Home Audio Transcription Wellbeing Wednesdays Podcast: Journal Your Heart Out | Wellbeing Wednesdays Podcast

Wellbeing Wednesdays Podcast: Journal Your Heart Out | Wellbeing Wednesdays Podcast

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Courtney is joined by Brianne Depcrymski from WVU’s Carruth Center to talk all about the benefits of journaling! That includes old-school written journals, but they also touch on bullet journaling and visual journaling, PLUS they talk about how journaling can help with your emotional health.

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Transcription:

Hey, everyone. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I am your host, Courtney Weaver. I’m also the director of WellWVU here at West Virginia University. I have a guest today, so woo, you don’t have to listen to me prad along by myself for the next 15 minutes, but I am joined by Brianne Depcrymsk.

She’s a supervised psychologist here at the Carruth Center. So we want to say welcome to Bree and Bree, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your role here at the unit. Hi. So I’m a supervised psychologist with the Carruth Center. So primarily I provide individual counseling and therapy to students, but I also help out with groups and outreaches and fun things like this podcast.

Okay. Right. Well, we appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk. Today and something that we’re going to talk about is journaling and how people can better manage their emotions through writing. So Bria, why should students think about journaling in the first place? So I think a lot of times when.

That they should try journaling. They are a little apprehensive. It’s something they’ve heard about a lot. And they may have tried it in the past and didn’t really find it to be helpful. So I get a lot of pushback, but there is a strong body of research that shows that journaling helps people manage emotions and a variety of other concerns.

So I think that a lot of times it can be really helpful for emotional expression, helping to develop reflective thinking. There’s research that shows that can improve mood, reduce. As well as improve physical health improved memory, and it can also help people heal and recover from trauma and other things like eating disorders or other kinds of recoveries.

Okay. Okay. So journaling, I think would quantifies like a creative activity. So as a mental health professional, like how does creativity in general help with your. One of the cool things about journaling is that it requires the application of kind of the more logical analytical, rational left side of the brain to kind of be able to put some thoughts onto paper.

And so a lot of times that’s our like reasonable or reasoning piece of our brain. But journaling can also help include the right half of our brain, which is more creative, artistic, kind of more of the feeling side. And so a lot of times one of the nice things about journaling is that you can help.

Bring together our thoughts and feelings and a kind of whole helpful way. So some things that creativity can help with our mental health, it’s a piece of self care. So a lot of times when people think of self care, they think about sleeping, eating, taking their meds, spending time with friends and family exercising.

But a lot of times creativity gets left out of that. And creativity can be a way to kind of express feelings in a way that doesn’t involve words. So maybe things that are too painful, or maybe if we just struggle to find the words to put on paper we can find other creative ways to kind of improve our mental health.

And so journaling. Cathartic in an emotional and logical way. And it can make a big difference in our daily well-being. Some other things that are kind of cool about creativity is that a lot of times when we do something creative, we can kind of get in this flow. And a lot of times that releases things like dopamine or other endorphins.

So the flow is whenever we kind of focus on one activity you kind of enter that activity. And you kind of stopped thinking about other things. It can improve concentration because we are only focusing on that one thing. And then we kind of feel really productive after, which makes us want to do more and be more productive.

Yeah. That’s like when I build Legos, I get in the flow. Yeah. Other times you can get in the flow could be like sewing knitting, crocheting sometimes putting stickers on things. There’s like the little diamond sticker boards and paid by numbers. The things that people really like, and it’s kind of a way to just kind of escape your everyday kind of feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and do something fun.

Yeah. So before we start talking about like how to actually get started with journaling and Brie, why might someone not journal? Like what are some of the. Yeah. So some of the things I’ve heard are that people think that they need to write every single day or that they need to write a certain amount every single day.

And that can feel kind of intimidating. Sometimes people think that they like will just have to write. And as we’ll talk about later, there’s a lot of different ways to kind of journal that maybe don’t include writing paragraphs and paragraphs for long periods of time. I think that a lot of people.

