Do you remember that journal you had as a child? The one with the lock and key that you stuffed under your pillow? If so, you were ahead of the game, because keeping a diary, commonly called ‘journalling’, is now scientifically proven to boost mental wellbeing.
What is journalling?
Journalling often involves keeping a diary or journal that explores your thoughts and feelings surrounding events in your life. For some, it might be a place to note down all the positives in the world. For others, it can be an emotional outlet for feelings of anxiety and depression. Alexandra Gregory, who is an Educational Psychologist, says it can be a useful tool to help children make sense of the world.
“Journalling can help children process thoughts and feelings, understand themselves better, form narratives about their experiences in order to make sense of them, manage their anxiety, and help promote resilience.
“There are so many creative and personalised ways that children and young people can do this. In positive psychology research, gratitude journals have been shown to be particularly effective in promoting wellbeing e.g. through increasing feelings of happiness, optimism, and hope. And the best thing about this therapeutic intervention? It’s free!”
How can I get my child started with a journal?
It doesn’t take much to get your child started with journalling – a pen and piece of paper will do. But there are things you can do to kickstart the process:
- Give your child a choice over the type of journal they use. Whether it’s a piece of paper, a spiral-bound notebook, or a dedicated mindset journal.
- Be creative. You don’t have to use a pen. A paintbrush, glitter stick or stamps can all be used to journal.
- Try and encourage ‘free writing’, where your child writes or draws whatever comes into their head.
- If your child is struggling to know what to write, you could give them prompts, such as ‘things that have gone well today’, ‘things that have made me worried today.’
- You could inspire your child’s journal process by having your own version that you alongside them, showing them what to do.
- Try and make it relaxed. Journalling should be an enjoyable process that your child wants to do, rather than a chore.
Gratitude journalling is fast becoming popular. But what exactly is it, and how can it boost mental health?
It’s simple. Gratitude journalling involves documenting all the things you’re grateful for. It’s all about making a conscious effort to appreciate the things we might usually take for granted. It could be something as simple as enjoying a walk in the park or an activity you’ve done that day. The idea is that helps us feel more positive, and therefore view the world in a more positive way.
According to a recent study, gratitude journalling has been proven to reduce negative emotions and increase positive ones. What’s more, other studies have shown that feeling grateful motivates adolescents to help others and use their strengths to contribute to society.
Using journalling to overcome trauma
Image: Narelle Gibbs and her children – Narelle Gibbs
Narelle Gibbs, a mum of three from Huddersfield, has seen the benefits of journalling firsthand. It was when her daughter Chloe became unwell with intercranial hypertension and found it difficult to express her emotions, that Narelle first encouraged her to journal.
“At first Chloe would just draw a face to represent how she felt or would write a word down on a piece of paper. But as she started to get better, she was able to write more and we were able to work on her worries, celebrate success, find joy in everyday life and be more thankful.
“When we realised the positive impact journaling was having on Chloe, I wanted to bring this benefit to other children and launched the I CAN Journal.”
Image: Chloe with the I CAN Journal – Narelle Gibbs
Commenting on the benefits of journalling, Narelle said:
“Journalling has many benefits for children, including a positive impact on mental health. It helps children process feelings and explore emotions by giving them a safe space to write down their thoughts without fear of being judged.
“It also provides the opportunity to reflect on the day and look objectively at what has happened and why it may have provoked such emotions. Children can be free to write about what they are worried about, what makes them happy, and what goals they want to achieve. Journaling also helps to strengthen writing ability and fosters creativity.
“The I CAN Journal takes these benefits further by providing prompts to encourage children to be thankful for small things, find joy in everyday life, and show kindness every day.
“I recommend that children should be journaling daily in order to get into a positive habit and be able to use it as a lifelong tool to help cope with mental health issues as well as daily stressors. It is also daily screen-free time dedicated to your mental wellbeing.”
To exchange journalling ideas and mental health tips with other parents, download the Friendili app here.