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You might associate journaling with being a teenage girl, jotting down her thoughts about her crushes or fights with a BFF, but it’s actually a valuable tool for adults, too. On a recent episode of MADAMENOIRE’s Listen to Black Women, the hosts spoke with self-care expert Ty Alexander (host of the Self Care IRL podcast), and she listed journaling as one of her favorite tools for emotional well-being.

Alexander touched on something that mental health experts have known for years – that journaling is really good for you. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that journaling can help reduce intrusive, negative thoughts, freeing up mental space for more important things. That’s just one of the benefits of the age-old tradition of free-writing about your experiences, feelings and thoughts. And here are others worth mentioning.

 

Get It On Paper And Leave It There

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As the research stated in the intro, journaling can help reduce intrusive thoughts. Diving a little more into the meaning of that, journaling can give you a dedicated place to vent and acknowledge negative, repetitive thoughts. Maybe these are negative, worried thoughts about an upcoming event, or obsessive thoughts about the way you wish a past event had occurred. These thoughts can plague your mind, like a broken record. Writing them down can help get them out of your brain, so you can move onto focusing on other things.

 

Understand Your Triggers

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To be alive means to have some trauma and trauma results in triggers. Whether it pertains to romantic relationships and trust issues, emotional eating, rage and anger problems or something else – there could be things that set you off. Recognizing exactly what those are can help you create a plan for managing your reactions in the future. Keeping a journal lets you review your past and begin to identify what events, people or places trigger your destructive behaviors. You could notice, for example, that you emotionally eat following the visit of a certain relative. Or that certain social settings trigger your trust issues. Journaling reveals these patterns.

 

Be Your Own Therapist

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Of course, anyone needing help with mental health issues should seek professional guidance. However, journaling can be a light version of self-therapy. Therapy, after all, can be a place where you finally have time to explore what’s been going on in your subconscious. The day’s regular tasks like work and domestic duties don’t leave much space to address deeper issues that have been plaguing your mind. Journaling lets you finally discover thoughts, concerns and hopes that you didn’t even realize were there. It helps you get to know yourself better.

 

Reduce Anxiety

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Journaling has actually been proven to help reduce anxiety. In one study published in JMIR Mental Health, participants who actively journaled about positive experiences – focusing on gratitude – experienced reduced stress and an improved sense of well-being. Journaling, like meditation, can be used to focus thoughts in a specific direction, and if that direction is towards positivity, you can walk away feeling more optimistic.

 

See How Far You’ve Come

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When you’re faced with challenges and aren’t sure how you’ll overcome them, sometimes the best thing to do is look to the past. Keeping a journal provides you with documentation of everything you’ve already overcome. Reading those pages and remembering all of the obstacles you’ve already tackled – including the ones you thought you never would – can give you the confidence to face this next challenge.

 

Keep The Receipts

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Relationships shouldn’t be about keeping score. However, it is important to recognize when there is a pattern of unhealthy behavior in a relationship or a clear imbalance of some kind. Sometimes, when dealing with a close friend, family member or romantic partner, it can be hard to see past our emotions in the moment and recognize unhealthy patterns. However, a journal has it all on record. Reviewing your journal could help you see the big picture happening in some of your relationships.

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