Stuck on like the right way to journal. So there’s a lot of anxiety about, am I doing it the right way? Is this actually helping me? Is this a waste of my time? And so sometimes some of those anxious thoughts can prevent people from wanting to try it or get started. I think sometimes people think that journaling is just going to be like a dump of all like their negative thoughts and feelings.

And it’s not going to help anything because it’ll just be focusing more on negative parts of their life. Sometimes people think they just have to record like all of their deep philosophical thoughts. And if they don’t have any, then what is that going to mean? Or was I going to look like I’ve also heard people say like, journaling can be kind of like self-centered or narcissistic to just like focus so much on yourself can be a little bit uncomfortable.

Some people think it’s better to like write by hand. And they don’t know if they like can type things out. Some other people think it’s just about wallowing in the. So like, well, what’s it going to do to just reflect on all these things that have happened. It’s not going to change anything. And some people just think it’s a waste of time that, you know, there’s so many things, especially for college students that they could be doing instead that they sometimes, I don’t think see the benefit or the value.

I can see that for sure. All right. So now once someone has decided to start journaling, they’re saying they’re issuing all those myths and they’re saying, no, this is for me. Like how, how do we see. It can definitely be hard to start a new hobby and you know, to create a new habit. So sometimes people will say like, I don’t have a journal or I’m not a good writer.

I don’t even know what to write about. So it can be a little intimidating to start. But according to the center for journal therapy, writing can actually be pretty easy. So they kind of give this acronym of right. Which can be easy to remember. It stands for the w stands for what? So what do you want to write about what’s going on in your life?

How do you feel? What are you thinking about. What do you want? But being able to name these things can kind of be a good place to start. The R is to review or reflect. So once you write something, maybe just take a second and take a minute to close your eyes, take some deep breaths. Try to think, like, you know, how am I feeling?

How am I thinking what happened today? Or maybe even just reflect in a more mindful way about like, what’s going on right now in this moment. And then the, I is for investigate. So investigate your thoughts and feelings start writing and just keep writing, just flow with either your pen, your keyboard, whatever material you’re using.

And then if you get stuck or run out of juice, you can just kind of close your eyes, recenter, reread what you’ve already written and kind of just continue writing the T is for time yourself. So, you know, if it’s really hard to get started, you could take just five. Maybe even three minutes, maybe one minute, just to kind of get yourself, started set a timer and just write for that.

And then if you enjoy it, you could increase your time. And then the last one is to exit smart. And so what this means is after you’ve written something, maybe reread it kind of reflect on a sentence or two and look for any kind of patterns or things that might be standing out to you. All right. So for those who are.

Journaling. And we’re thinking about like, what topic like Brie, can you share some good journaling prompts? There are so many prompts out there and there’s a million ways to find prompts. So you could just Google journaling prompts. You could often, I look at Pinterest for some good ideas. I think some good ones are to kind of start looking at maybe what are some of your.

Or areas for growth. So this way, you’re kind of focusing on both things that, you know, you’re doing well, things, you have a handle on things that are going well. But then also looking at the other side, like, what are some things I want to change? What are some things I’d like to improve? It can be a good place to start.

I know that Bernay Brown talks about permission slips. And so one thing is to kind of write yourself notes, like permission to. Which is a tough one, especially for college students. So you can kind of write out, like I deserve to rest. I have worked all week. I can actually take maybe a full evening or a full Saturday to kind of engage in some other self-care activities and not focus so much on school.

You know, I talk a lot with students about writing letters. So sometimes if you have lost someone and you’re experiencing grief, it can be helpful to write a letter to that person. It can also be helpful to write a letter. To a part of yourself or to feelings you have, or write a letter to your future self, your past self.

So kind of like writing letters can be therapeutic in some ways. Sometimes I’ve seen some really cool ideas where people will put a picture, print out a picture and put it on a page and then write a little bit about that memory, how they felt what was going on. Like what was it. The time, the place, how are they feeling in that moment?

