Focused woman writing in journal, on sofa at home

How Journalling Improves Your Mental Health

While many people keep a diary in their teenage years, this is a habit that so many tend to lose as they progress into adulthood. Although this may be a habit that you have never thought twice about since, journalling can really make a huge difference to your mental health. 

What is Journalling?

Journalling has been going on since ancient times, with the first known journals dating back to Japan in the 10th century. 

To put it simply…

Journalling is the practice of recording your thoughts, emotions and reactions to different events and situations. It differs slightly to keeping a diary, in the sense that a diary is more of a record of daily occurrences, whereas a journal is more about reflecting on life in order to gain some clarity. 

The advantages of journalling have been recognized by many famous faces over the years, with everyone from Oscar Wilde to US presidents choosing to keep a journal. 

In the past couple of years, social media has brought journalling back into the spotlight. Everything from bullet journals and gratitude journals to digital journals and journalling apps (all of which will be discussed in more detail further on) are becoming more popular, but why exactly is this? 

The Mental Health Benefits of Journalling

When you take a look at all of the many mental health benefits that journalling can bring, it is easy to see why this practice is now becoming increasingly popular. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two mental health conditions that can really take their toll on a person’s overall health. 

Chronic stress, along with the anxiety that this causes, can lead to: 

  • High blood sugar and blood pressure 
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks 
  • Depression 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Fertility problems

People are constantly looking for ways in which they can manage their stress and anxiety levels, and journalling is a great place to start. 

How does journalling help with stress and anxiety?

Well, research has found that journalling enables people to release their worries and anxieties from their mind, rather than suppressing them or dwelling on them.

Not only does this reduce stress and anxiety, but it also frees up the mind and allows it to properly focus on the task at hand. 

Contemplative woman writing in a journal

This works for dealing with your thoughts and feelings about stressful events that have happened in the past, as well as for stressful situations that are coming up in the future. 

It is also a great way to help you to avoid particular stress triggers in the future. 

How? 

By writing them down, you will be able to better identify exactly what it is that is causing your stress, meaning that you can then take steps in the future to avoid those triggers. 

Reduces the Symptoms of Depression

Around 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives, making this a very prevalent illness that needs to be dealt with as early on as possible. 

Wondering how journalling helps a person to deal with depression? 

In a number of ways, such as: 

  • Perspective and control – getting your thoughts on to paper is a great way to look at a situation from a different perspective. It is also quite empowering, and due to the way in which it will make your problems seem more manageable, you will then feel as though you have a better sense of control over your life 
  • Increases awareness – you may not realize at first what it is that is making you feel depressed, but journalling can help you to identify this, bringing subconscious thoughts and feelings to the surface. This then makes it easier to deal with your triggers 
  • Tracking depression triggers – if you take note of your symptoms each and every day in your journal, it won’t be long before you begin to notice a pattern in the triggers that exacerbate your depression symptoms. This then makes it easier to avoid them in the future and keep your symptoms at a low 
  • Gratitude – regularly reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for you in your life can help to keep depressive symptoms at bay

There have been a number of studies carried out on the connection between journalling and depression. 

What did they discover? 

That those who were suffering from depressive disorders experienced a significant decline in their symptoms after journalling for just a few days, with these effects continuing on for the four weeks in which the participants were required to keep a journal.

Improves Memory

As mentioned above, journalling is such an effective way to reduce stress and clear your mind of all of the negative thoughts and emotions that are running through it. 

How is this linked to your memory?

Because freeing your mind of all of that negative clutter enables your working memory to function much better. It means that your brain does not have to use its cognitive energy focusing on stress or worries, and can instead use this to create memories. 

The fact that writing your experiences down on paper also helps to improve the way in which your memory retention works is an added bonus! 

Combats Sleep Deprivation

The quality of your sleep and the state of your mental health are so closely related. 

Sleep deprivation not only has a negative effect on your mental health, but mental health issues can also lead to sleep deprivation, resulting in quite the vicious cycle.

How does journalling help with this? 

Research shows that those who spend just five minutes before bed journalling are able to relax and fall asleep much faster than those who do not.

Happy woman smiling and sleeping in bed

Think this sounds like an easy way to tackle your sleep deprivation? 

There’s one thing that you need to know if you want to use journalling to help with this…

Rather than journalling about what went on during the day, the improvements in your sleep patterns will only really come about if you journal about tasks that you still need to accomplish. In other words, writing a to-do list for the next day will bring about better results than writing about tasks you have already completed. 

