Let’s talk wellbeing! Yes, it’s January – the time of year when we (traditionally) re-assess our lives; many of us taking steps to make them easier, healthier and better.
We are all living in an age when we are constantly bombarded with information 24/7 and most of us find ourselves existing in a whirlwind of frenetic activity; struggling to juggle our work and our personal life. No wonder we feel it’s becoming harder than ever to shut out all external demands and influences, even for a short while, and take time out for ourselves.
If the above sounds like you and you’re starting the year feeling frazzled, then we recommend starting a wellness journal. It is one of the most simple, yet highly effective wellness tools for optimum health and wellbeing. The benefits of starting a wellbeing journal are well documented; from improving mood and physical and psychological wellbeing to lowering blood pressure, reducing the need for doctor visits and boosting work performance. What’s not to love!
What is a wellness journal?
Whilst diaries are factual, journaling is about expressing your inner emotions and thoughts. If you’re considering your next steps to wellbeing, starting a journal is a vital, and powerful tool in this journey. By recording things happening in our lives and in our heads, noting thoughts, feelings, emotions and moods, or tracking things like food intake, activity and sleep, you can learn how to take better care of yourself.
How to start journalling
There’s no mysterious trick when it comes to starting a journal. There are many guides online that provide some good common sense guidance; for starting both free-flowing journaling or a more methodical method of detailing specific things.
The first step is make a start! In short, get yourself a journal, open it up and start to make notes. You’ll soon decide the format that is most beneficial to you. Remember we are not all the same and writing styles that work for others may not work for you. Like all the best things in life, it’s a simple matter of trial and error.
To begin, we suggest setting aside a set time each day to journal. Find a private space and get cosy, snuggled up in bed, or warm on a sofa, under a blanket. Start writing something light and work your way up to recording any deep emotions.
At the end of the day, the best advice we can give is to give it a go and to keep going! It really is worth it.
What tools do you need?
This is a simple one. All you need is a notebook and pen.
Writing on paper not only gives you a break away from a screen, the slow, repetitive motion of handwriting also helps things sink into your brain better, working to soothe and calm it.
When it comes to your choice of journal pick one you love! There are many different styles of notebook – lined journals or a dotted notebook work particularly well. You will know instinctively the best one for you. When it comes to size, we like to think an a5 notebook is ideal – not too small, not too large.
Other journaling accessories you might think about when it comes to making your a5 journal more artistic, include paper clips, colourful washi tape or Sakura quickie glue, so you can stick photos and clippings.
What to include in a wellness journal
When it comes to what we include in our wellness journal, there are no rules. You can include anything that you feel may be beneficial and your layouts can be as colourful and as creative as you want them to be.
Mental health charity, Mind, talks about the Five Ways to Wellbeing – which focuses on connection, learning, giving, activity and noticing. A journal can really help you keep track of each.
Here are some suggestions about what to include in a wellness journal, with examples we think you may find easy to replicate.
- Daily thoughts
There are many reasons why journaling is important for mental health. For a start, writing things down really does help to get them off your chest; a place you can write down what you are thinking and feeling at that moment.
We know all too well that a blank page can be intimidating and the pressure to write something long and meaningful, overwhelming.
It’s why we suggest you start small, for example, doing one of the following:
- Describe your day in a word
- Describe your day in a line
Focus on something that has happened that is positive, even if it only seems like something small.
You can work up to writing more each day, or continue to keep it short and sweet. Whatever you decide, it can be immensely beneficial to look back at how you were once feeling and seeing how far you have come.
Photo: Bullet Journal Addict
- Sleep log
We all know the importance of sleep. Get too little and it can severely impact our mental health. Depression has been linked to this very thing. Keeping a sleep diary has been suggested as one of the keys to getting better rest.
A sleep log can literally help you sleep like a log! By keeping a record of the hours you have slept you can calculate your sleep time total. This type of record helps pinpoint habits or factors that may be disrupting your sleep and allow you to make changes so that your sleep quality is improved.
Below is just one sleep diary example:
- Recording mood
These are an excellent aid memoire about your mood during any stage during the year.
Our favourite type of mood tracker is a simple visual one that covers one page in your journal and covers the year. This is so easy to create, just by sticking to a simple colour coding system.
Each day record how you are feeling by filling in a small box with the corresponding colour – see below. It will enable you to look back and get a general overview of your mood during certain periods.
This is just one suggestion. There are many other mood tracker ideas to be found online.
- Food log
If you are looking to eat more mindfully, to boost health, then many find keeping a food diary, which tracks food and drink consumption is incredibly helpful. You can use your journal as a food diary book; a convenient place for noting down not just what you have eaten and drunk, but also how it has made you feel. It can be an invaluable tool if you are seeking to eat your way to better health.
- Exercise diary
Exercise can be monitored the same way. Simply jot down how active you’ve been and what type of exercise you’ve focused on. You can look back and see what you’ve enjoyed most and which activity delivered the results you most wanted.
- Gratitude log
Cultivating attitude gratitude has been scientifically proven to benefit health. Give yourself the gift of gratitude – it is one of the most easy, and beneficial things we can do to give our health a big boost. From sleeping better and improving self-esteem, mental and physical health, to enhancing empathy and reducing aggression, being grateful is free and it’s also a fun and rewarding activity to add to your daily routine.
Keeping a gratitude log, where you note something you are grateful for, is a great way to help you live in the present, remembering the good things in your life. It doesn’t need to be more than a single line a day. And even when times get tricky, looking back can help you focus on the positives, rather than the negatives.
What you include in your wellness journal doesn’t stop here. There’s truly no end to what you may wish to record, that will spark joy. Here are just a few ideas you may wish to consider:
Additional ideas to record
- Most memorable thing that happened during the day
- Thing you’re most proud of achieving during the day
- Motivational words for the next day
- Goals you want to accomplish
- Inspiring quotes and sayings
- Records of medications taken
- Something you saw that made you laugh
- Something you read that made you cry
- Reminders of things to do
- Everything you like about yourself (we know this can be hard, but it’s so helpful for combating negative self-talk)
- Something your family or children did that made you smile
- Films and tv shows you find inspiring
- Books you are enjoying reading and why
- What you did to work towards a goal
- Things you love in your life
- Things you want to try
- New skills you want to learn
- Podcasts you listened to and loved
- Something you learned today
- Dinner conversations
- Favourite self-care moments
- What you can do better
We hope you’ve enjoyed this dive into beginning a wellness journal. We think a journal is an incredible wellness gift to give to friends and family. We’d love to hear from you about what methods you choose to help boost your mental wellbeing. Do you use a journal in your journey to better health and wellness, or do you prefer using an online method?