That’s a really cool way to kind of try to be a little bit more creative with journaling. One of them is called positive savoring, which is kind of an interesting kind of journaling technique, but it’s really like sitting in the. Stuff. I’m really focusing on the good things that have happened rather than the negative and really savoring, like how the good things made you feel and you know, how many good things there actually are that might be in your life that you kind of Ms.

Day to day. Like the second season of Bridger, I could say I want to save her it. Yeah. Yeah. Think about Courtney. How did it make you feel? What parts were your favorite? What kinds of things did you like about it? There you go. Bridger tin is not a sponsor of this podcast, just a disclaimer, but if they’d like to sponsor us, please reach out pitch.

Other, some other prompts could be for people who want to practice self-compassion, which I think is helpful for just about all of us. You know, one of the things I say is that we are, the people will be in relationships, so our whole lives. So we might as well work on that relationship. And so we can be the hardest on ourselves in ways we would never be hard on other people.

So. Writing notes or letters to yourself about, you know, you did the best you could today. I’m proud of you for, you know, doing the hardest thing when you could have done the easy thing, or I see that you’re making improvements and growing, writing yourself, these self-compassion notes or letters or journaling in this way can be really helpful.

Sometimes people can just kind of journal about some goals and values. I also think that living authentically means living according to your values. But if you don’t know what your values are, sometimes you feel a little disconnected. So sometimes looking at your values, like what are the things that are important to me and then setting some goals around those values and then journaling about your progress towards those can be a way to.

Some other things would be just to kind of write down all this stuff you want to let go of. And it can be like little phrases, little pieces of feelings, but just like a thing a list of things you want to let go. Another one is for people who might be more spiritual or religious, you could kind of journal around Bible verses journal around religious kind of groups.

If you have like, you know, small Bible studies or large Bible studies, if you go to any kind of. You know, church service, or if you go to temple, you can kind of journal after those types of things. Whatever it might be. That’s another option for people who are a little bit more religious and spiritual.

Some other things are to try to challenge yourself, to write from different perspectives. So this one helps a lot. If you have a lot of interpersonal issues with like friends, family members, if you’re struggling and you’re kind of stuck in your own perspective and your own feelings, you could kind of look at it from another perspective.

Journal from maybe what your partner’s perspective might be or your parents’ perspective. You could try making lists, you could journal around song lyrics. So maybe if there’s one lyric that stands out, you could write the lyric, you could write down what it reminds you of, who it reminds you of what feelings it brings up for you.

You could do like a. Sprint, which is where you just kind of do stream of consciousness for five minutes. You could do like a digital journal, which might just be more like pictures. And if something kind of encaptures how you’re feeling, or you really felt like you were connected and mindful in a moment, and you can take a picture, whatever it might be.

You could do dream journaling. That’s something that I think people don’t often do, but if you know that you’re struggling with dreams or even nightmares for some people who might have experienced trauma, sometimes dream journals can help get some insight into what’s going on in our unconscious while we’re sleeping, reading journals for people who really love books, just kind of a way to add a couple extra layers of meaningfulness into your life.

One day at a line or one line a day journals are really cool. Where it’s just, you write one. A day. That’s all. It can be one sentence. It can just be one kind of thought. But that’s a good way to get started as well. There’s also journaling jars. I’ve seen a lot on like Pinterest, as I talked about earlier, where you just put, you look for yourself, some journal prompts, put them all in a jar and then pull them out.

Oh, nice. You can pick a monthly theme. So I have friends who have kind of picked like, you know, a word that they want to focus on that month. And then as they, as they kind of try to focus on that, reflect on it, they journal about that word or that theme all month. And then there’s also nature journals where sometimes people might sketch or write or just kind of sit in nature and reflect and be mindful and then write about what that was like.

Yeah. And I think what’s cool is that now. Like, I’m always a big fan of going into a bookstore and going into the journal section. I told Brie earlier, my toxic tray is buying journals and then not actually putting anything in them, but there are lots of new journals out there that have like the prompts included or like it’s a gratitude journal.

