By: Chelsea Wolfe
Journaling is a powerful tool that can help manage anxiety, depression, and reduce stress. But journaling can retrain your brain to think more positively. These are great benefits, but that’s only one step on how journaling can retrain your brain to think positive thoughts rather than negative ones. Negative thinking most often comes from “Pent-up negative emotions [that] block the natural flow of life and love,” and will eventually lead to an outburst(s), whether verbally abusive or violent, and can cause loved ones to leave the toxicity you emit with this kind of behavior (Masters, 2018). Writing is beneficial for mental health in many ways, but specifically, journaling can retrain your brain to think positively in three easy steps:
- Spot negative patterns in your thinking and behavior
- Rewrite the negativity into positivity
- Journal consistently to reinforce positive thinking
Spotting Negative Patterns
The first step in how journaling can retrain your brain to think positive is to write negative thoughts as they occur. That’s it. Write them down through the day and do nothing else. Negative thought patterns include (Cuncic, 2021):
- Jumping to conclusions
- “Should” statements
- Emotional reasoning
- Personalization and blame
By spotting negative thought patterns, you can identify the triggers for these negative thoughts and emotions. At the end of the day, ask yourself: What triggered these negative thoughts and emotions? Is it the same person or situation? Is it related to a specific type of relationship, occupation, or something you saw on social media?
As you ask these questions, you will likely notice that the negative thoughts you wrote throughout the day are related in some way. So, what do you do with these negative thoughts now that you’ve identified a pattern? The next step is to rewrite the negative thoughts into positive ones.
Rewriting the Negativity into Positivity
There are various ways to rewrite negative thoughts into positive ones, such as using the two-column exercise, practicing self-compassion, or identifying a call-to-action. But the two primary steps before rewriting the negative thoughts to positive ones are positive reframing and examining the evidence (Strategies for Reframing Negative Thoughts, 2022).
A simple way to start is by taking the negative thoughts you wrote during the day and rewriting them. For example, if your negative thought was “I can’t do ‘this’ because of X reason,” a positive way to reframe it could be “X reason won’t stop me from doing ‘this’ because I can do ‘that’ instead.”
Review your list and change each thought into a positive one. The more familiar you are with your negative thought patterns, the easier it will be to practice changing them in real-time as they happen. To achieve this, you need to journal consistently to retrain your brain to think positively.
Journaling consistently can be challenging, as it requires revisiting traumatic events which can cause sadness and anxiety. However, the long-term effects are positive as it can cultivate a greater sense of meaning and improve overall health (Newman, 2020). To achieve this, it is important to force ourselves to journal even when it is difficult, as this is the only way journaling can retrain your brain to think positive.
But you don’t have to journal alone. The Love Story offers services such as peer-to-peer journaling sessions in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Whether you prefer to journal alone, in a group setting, or with a penpal you resonate with, The Love Story can help you get started today. You can access the services via the link provided.
Cuncic, A., Morin, A., & Cilli, K. (2021, October 26). Negative thoughts: How to stop them. VeryWellMind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-change-negative-thinking-3024843
Lebow, H. I., & Gökbayrak, N. S. (2021, July 15). How to replace negative thoughts. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/depression/replacing-your-negative-thoughts
Masters, D. M. (2018, September 6). How to release pent-up emotions. David M Masters Blog. https://davidmmasters.com/blog/how-to-release-pent-up-emotions/
Newman, K. (2020, August 18). How journaling can help you in hard times. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_journaling_can_help_you_in_hard_times
Strategies for reframing negative thoughts. (2022, January 25). St. Bonaventure University. https://online.sbu.edu/news/strategies-reframing-negative-thoughts