Why? 

Because all of your to-do tasks are the ones that will keep your brain active in the evenings. Writing these down, and therefore offloading them, will then put your mind at ease, enabling your brain and body to fall asleep so much easier. 

The Different Methods of Journalling

Ready to give journalling a try? 

As mentioned earlier, there are now so many different ways in which you can do this, whether you prefer to go old school with pen and paper, or opt for something more high-tech and digital. 

It goes without saying that a blank notebook and a pen is all you really need to start journalling. 

However, if you need some extra help getting started, then you may want to look into some of the other journal types out there that provide all of the inspiration you need to really get your thoughts on paper. 

There are many journals out there that already contain journalling prompts, and these can sometimes make it easier to get started in terms of actually writing something down. 

Want something more high tech than pen and paper? 

There are several digital journalling tools and apps out there to choose from. 

Here are a few of the most popular: 

  • Ohlife – this free service will send you an email each day, asking how your day went. All you need to do is hit the reply button and type out a reply, which can be as short or long as you want. Send your email and then log on to your account to see all of your past replies 
  • Grid Diary – this program will send you eight question prompts a day, laying out your answers in an easy-to-view grid-like format 
  • Five Minute Journal – this app will send you timed prompts, asking you to list different things, whether this may be three things that you are appreciative of or five things that happened that day. This app was developed around psychology research, and is a great one for reflection 
  • Day One – offers a wide variety of features, from being able to add metadata and music information to the way in which you can customize it to send multiple prompts at certain times of each day 
  • Momento – Momento not only gives you the opportunity to jot down your thoughts and memories, but it also draws together all of the information you have posted each day on each of your social networks

What Should You Write About?

If you go for a journal or app that offers up writing prompts each day, then this makes it easy to know exactly what you should be writing about. 

However, going with just a blank notebook and a pen, or even a blank page on your computer, can sometimes leave you with writer’s block. 

So, how do you decide what to actually write about? 

Well, as mentioned earlier, if you want to use journalling as a way to help improve your sleep, then try to jot down a quick to-do list of your upcoming tasks the next day. 

However, in order to gain all of the other mental health benefits mentioned above, you need to delve a little deeper when journalling…

Here are some ideas of what to write about: 

  • Your accomplishments, no matter how small these may seem 
  • Five things that you are grateful for 
  • A recollection of the events that occurred that day 
  • Reflections, meaning sentences that begin with “I want”, “I think” and “I feel”
  • How things are going at work and in your personal life 
  • A bucket list 

Don’t worry about your spelling, grammar or punctuation when journalling. You need to be able to write freely from your mind, without having to worry about any of those things. 

If you don’t really enjoy writing, a bullet journal may be a better option for you. 

What is a bullet journal? 

If you do an online search for this, you are likely to feel a little overwhelmed. So, to put it simply, a bullet journal is basically just like a normal journal, except that you write things down in bullet points and lists rather than sentences and paragraphs.

This is referred to as rapid logging, and you would make use of different symbols to categorize your notes. 

Writing in a journal

It may seem complicated, but this method of journalling can actually be extremely helpful when it comes to improving your mental health. 

Making Journalling a Habit

Many people make the decision to start journalling, and go out and buy themselves an inspiring new notebook or journal, as well as some new pens, to get them started. 

While it may go well for the first day or so, turning journalling into an actual habit can be tricky. 

One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your journal near your bed. Set aside just five minutes each night before you go to bed for journalling. Doing this first thing in the morning can also be a great way to start your day. 

Alternatively, if you would like to let loose and freely write for longer, set aside 20 minutes of journalling time three times a week. If you consciously set days and times for journalling, this will make it much easier to incorporate the habit into your existing lifestyle. 

Keep doing this for a while and it won’t be long before journalling becomes a natural habit! 

As you can see, not only can journalling be so useful when it comes to improving your mental health, but it is also such a fun and creative practice to make use of. Even if you think that journalling may not be for you, give it a try for a week or two, as you will likely witness its benefits for yourself by then.  

Makeup artist applying blush on beautiful woman's cheek

Is Your Makeup Affecting Your Skin?

Do you wear makeup on a regular basis? 

If so, have you ever stopped to think about the effect that your makeup could be having on your skin? 

