If you talk to your friends about a situation enough they can probably tell you where the situation is headed based on similar conversations.  Journaling can help you see those patterns for yourself.  As you write about how different situations make you feel or your thought process around certain decisions, you will begin to notice patterns.  You may notice that use negative self-talk or you may notice that you do not have as much confidence in yourself as you should.  Patterns can be seen as you write and then reflect on those things that you have written.  Reading past entries can provide you a new perspective on your behavior.

Journal sitting on desk

Journal to Become Empowered

Journaling can give you a sense of empowerment as you can write your deepest, most intimate thoughts.  Whether writing about your experiences or through journal prompts, you will begin to gain more clarity on how you think and how certain experiences have shaped you.  Journaling can help you discover more about yourself.  You can discover what makes you happy, what causes you stress, as well as those aspects of yourself that you wish to improve.  Discovering your personal strengths and the power you possess in these strengths is a wonderful feeling.  But discovering those areas that you may need to work on to enhance your personal growth can be life changing.

Journal to Track Goals

Journals can help you track progress toward an established goal.  After identifying your goal, a journal can help you determine both your good and bad habits that may be helping or hindering you from achieving your goal.  It could be your innermost thoughts or the company you keep but reflecting on past journal entries will help you to begin to see what your barriers are.  Likewise, you will be able to see who or what promotes a healthy path to your goals.  You will be able to learn a lot about yourself in the process and this will make future goals easier to achieve.

Journal In a Safe Zone

Have you ever just wanted to be brutally honest with someone regarding the way you felt but was leery due to the judgment that may follow this honesty?  All of us feel vulnerable from time to time.  A journal is a safe place to write what you feel in a safe space.  No one will see your inner most thoughts except those you choose to see them.  A journal is a place where you can be your most authentic self.  Feel free to write honestly as being candid is one of the main ways to get the total benefits of journaling.  You can learn a lot about yourself when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. 

Open journal on desk

These are just a few benefits of journaling.  Do you journal?  What are some benefits of journaling that you would add to this list?

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5 Benefits of Positive Thinking

Woman thinking positively and smiling
Photo by Caio Cardenas on Pexels.com

My last couple of posts have been on barriers to positivity and ways to achieve mindfulness.  This week’s post is going to focus on the benefits of positive thinking.  It can often be challenging to think positively and to always look at the bright side. Although it is challenging there are so many benefits to positive thinking. 

Woman holding firecracker and thinking positively

Positive Thinking Gives Hope

Have you ever been in a situation where the only think you had was the hope that everything was going to be all right?  Hope is often lost when you only dwell on the things that can go wrong.  By its definition, hope is the expectation and desire that something will happen.  When things are beginning to look bleak and your thoughts are beginning to shift to the negative, positive thinking can help you get focused on positive outcomes.  Positive thinking can often give you renewed hope in situations that you felt were hopeless. 

Woman looking resilient due to thinking positively

Positive Thinking Leads to Resilience

Consistent positive thinking leads to positive thinking becoming a habit.  It will become second nature to see the good in a situation and you will find that you do not always consciously talk yourself into thinking positively.  Resilience will make you better able to respond to adversity of tough circumstances with the belief that everything will work out in the long run.  Focusing on positive outcomes, and only positive outcomes, can help build the resilience that you need to make it through tough times.

Attract Other Positive People

Having a positive outlook on life will make it more likely that you will want that for other people.  Your positivity will lead you to encourage others and to want nothing but positive outcomes for them.  Consistent positive people will either attract people to you or drive people away from you.  Those with a not so positive outlook will either adapt or slowly distance themselves.  In the end, your circle will consist of those individuals whose positive thinking matches yours.  This will lead you to having a more positive set of friends and acquaintances who will consistently reciprocate your positivity.

Gratitude

Positive thinking helps you to see the positive side of things – even the things we often take for granted. When you consistently think negatively, you can miss the good things that are happening around you.  Negative thinking can sometimes have you thinking that nothing is going right and that there is nothing to be grateful.  Positive thinking will open your eyes to see the many things that you should be thankful for.  This gratitude can help you enjoy life more as you remain grateful for all that you have. This gratefulness can go a long way while working towards the things that you desire.

