The Mental Benefits of Journaling Daily

"Journaling allows you to disconnect from everything and gather your thoughts. (Re)building a foundation is vital to standing on one’s own two feet. It’s a way to approach clarity by unburdening via pen and paper."

How often do we find ourselves feeling limited by our own issues because we can’t properly communicate them? The answer may vary depending on the individual, but ultimately we have to assess these issues and try to understand them ourselves before anything.

If you have any intent on breaking free from traumatic experiences or just everyday woes, there will oftentimes be the urge to release the anguish. Reaching out might make the most sense when everything you could possibly have to say is bottled up within. However, those around me who were available couldn’t truly help me find a way out because they were all in some way tied to my own personal troubles. I didn’t know what my outlet would be growing up, but after going through the things I’d experienced as a child, I figured I’d better find one… fast.

At age 11, I had already witnessed the effects of gun violence after losing loved ones to police brutality and gang wars, domestic violence after watching my father put his hands on my mother, and hate crimes after one horrible bullying incident (out of many) left me concussed from enduring a several blows to my skull. In addition to the above, I watched my older sister’s mental health morph as it took her body along the journey with it. Her dramatic weight loss and gains as a side effect of medication for schizophrenia was alarming to witness in real time.

“The single most important aspect of journaling is establishing ownership of your life. In recounting your own story, you will understand your own importance.”

I didn’t have anyone around me who I felt could properly guide me through hardship at such a young age. I didn’t know how I’d cope until I finally started writing things down. I started journaling because seeing everything I nearly resorted to translated on paper didn’t sit well with me. Suicide notes at such a young age didn’t register well. I thought about what my mother would think if she’d come across my dark thoughts, and how she doesn’t need the added burden of worrying about the mental health of now two of her children.

Still, I loved how it felt to write through my drama. It progressively became a recollection of my day-to-day—every thought and half-thought recorded. Some of it I’d read back and laugh, others would intensify whatever sadness I felt. Ultimately, even if it was by myself, I felt like I was heard. I didn’t realize it yet, but journaling would become my saving grace, and lead me to truths about myself and the world that I found myself wanting to discover the older I got.

Journaling allows you to disconnect from everything and gather your thoughts. (Re)building a foundation is vital to standing on one’s own two feet. It’s a way to approach clarity by unburdening via pen and paper. It’s a way to take advantage of the solitude and use the time productively. My method is doing a 20-minute free write a day, enough to produce pages of writing that I sometimes look over to assess myself.

Gratitude journaling is a popular strategy when talking about self-care. It’s simply recording the things you’re grateful for. When I journal, I make sure to leave time to emphasize my blessings. It’s a great way to practice optimism in addition to gratitude. The idea here is for you to ultimately say “yes, this experience was unfortunate, but here is what I learned and here is where I will decide to move forward”.

The single most important aspect of journaling is establishing ownership of your life. In recounting your own story, you will understand your own importance. It’s the proverbial “trashing” of negative thoughts and energy and the solidifying of positivity. As this healthy alternative habit is introduced in your life, you will begin to see how much more benefits come from it.

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Alfonso Francois is a #CarefreeBlackBoy, Brooklyn native, proud Trini, Posse scholar, Wheaton alum, passionate writer, somebody’s hero, BeyHive elite.

Alfonso believes writing helps him reach his max potential. It is his most creative vein and strongest voice. It’s what helps him become anyone he wants to be, and it’s the easiest way for him to understand others as well as the world around him. From growing up underprivileged in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to graduating with a BA in Film & New Media Studies under a full-tuition scholarship, Alfonso’s greatest skill is knowing how to maneuver in both worlds comfortably. Visit FonzFranc.com.

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