And so there’s already. For you to say, okay, well, this is what I’m grateful for today and here’s the date and all that kind of stuff. So that’s pretty cool too. Yeah. There’s definitely a lot of journals that are kind of pre-made, which I think is really great. I know there’s a lot of options on Amazon that I’ve seen that like seemed pretty affordable, but you know, we know not everybody has maybe extra like 10, $15 to spend on something like that.

So I think, you know, worst case scenario make your own. Yeah, that’s true. All right. So we’ve talked a lot about like solely written journals, but you have mentioned here and there that people might use pictures or other types of ways to sort of express themselves. So what other types of journaling do people do out there?

A really popular one is bullet journal. So basically you buy like a blank journal. Sometimes these ones have little dots on the pages because people are kind of drawing in like a structure of like a calendar or like some kind of graph or some other illustrations. So bullet journaling is most specifically used as kind of like a planner that you create for you.

So you might draw in like a calendar on the first month and kind of decorate it, maybe pick a theme and then you track a lot of things. So depending on the person, things they might kind of want to track could be like books they’ve read, they could add mood trackers if they struggle with mood problems.

A lot of times it’s to kind of establish goals and kind of look, look at values, which is something we talked a little bit about before. You can also see kind of like what kind of patterns you have. So some people might track, sleep and see, oh, you know, I feel really good during the week because I’m sleeping well.

But then after I, you know, sleep too much or sleep too little on the weekends, then I noticed I start to feel like more depressed or more sad or even more anxious. And so you can kind of start to find patterns whenever you’re tracking habits in these ways. The nice thing about bullet journaling is you can kind of customize it to your life because you’re creating your own planner and your own.

It’s often like a mindfulness practice to AA, sit down and engage in that creativity to draw and build the journal. But then also to kind of like check in at the end of the day, like, you know, how, how was I with my hydration? How was I with my eating? How was I with my sleep and to kind of really check in with yourself and your self-care in that way, sometimes people also kind of put like logs of things they want to do in the future.

Maybe like travel plans. There might be a monthly log or a log for the year, a daily. And so they can be like a pretty cool way to kind of start if you were looking for a place to start journaling. Okay. Okay. And now what about like more visual types of journals? So I know that like a lot of people in the pandemic, I got sucked into the Tech-Talk world and this is kind of where I started to see more visual journaling because it is visual media anyway.

And so Seeing was that people were taking things like pieces of scrapbook paper stickers. Glitter and kind of doing like mixed media journaling. So sometimes it could be, for example, like if someone was really into Bridgeton, they could maybe make like a visual, like two pages and a journal about Bridgeton and maybe put some quotes that were meaningful, maybe you know, some stickers of ladies and kind of old dresses and just kind of like really, really try to encapture like how that show makes you feel like on a journal page.

Yeah. The stamps, it could be with highlighters. It could be with dried flowers, it could be with a million things. So, you know, materials that we often see, it would be like pens and pencils, crayons, colored pencils, marker, markers, stamps, pastels watercolors, washi tape anything you could use to collage.

I’ve seen people kind of like rip up scraps of paper and stick them in like some cool ways. I’ve seen people like sewing into pages, which is kind of cool. I’ve seen people using like wax stamps. Stamp like melting wax and stamping into it. So there’s like kind of a lot of ways you could use it. I mean, we talked a little bit about nature journaling, and if you are somebody who likes to kind of be in nature, you could collect leaves and different kinds of flowers and plants, especially from different places and kind of dry them and press them into a journal where you could write the day in time and maybe even the season, and maybe a little bit about that area.

So there’s, the possibilities are endless. They really are. So we live, you know, in a time where people really like to use their phones, their tablets, their laptops. So there actually are some journaling apps that are out there to help people to get started. So, Brie, what are some of the ones that you’ve come up.

So I remember when I first kind of made a journaling presentation that you know, we made a list of apps that kind of had good reviews. And then this morning as I went to double-check, some of those apps have kind of changed. I always say, if you’re interested in using an app to try journaling, just go to like the app store on your phone.