Better Mental Health

When you focus your energy on thinking positively, you may feel that a lot of the worries and heaviness that you carry around is alleviated.  Having a more positive outcome can help to ease anxiety which can lead to less stress.  As many of us know, stress is one of those things that can take a life of its own.  Positive thinking has been shown to lessen bouts of anxiety and depression and leading to a more consistent positive outlook on life.  Positive thinking can also help you gain a more positive view of yourself which can lead to more positive self-talk which increase your sense of self-worth.

Woman celebrating improved mental health because she started thinking positively

As you can see there are quite a few benefits to thinking positively.  Over time and with practice, hopefully you will begin to experience these benefits.

What would you add to this list?

The 3 Types of Mindsets that Can Hinder Change

Your mindset can be one of the hardest things to change.  This is mainly due to the way that we arrive at our mindsets.  Mindsets are often formed because of our upbringing, culture, life experiences, and beliefs.  Mindsets tend to be deep seated and can often be a challenge to change.

I wanted to take a moment to discuss mindsets because you must be aware of the mindsets that you hold when considering how you respond (or not) to change.   Let us explore a few mindsets.

Optimistic vs. Pessimistic.  The optimist sees life through rose colored glasses.  Everything is good, and if something bad happens, the belief is that things will get better.  The pessimist believes that everything is always dark and bleak and if, by chance, something good does happen, they will believe that is a fluke.  When the subject of making any type of change comes up, it will take more effort for person with a pessimistic mindset because the first battle will be the negative outlook on the change.  You would have to get past this negative outlook before you could begin to take the steps to make the change.

Immediate success vs. Process.  This is one that I am currently working on.  The conflicting mindsets of a persons who wants overnight success versus the person that feels that everything is a process and success is attained one step at a time.  The good thing is that no matter what the desired change is, a person with each of these mindsets will try. The person with the mindset that everything is a process will be more likely to succeed as they will understand that setbacks and bad days are a part of the process of change.  The person who believes in overnight success will be more likely to quit at the first setback or if the change comes too slowly.

Hard work vs. Lucky break.  There are those who believe that success comes from hard work. These individuals understand that change is a process but that it also involved hard work.  Anything worth having normally involves some kind of hard work.  The person who feels like success only comes by the luck of the draw will not truly try to make a change.  If a half-hearted attempt at change is made and they fail, they will assume that the change was not meant for them.  I see this a lot when people speak of professional goals.  Some people believe in working hard to get the recognition needed to obtain a promotion.  Others believe that it is all about who you know, and skills and knowledge does not really matter.

Let us consider these mindsets in the context of change.  Can you really be successful with a diet if you believe all success should be immediate and that you will not have setbacks?  Can you realistically begin to work towards a dream or a goal if you believe that successful people are only successful because of who they know and not because of hard work?  Here are a few ways that you can change your mindset to see the change that you are working so hard for.

 

  1. Clarify what you want to change.  It is important that you know the why behind your need to change your mindset.  If you can identify the reason behind the change in mindset, the change is more likely to last.
  2. Make the decision to change.  This sounds like a lot like the first point but there is a slight difference.  The first point is speaking to knowing why you should change – this point is you deciding to change.  Many of us can know the benefits of a change and still not decide to make the change.  So, a definitive decision to make a change is necessary.
  3. Challenge your thoughts.  Any type of change can be hard and changing a mindset is no different.  When old thoughts that are connected to old habits begin to push their way in, it is imperative that you make a conscious effort to push back against those thoughts and focus on your new positive thoughts.
  4. Give yourself a break. Mindsets were not formed overnight, and they will be not be changed overnight.  Give yourself room to have a set back if you go slip to your old mindset and ways.  Just be conscious of this, reset, and move forward.
  5. Change actions.  Operate in the actions of your new mindset even if you are still working to completely change your mindset.  If you have determined that the change is your mindset is needed, begin to act as if your mindset is already changed.  It may feel unnatural at first, but you will eventually begin to walk in your new mindset and habits will begin to change.

What mindset pattern or patterns do you fall into? What do you think can help you come out of it?

Join me next time where I will be discussing lifestyle changes.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Four)

Today is the final day of this series about stress and I wanted to end on a high note.  I hope to assist you with ways to help alleviate your stress. Please remember that, although stress is all around us, stress can be managed and there are quite a few things that you can do to manage your stress.  Hopefully one of these things can assist you on your quest to alleviate your stress.

