Keeping a journal is wonderful therapy!  Here are a couple of articles on the topic.

Journaling for Mental and Spiritual Health

One of the best habits you can develop for improving your spiritual and mental health is to keep a journal. Journaling styles come in all varieties, and chances are, you will develop a style unique to yourself. It doesn't matter whether you use a spiral bound pad you got for 15 cents at a back-to-school sale or a handcrafted leather blank book. What are important are the thought processes you record.

The first rule of journaling is to cut back on rules! That is, there are really no right or wrong ways to journal, only what works for you. Try not to worry about spelling and other matters of language usage because that will only hold you back. You've seen the TV skits where someone is suffering from writer's block or is trying to write a letter and they have a wastebasket full of wadded paper. You don't want that to happen to you. Just start something and stick with it.

If you would like to be a better speller, have a dictionary nearby. You can even designate a section of your journal for new words you're learning to spell. But that's up to you. The main point of keeping a spiritual journal is to grow closer to God. He can read your writing even if no one else can. After all, the Holy Spirit "intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." The Lord "searches our hearts" (see Romans 8:26-27) so He surely knows what you're trying to say better even than you do!

A journal also helps mental health by helping you to know yourself. Many emotional frustrations stem from not taking time to sort out our feelings, wishes, hopes, desires, and beliefs. But there's a trap that goes along with too much introspection, and that is when you become too self-absorbed. Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself." If you only accomplish a better understanding of your own self, the Bible says you're really no better than a fool. The purpose of getting to know ourselves better is to understand better what God has for us and how He feels about us.

The second important rule of journaling is to be positive. If you've read the Psalms very much, you will notice that almost every time the Psalmist pours out his complaints to God, he finishes off by giving praise to God. It is fine to write out your frustrations and fears, but always try to end up acknowledging God's power, love, and mercy. (See Ps.13, 59, 64, 79, 86, 109, and 140 for examples of this pattern in the Psalms.)

Everyone who has struggles with depression or discouragement should get familiar with Philippians 4. Keep in mind that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter from a prison. In chapter 4, he talks about rejoicing in the Lord, giving thanks, and keeping our minds on positive things. In verse 8, he gives us a list for our thoughts which includes "whatsoever things are true...honest...just...pure...lovely...of good report..."

A third suggestion for your spiritual and mental health journal is to write your prayers in it. It doesn't have to be all prayers, unless that is what you want. Just remember to express your heart to the Lord. Talking to God is really what prayer is all about. A prayer can be a poem, prose, or even a drawing. In Phil. 4:6-7, Paul tells us that laying out our requests to the Lord will change our anxieties into peace. But if we don't take the time to enumerate those anxieties and cares, and to express them for what they really are, then we may not find that promised peace.

And therein lies the value of keeping a journal. Write out your cares, frustrations, dreams, hopes, and secrets if you dare in the form of a prayer to the God who already knows them better than you do. You will know yourself better and find the peace that comes from laying all at the foot of His throne.

by Barbara Wood

Tips for Mental Health Journaling

Many psychologists, pastors, and counselors recommend keeping a journal when you are struggling with mental health issues. Journals are useful in many ways. Here are some tips that will help you get started and get the most out of your journaling experience.

1. Try to write daily. Moods and thoughts can change rapidly, so journaling should not be a hit-and-miss proposition. Part of the value lies in determining the predisposing factors that bring about an episode of psychosis or depression. These factors can be identified more easily if you write in your journal frequently.

Record your reflections on your daily Bible Reading
Reflect on your daily Bible reading and write about it.

2. Be honest. Don't just write what you think your analyst might want you to write. Don't even just write what you think God would want you to write. He knows what you are really thinking anyway. True mental, spiritual, and emotional health can only come when we are honest with ourselves.

3. Use it like a diary.  While you're at it, make a note of mundane items, like how well you slept and the weather. Sometimes a pattern will emerge that you are totally unaware of, such as rainy days being hard for you. Write down any variations in your diet, as well, especially if you are trying nutritional therapies. (But don't get so bogged down in inconsequentials that you give up the whole journal!)

4. Keep track of triggers.  Make a section in the back of your journal to list things like symptoms of emotional overload and things that make you feel better. Add things to the lists as you think of them. Part of the goal of keeping a journal is to identify triggers - those circumstances that bring about the behaviors and thoughts that you are trying to overcome. Write down things that seem to be triggers as you come across them in a day.

5. Let your journal evolve. You do not have to lock yourself into a rigid system of journaling, and those lists of symptoms, triggers, and things that help can change radically over the weeks and months. If you are under the care of a counselor, however, do try to include the items the counselor recommends.

6. Take a little time every day for gratitude. Thank God for your food, for your safe, warm bed, for people who treat you gently and respectfully. Sometimes the best journaling exercise of all is to simply list all those things you usually take for granted and to thank the Lord for them. Having a heart of thankfulness is absolutely necessary for contentment, joy, and peace.

7. Copy as desired.  If you do not find it too boring, copy Bible verses or quotes you run across which specifically speak to your struggle. You will find it encouraging to be able to find those quotes later on so that you can meditate on them. You can even write them on small pieces of paper or index cards and carry them around with you for an instant uplift any time you need it.

8. Keep it locked up if needed.  To reiterate, a journal needs to be honest. If you are afraid that someone will read your journal, by all means get one with a lock on it or find a place to hide it. If you still feel unsafe, devise code words that only you (and the Lord, of course) will know the meanings for. Or draw out your feelings without words.

These suggestions are intended to make journaling easier and more productive for you. If in anyway anything here seems oppressive or difficult, then alter your own efforts so that they work for you.

 by Barbara Wood

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