I always say be smart and like look at what has a lot of reviews and what has the highest reviews, you know, as I’m looking today reflectively has like 80,000 reviews. All five-star reviews. So that could be like potentially an option that’s popping up. There’s definitely some apps like prompted journal that has like decent reviews where it definitely is giving you journal prompts.

There’s one that looks more like bullet journaling called Zinnia adrenaline planner. There’s one called diary with password that has about 2000 reasons. I haven’t tried and downloaded all of these, so I’m kind of just kind of eyeballing, but these, this would be, my process is to maybe like download two or three and kind of check them out.

Because I think with anything, you just have to find what works for you. And so it’s a little trial and error when you might be like, yeah, this doesn’t work. Or you know, I really love this one and some of them are free. Some of them are paid, so these are all things to take into consideration, but a lot of them will let you try things for free.

And then if you really like it, you could pay a little bit more to get the features. I know. I love a good app, but I find that I don’t use it. If I do journal, it’s always handwritten. So I’m old school like that. It’s probably because I’m in my late thirties. I prefer writing too. I know a lot of students use laptops for notes, but like I still, like, I’ve always used paper notes and yeah, I have, like, I literally have a file on my desk that says small notes.

Cause I just have really small notepads. So that’s what I take notes. So not efficient. But, but yeah, so really, if you want to use an app, it’s really at your discretion, so use your best judgment and see what really works for you. So earlier in the podcast where you talked a lot about what the benefits of journaling might be, but like, we didn’t really get the opportunity to expand on that.

So what. Like, let’s go into a little bit more detail about what some of those benefits might be. I think for emotional expression, journaling can really help people begin to identify label, accept, and process emotions. I think that a lot of times, you know, I have a student maybe who says I still overwhelmed and I’m like, okay.

So that could be a variety of things. I kind of understand what you mean by the feeling overwhelmed, but it could be like sad. The stress, exhaustion, frustration, and anger, and a million things. So being able to kind of label identify kind of accept that that’s how you’re feeling and then process through those emotions.

Journaling can be a healthy way to do that or start practicing that. I think we talked about, you know, reflective thinking, but journaling can help you gain some self-awareness. You can gain awareness about patterns and your thoughts. Like, wow. I noticed that every time in a social situation, I started to have anxious.

Or I noticed that a lot of my thoughts are like negative. Every time I’m writing, it’s always like negative stuff. I wonder what I could do to like, change those. It also helps put things into perspective. So journaling can help you to see like maybe fuller, whole pictures of things. And also it can help get like more of a sense of control, especially when you kind of feel like emotions might be out of control.

You know, we talked about how journaling can help with reducing. So I think a lot of times when we are processing our emotions, paying attention to our emotions, we feel a little bit less stressed. Some ways journaling can help with anxiety. A lot of times we can notice and identify if we’re having you know, a lot of anxious thoughts, it can help us get to the root of our anxiety.

It can also help kind of like clear your mind and find some of your triggers. For depression, journaling can really help us start to shift from a negative to a positive mindset, especially if it’s about ours. So a lot of times, if you notice, you maybe are blaming yourself, you could say like, you know, in your journal, like, Hey, that wasn’t my fault.

I know that wasn’t my fault. Things like that for physical health it’s been shown that adrenaline can help strengthen your immune system because it helps reduce stress. We drop our blood pressure because we’re more relaxed. Sometimes we can sleep better. And generally we’re like healthier. When we use healthier coping skills like journaling, we talked about how adrenaline can help improve.

So, you know, Courtney had shared with me that she likes to kind of document like trips and special moments so she can always remember them. But taking that time to reflect, really be checked in at the end of the day or checked in throughout the day. So you remember what you want to write about or journal about is a practice of mindfulness, which can really improve memory, focus, and attention.

And then we talked about like healing and recovering. So a lot of times journaling can help reduce intrusive. A lot of traumatic things we want to avoid or upsetting things, but facing them in a safe way, like journaling can reduce some of those avoidance symptoms and help us process difficult things that have happened.