1. Journaling.  Get some of those thoughts out of your head and on paper. Journaling can also help you notice patterns in your behavior and can help you with your self-reflection.

2. Exercising. Stress can be relieved through exercise because exercising produces endorphins which reduce your stress levels. Regular exercise can go a long way in your efforts to manage your stress.

3. Laughing.  Have you ever had a good, deep belly laugh that pulled you out of a bad mood? Laughter can take your mind off of your stressor while easing a lot of muscle tension.

4. Meditation.  Meditation allows you to get to such a deep place of relaxation that you are able to sort through all of your jumbled thoughts. Your anxiety may be eased if you are able to sort your thoughts and tackle them one at a time and not all at once.

5. Eat healthily. Eating foods high in nutrients can help improve your mood and energy which can reduce stress. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C, as well as some herbal supplements, can help to reduce stress.

6. Reading.  Reading allows you to escape your reality and enter someone else’s reality. This allows you to take your mind off of the things that are stressing you out and allow you to relax.  This temporary escape from your reality can keep you from being overwhelmed.

7. Slowing down your thoughts.  This may sound simple but it is one of the hardest things to do. Slowing down my thoughts has helped me greatly. Stress can sometimes come from the feeling of being overwhelmed and having to figure out everything at once. Slowing down your thoughts allows you to focus on one thing at a time.

8. Breathing deeply. Breathing deep breaths when stress threatens to overwhelm you helps to relax your body and relieve tensions. It also helps you with being able to clear your mind to the point where you can put your stressors in perspective.

9. Therapy.  If the stress that you are trying to manage feels that it is unmanageable, please consider getting help from a therapist. Excessive stress can be an indicator of other mental illnesses that need to be addressed by a professional.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Please remember if the stress is so overwhelming that you just feel like nothing you do is helpful, please see a professional. Comment if there are some things that you have done to alleviate stress that was not included on this list.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Three)

So far in this series on stress management we have talked about myths/misconceptions, lesser-known symptoms of stress, and some common causes of stress. Today, I will be discussing the effects that stress has on your mental health. I wanted to give the effects of stress on your mental health a day of its own because it is just that important. It is sometimes hard to identify the effects that stress has on your mental health because it is not as obviously seen as physical symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can sneak up on you and become a part of your being before you even realize that stress is what got you there. 

Stress can affect your mental health in several ways but here are just a few.

Anxiety. Constant stress can lead to anxiety, which is a feeling of fear or worry. Anxiety can affect your mental health if it begins to interfere with your daily routine. Unchecked anxiety can lead to a lack of concentration, racing thoughts, excessive worry, amongst other things that can have harmful effects on your psychological health.

Depression. Stress can break down all of your body’s defenses. It impacts your sleep, your ability to focus, as well as your mood to the point where you can begin to feel like you are not yourself. Depression is a feeling of being sad or just not interested in those things that used to interest you. Chronic stress can wear you down to the point where you can almost become numb to what is going on around you. This numbness can lead to depression.

Loneliness. Some things that cause you stress may be so personal that you do not feel like you can share them with anyone. As the thoughts begin to stress you and worry you, you may begin to feel lonely. The feelings of loneliness will keep you from reaching out to people to receive help. Keeping everything inside can lead to more feelings and loneliness and negatively impact your psychological health.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  If your stress is caused by a prolonged traumatic event that has occurred over a period of time or a single traumatic event, the impact of that stress can stay with you in the form of PTSD. We often think of PTSD when we think of soldiers who were in combat – but PTSD can also be a very real thing for those individuals who have been in abusive relationships, endured some type of abuse in their childhood, or have witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD is a very real disorder that can impact your mental health if not addressed.

Alcoholism or substance abuse.  Being consumed by stress can make you feel a variety of things – jittery, uncertain, anxious. A lot of people feel that these feelings are unbearable and all they want to do is ease the discomfort or numb the pain. For many, stress can lead to alcohol and substance abuse as a way to alleviate stress.

Comment below if you have either experienced these effects of stress or if you can add to the list of ways stress has affected your mental health.

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