Back in 2013, I wrote “Introspection Overload? The Value of Journaling” for Psych Central’s “World of Psychology Blog,” where I adamantly sang the praises of journaling to combat overthinking. To cathartically unleash thoughts and feelings and therapeutically decode them via the written word.
Since I’ve kept journals by my side ever since I was a young girl, it only seemed plausible to turn to them when I was dealing with that brand of anxiety — the rumination, the reflections that go into “overdrive.”
And that is exactly why nobody was more surprised than I when I stopped journaling altogether last year.
You see, in moments of anxiety, I began to realize that journaling may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Writing down all my thoughts, with thorough dissection and analysis — until I felt comfortable — was counter-productive to my end goal.
Instead of letting my thoughts disintegrate once my pen marked my paper, it only propelled them further along, giving life to other thoughts. We see the problematic pattern here, right?
And so, I decided to go against my natural impulse to write it all down, which felt pretty strange since journaling had been a predominant habit of mine for so long.
Instead, I mentally thwarted the thoughts away before they could fully take hold; a process I enjoy referring to as “mentally journaling.” (Yeah, I guess I didn’t lose the concept of “journaling” completely, heh!) There is surely something to be said for developing helpful cognitive techniques for yourself to brush-off pesky thoughts that surface.
As it turns out, a positive domino effect of sorts ensued. By “mentally journaling” I’m able to preempt rumination, in general, from occurring.
Now, do not get me wrong. This is absolutely “easier said than done” of course, and there’s definitely times when the process is harder than others; when I may feel vulnerable and succumb to overthinking in some way, or have difficulty trying to resist being “in my head.” However, I still do not resort to a journal.
While journaling has inherent value, perhaps it’s not for everyone. (After all, I shockingly discovered it was simply not my go-to-mechanism anymore.)
I suppose various avenues work for different people. But maybe, and please excuse my strained attempt for a metaphor here, it’s best to break the root of thought before it can continue to grow.