If you suffer from depression or know someone who suffers from depression, you may wonder if there are ways to manage depression in addition to any of the benefits from antidepressants and therapy. For some, their depression is drug-resistant and there is no benefit from medication (and even therapy). Other than magnetic stimulation therapies, which are often beneficial for those with drug-resistant depression, and also offered at our clinic, Phoenix Mental Health Services, there are other methods one can try or suggest. It is relatively well-known, that writing can be good for depression and self-expression.
The disclaimer for this blog post is that I am not suggesting that depression can be cured by writing but there is a lot of information readily available demonstrating its effectiveness in managing the symptoms. And like I mentioned in other blog posts, sometimes it is worth trying if it is not going to cause any harm.
Writing a journal can be very effective in improving the mood and managing the symptoms of depression and does not require any particular skill. There is no particular content that needs to be included, for some, it may just be scribbling things down which can result in clearing their minds or acting as a distraction through a difficult period. This is often ‘prescribed’ by therapist alongside treatment because it may enhance the improvements. Many may be thinking how this can actually help, but here are some explanations.
It lets you take control of your thoughts and worries.
By noting it all down, it can really make you feel that you are putting it into perspective, and you may get a better understanding of what is bothering you at that time and potentially rationalise it or shift your viewpoint. It makes you realise that you are taking an active role in your own treatment and if you believe it has helped you, it will empower you to do the same again. Writing can then be embedded in daily life and become an important coping strategy.
By continuing to do this, there is the potential that you will begin to notice patterns. If one writes in their journal when they are distressed and notice that there are similar symptoms being experienced repeatedly, you may spot something that triggers you. For example, you may notice that your symptoms are most unmanageable in the morning whilst you are getting ready and you feel under stress. This can allow you to look into what it is about the process of getting ready that makes you feel that way. For this reason, I would suggest writing time and date stamps for each entry so you can track this effectively. With relation to this particular example, you may notice that it is only those days when you are going to work you feel this way or when you are seeing your partner.
Here are some tips on how you can benefit from writing a journal to its maximum.
Just write whatever you would like to write. There should be no pressure to have a structure or length, it should just be your own thoughts written freely. Just remember that you are not writing it for anybody else but you. It is also important to try and write as regularly as you can, and this should be embedded in your lifestyle. Writing on and off means that it will not have benefits such as tracking your symptoms or managing the symptoms. It is also important to be realistic, you must not think that something such as journal writing is going to cure your depression but be optimistic that is can really help you manage it and keep symptoms at bay.
As I mentioned early, writing can help shift your viewpoint, but this will not be as likely if the entire content of your journal is completely negative. If you find yourself writing only negative thoughts, try to shift your writing in another direction and avoid rereading. Some may take this the wrong way as I also said there is no content pressure, however, it cannot be beneficial to only write negative thoughts. There is nothing wrong with writing negative thoughts in your journal particularly if you are feeling this way, but I would suggest putting a limit on it such as only 25 minutes. Since it is not advisable to read what you have written, throwing it away after you have written it may be effective in making you feel like you have let those feelings go. This is just a thought, but it still would be a good idea to throw it away regardless of whether it works in that way or not.
Finally, the last tip, in my opinion, is the most important. Keep everything readily available. Most people have never written a journal or stuck to it in fact, so it is important that you have a pen, paper, notebooks everywhere you inhabit e.g. the living room, the car, the office desk or the bedroom. I am sure many of us can remember the time when we had diaries but then we hid them so nobody to read them, but instead we just forgot about them entirely.
If the thought of somebody finding your entries or journal scares you too much and acts as a deterrent for keeping one, remember that we are in the day and age of smartphones. You can write in your notes on your phone, computer or tablet and keep it password protected. I would suggest that when you are writing it, disconnect your device from the internet to avoid any distractions or notifications. So, in short, set yourself up for success.