It can also help us find the good in life and it can help with, you know, grief addiction. We talked about like eating disorders, especially if you’re maybe doing bullet journaling where you’re tracking your mood and your sleeping and you’re eating and things like that. So just to revisit and extend a little bit on some of the benefits, those are some of the major ones.

Okay. Right. So to sum it all up, we probably should try to journal. I think it’s worth a shot. Yeah, it definitely is. All right. So now let’s bring it on home with some final journaling tips. Bree, take it away. I think that the hardest one is making it a habit, but it’s always harder in the beginning. And then after about a week, it’s a little bit easier and after two weeks is a little bit easier.

So it’s really just making it a habit and you know, giving it a fair chance. So, you know, maybe if it’s just the one line a day to start, or if it’s just three minutes a day to start, then you kind of can build up. Or if you really find that that’s not working, you could try one of the more visual types of journaling.

But I think that, you know, the research body is. So I think that we know that this can help in a lot of ways. And so we just have to find the right way that it works for you and make it a habit. Some other things would be, you know, to make sure that you keep it kind of private because that allows you to be more honest.

So, I think a lot of times it’s hard to say certain things out loud, especially things we might be embarrassed or ashamed of. So if we keep our journal just for ourselves and we keep it private, then we can be more open and honest with ourselves. And I think that can be really great. You know, I say start small and be realistic.

And that’s true with most goals. You know, if you think you’re going to be journaling for an hour a day every day, or you think you want to take on this huge bullet journaling, but you’ve never done it before. And you have no idea where to start and you don’t have any supplies like that. To me, feels a little like.

Maybe just start with something a little bit smaller and then kind of build up to something that seems more doable and might be a little bit easier for you. You know, we would definitely want to kind of avoid like some things like wallowing or sticking into the negative stuff, or even like feeding things like self-blame, because I think those things we know are not as healthy.

So if you see that you are kind of just listing out a bunch of negative things, really try to challenge yourself to, you know, rewrite a thought. So if you think. You know, you’ll wake up and you think this whole day is not going to go well, there’s not going to be anything good going to happen. You know, challenge yourself to write about like maybe what your hopes for the day then what are things you hope or things you think you could accomplish or a small goal you can hit?

Some other things would be not to forget to like live your life. So I think sometimes. I start to like, get someone to journaling, they’re doing stuff just to journal about it. Or that they get so into journaling that they’re doing it so often that they’re kind of missing out on some other stuff.

And they’re not really like engaging, like, you know, any coping skill, it can be overused. And so if you’re, you know, kind of in the middle of like a social interaction, you take your phone out and to kind of like journal about your feelings. It can be a little bit weird and it’d be like overused, but I think it’s important to try to remember, like to live your life.

Engaged and present. Some other things are to like date the entries that we can kind of track your progress, track how things are going, make sure you have dates on things. Another piece that we haven’t talked about as much as to kind of like, keep your journals or keep the pieces of your journals to reread them and reflect on.

Another one is to be kind to yourself. So like I said, we talked about self-compassion, but this is a new habit. It’s a new project. It’s a new behavior you’re starting. So it might be a little bit harder in the beginning. You might say this week, I want to journal, you know, one line a day and then by Wednesday you’ve already like forgotten or you’ve brushed it off and didn’t stick with it.

Don’t give up just because you didn’t stick to it. Just kind of go back to it and try again and be kind to yourself, knowing that you’re doing your best. And it’s hard to start new. And then last, just keep doing whatever ends up working for you. Journaling should definitely be fun. It shouldn’t feel like a chore.

It shouldn’t feel like it’s a homework assignment from your counselor. Although I kind of know that sometimes it feels that way. But a lot of times when people, I can get people to buy into the idea, there’s a lot of benefits. And so I think when you do find something that works for you keep doing it and make sure.

All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Bree. I learned a lot that I hope all of our listeners did too, but we appreciate once again, you taking the time and talking to us and I’ll make you come back on the podcast because Brie’s office is two doors down from mine. So I make her talk to me all the time.

But all of you listeners out there, thank you so much. And we will catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesdays.

 





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