We often associate the idea of a “diary” with youth. In movies and TV, diaries are filled out by children and teens to let out their thoughts and help them control their emotions.
But this association is wrong. Keeping a journal can be intensely therapeutic, and something that – as long as there is structure – can provide many benefits for mental and emotional health. It can be especially useful at improving sleep, something that 15% of Americans struggle with, as it provides a very simple, very effective tool for addressing many of the issues that affect sleep.
How Can Journaling Help?
Journaling – which we will define as the act of writing down your thoughts into a book or piece of paper – has several benefits that make it useful for people that struggle with sleep. Insomnia is a complex issue, and journaling isn’t going to help with issues like being over-caffeinated, overcoming pain, or exercising too close to bed. But it can help with many of the psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues that contribute to insomnia. For example:
- Recording Thoughts – Your brain wants to remember things, and if it is concerned you might fall asleep and forget the memory, it will keep you awake. There are many stories of inventors that had an idea for a product and stayed up all night thinking about it. The same is true for any thought that your brain wants to remember. By writing it down, it tells your mind that it’s okay to forget because you have it in a permanent place that you can refer to in the future.
- Releasing Emotions – When a person experiences intense emotions, they often need an outlet to calm themselves. But at night, in bed, there is rarely an outlet available for those emotions. This leads to increased mental energy and attention. By writing the emotions down, the person has a quiet outlet that releases those pent up emotions.
- Screen Free Processing – Many people now grab their phone screens when they’re trying to control their racing thoughts. But phone screens wake people up. Journals allow a way to process those racing thoughts without requiring light or the activities that wake people up.
Journaling is believed to reduce anxiety, helping relieve some of the stress and tension that can cause insomnia to occur.
Anxiety, Insomnia, and Anxiety
Anxiety can create insomnia. But what makes this especially problematic is that this lack of sleep can also create more anxiety. It becomes a cycle, making it harder for someone with anxiety to find relief – and sometimes making the anxiety, and the insomnia, worse.
Journaling isn’t going to cure anxiety. But it can reduce insomnia, which in turn can help you control anxiety and stress. Combined with psychotherapy from our team here at Right Path Counseling, and you can start to get better sleep and gain more control over your mental health.