Cost: Zero if you’ve got a pen and some paper or an empty book lying around
Time Required: Completely up to you
I never used to keep a journal. It always seemed like a lot of effort to write down things that I’d probably never read again. Some people are really into it, though, and buy special books and paper and keep meticulous records of their days. There are entire books and websites dedicated to the art of journalling and how to keep track of your day. Some of the journal sites out there have pictures of amazingly decorated and very precise lettered books, but don’t feel pressured to do that. Make your journal your own.
J bought me a very nice lined book just after I started therapy, and I decided to try writing about my day. I was surprised by what it did for me.
Firstly, I found it to be a good mental exercise to jot down my experiences and thoughts from the day. I first felt a little bit of pressure to fill a whole page every day, but after a little while I realized that it was perfectly fine to have entries that were just a few lines long. It was also fine to have entries that spanned two or more pages, depending on the day, how I felt, and what was going on.
I also found that thinking about and writing down how my day went is helpful to wind down and get ready for bed. I sometimes put on some music while I’m writing and the whole process is quite relaxing. I don’t care about writing something amazing, I’m just writing for me. I don’t fret about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
On bad days, it seems like every task is insurmountable and I can’t possibly accomplish anything. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be able to relax or be happy again. Right now I’m having trouble with my OCD again and I sometimes feel like I’m never going to be able to beat it. Reading my past journal entries from when I’ve had good days proves to me that I have had days where my anxiety, depression, and OCD aren’t trying to push me around, and I can have them again.
It also helps me keep track of anything new I’ve learned. Things like techniques and tools, what works and what doesn’t, that sort of thing. I know that some therapies work for me for some things but not for others. I can always go back and see which one’s helped me the most and when so I can put the things I’ve learned to the best use.
Even something as simple as keeping track of events can be useful. Everything from the dates of all of my hospital admissions, when things have gone really well or really badly, and when and how my medications have changed is good information to know. Sometimes there will be a pattern that emerges that can help predict how I’m going to feel in a particular situation.
Since J got me that first book, I’ve kept journalling. It’s been almost two years now. While I was in the hospital, I filled up two more books. When I started this blog, I decided that I would switch to writing about my days online. It’s still a relaxing and useful activity.
Nobody’s telling me how much I have to write, what I’m supposed to write about, what format or medium I should be writing in, or that I need to write every day. I can write about my day on a legal pad, on a computer, or even buy and decorate a special book. I can show other people my journal or keep it completely private. It’s all up to me.
Journalling has helped me feel better about myself and is a great way to keep track of my recovery (and prove to myself that I am getting better). If you’ve never tried it, I recommend giving it a shot. It doesn’t take much time, you can do it whenever you want, and you can use it to help yourself in many different ways.