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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good For Your Mental Health

5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good For Your Mental Health

Did you know that a mood journal can improve your mental health?

There are days when you’re so happy that you feel like you can take over the world, while there are some days when you feel like the world around you is caving in.

It’s natural to shift moods now and then. Give yourself permission to feel every emotion. It’s okay to not be okay. You know that, right?

It’s important to know that every mood you feel influences the way you act.[1]

You may not be able to dictate how you feel at every given moment. However, you can take an extra step to know what each emotion means to you and how you can assess yourself while in that state of mood.

Why It’s Important to Track Your Mood

Have you ever noticed how you make bad decisions when you’re angry? Or how you can’t think straight when you feel downright sad?

It’s not surprising that the way we think, or the decisions we make sometimes heavily rely on our mood.[2] This is why we need to keep track of it.

One of the best ways to do this is to write down your mood in a journal. Writing things down will help you understand and manage yourself better. You’ll be able to recognize what triggers your moods and find out how you can take actions that best serve your highest self.

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A mood journal is a great way to identify personal factors that affect your mood daily.

Writing in my mood journal is a core part of my morning ritual. It gives me time to reflect on how certain people, places, or decisions that I make throughout my day impact my mood.

Not only does writing in my journal build self-awareness, but it also helps me figure out how I can avoid triggers from happening altogether.

5 Reasons Why a Mood Journal Is Good for Your Mental Health

Tracking your mood is a helpful way to improve your mental health. If you don’t control your emotions, your emotions will end up controlling you and that is a recipe for disaster.

Here are the top 5 reasons why I believe you should start mood journaling.

1. It Helps You Determine a Course of Action

When you’re aware of how you’re feeling, you can better understand what you need.

Think about the last time you found yourself spiraling emotionally. Did you feel like you could make a decision at that moment? Probably not.

When you are overwhelmed, you feel paralyzed to take action.

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A mood journal will help you take notice of your day-to-day emotions so you can figure out the best ways that you can respond to them.[3]

2. It Helps You Express Your Emotions

If you are someone who is prone to overthinking and worrying about everything, it’s imperative that you express your emotions through writing.

A mood journal is a safe container where you are given the space to feel without judgment. It’s a process that is both therapeutic and empowering. You don’t have to worry about how someone may receive your words because you’re having a dialogue with yourself.

Trust me when I say that you don’t have to carry around the weight of your feelings for one day longer. You deserve a break, so give yourself the gift of self-expression through journaling.

3. It Will Support Your Healing Process

Anytime that I’ve gone through a serious trauma in my life, journaling has been a core piece of my healing process. Anytime that I’ve tried to push down or ignore difficult emotions related to my past, I only felt worse.

Mood journaling allows you to sort through the difficult events that have occurred in your life so that you can start making sense of them.

More importantly, this therapeutic process allows you to come to a deeper understanding of yourself, which is a core piece of the healing process.

A study conducted by the University of Auckland found out that people who wrote emotionally about past stressful events had their wounds heal faster than people who wrote about their factual day to day activities[4]

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Healing is your birthright. If you have been struggling to make sense of the trauma you’ve endured, I encourage you to start writing your way towards better mental and emotional health.

4. It Helps Reveal What Your Triggers Are

We all have emotional triggers. It’s a part of being human. Someone will say something that triggers an emotional reaction that throws you off your game.

Emotional triggers are people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations that provoke an intense and excessive emotional reaction within us.[5]

When you don’t do the work to figure out the root of these triggers, your emotions will get the best of you.

Use a mood journal to write down moments when you feel triggered. Take note of how you felt and what your reaction was. As you write, you will start to bring awareness to your triggers and start noticing patterns between how you feel and behave.

5. It Helps You Find the Silver Lining

When negative emotions get the better of you, you can’t help but flounder in negativity. In this state, it can become near impossible to be positive. This is where the mood journal comes to play.

The more that you write, the more that you feel in control of your emotional state and the less stressed you feel. Negativity feeds off of stress.

Journaling presents an opportunity for emotional catharsis, which thereby helps your brain regulate emotions[6] In turn, when you encounter adversities in life, you will be more inclined to find the silver lining.

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When you start to witness the changes that occur as a result of the inner work you’re doing, you will feel more empowered knowing the impact you have had on your own mood. These are the silver lining moments that you want to pull upon when you’re having down days.

How to Write a Mood Journal

You can purchase free mood journal templates online. However, I think personalizing your prompts according to your preferences will help you connect to your inner self more.

I started mine by making up a table with three columns. The first column is dedicated to the emotion I feel. The second column is for the probable reasons that I think affect my mood.

The last column is for the actions I make because of how I felt.[7]

When you become aware of a shift in your mood, write down what the change is in your journal. At the same time, observe how you feel in your body when you’re writing.

Also, make note of what you were doing when this mood shift occurred and who you were with. Equally as important is to reflect upon what was going on with your internal world. Name the emotion or thought that was going through your head.

Conclusion

Tracking your mood through a journal will help you organize your thoughts better and give you more understanding as to why and how you feel certain emotions. I hope a mood journal will help you as much as it does for me.

More on the Benefits of Journaling

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ashley Elizabeth

Resilience Mastery Coach and Motivational Speaker

4 Signs You Have a Victim Mentality (And How to Break out of It) How to Overcome Fear and Find Success (The Ultimate Guide) What Motivates You to Succeed in Life and Keep Moving Forward? 5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good For Your Mental Health 5 Ways to Help Yourself Advance Your Mental Strength

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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