While makeup in general, when used correctly, does not really cause any severe skin issues, it can still affect your skin in a number of ways, and this is something well worth knowing more about. 

Allergic Reactions

One of the most common problems that people have with makeup products is that they can often lead to allergic reactions. 

When it comes to these reactions caused by makeup, they can usually be categorized into one of the following: 

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis – this is when you experience an itching or burning sensation, and tends to only affect the outer layer of the skin 
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis – this is a deeper and “truer” allergic reaction, resulting in the allergens triggering an immune response from deep within your skin. This usually shows up as swelling, itching, or even as blisters 

Think you’re safe because you haven’t yet experienced an allergic reaction to any of the makeup products you use? 

Think again…

Both forms of contact dermatitis can arise after years of using the same product. The reactions can be caused by repeated exposure, so you can never be certain that you will not experience a form of contact dermatitis from your makeup.

What should you do if you ever experience an allergic reaction from your makeup? 

Immediately stop using the product, and look for a cream or treatment that contains plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients. A cool compress held against the affected area can also help, but, if your reaction is quite severe, you may need to visit a doctor for some medication. 

You are probably wondering…

Is there any way to prevent these allergic reactions from occurring in the first place? 

Unfortunately, there are so many common allergens often used in makeup products, and this makes prevention quite challenging. 

However, avoiding as many of those allergens as you can can definitely make a difference, especially for those who are prone to allergic reactions. 

Toxic Ingredients

As mentioned above, many makeup products contain allergens and other toxic ingredients that are definitely no good for your skin. Not only can they lead to poor skin health, but they can also have more serious repercussions for your overall health too. 

The list of these ingredients can seem almost endless, but here are a few of the most common ones to avoid: 

  • Parabens – this group of preservatives has earned itself quite a bad rep lately, and for good reason too. Parabens interfere with the way in which your natural hormones function, affecting everything from reproduction to the immune system to the growth of cancer cells 
  • Butylated Compounds – often referred to as BHT or BHA, these ingredients are preservatives that are found in a wide range of makeup products. Not only do they cause skin allergies, but they also mimic estrogen in the body, disrupting hormonal functions while promoting the growth of cancerous tumors 
  • Lead – the use of lead in many different products, such as paint, has been banned, due to the fact that it has been proven to be a harmful neurotoxin. However, many makeup color additives have been contaminated with lead, which can cause havoc to your skin and health. Try using products that have been produced in small batches, and make use of natural color pigments, instead, as this helps to minimize the chance of coming across lead contamination 
  • Fragrance – since cosmetic brands claim that their fragrance formulas are trade secrets, they are not required to disclose the ingredients used to create each fragrance. This means that there are usually hundreds of different chemicals hidden under this label, and these are some of the most common causes of skin reactions

When purchasing a new makeup product, be sure to check the ingredients list to ensure that none of the common allergens mentioned above have been used. 

Acne Cosmetica

If you have noticed an increase in breakouts whenever you wear makeup

This could mean that you are suffering from acne cosmetica. 

Never heard of this condition before? 

It is actually an extremely common type of acne, and is caused when cosmetic products build up inside hair follicles. This leads to clogged pores, resulting in a breakout.

Infographic on clogged pores

How do you know which of your makeup products is causing your acne cosmetica? 

Well, take a look at where your breakouts tend to occur. If they tend to accumulate around the eyes, then the culprit is likely to be one of your eye makeup products. On the other hand, if they are spread quite evenly across your face, take a closer look at your foundation. 

Once you know which product it is that is causing your breakouts, you can stop using it. 

Wondering why these cosmetic products cause acne in the first place? 

It is usually down to the oils that have been used within the product’s formula. 

One way to avoid purchasing makeup products that could potentially lead to breakouts is…

By looking for products that have been labelled as non-comedogenic. This means that their ingredient will not clog up your pores. 

Common pore-clogging ingredients that are often used in makeup products include: 

  • Cocoa butter 
  • Grapeseed oil 
  • Coal tar 
  • Coconut oil 
  • Lanolic acid 
  • Linseed oil 
  • D & C red dyes

Another tip would be to make sure that the skin care products you use are also water-based, rather than oil-based. Adding excess oils to your skin before applying your makeup will only exacerbate the problem. 

Bacterial Infections

Many people don’t realize that the use of makeup can sometimes lead to bacterial infections on the skin. 

How? 

In a couple of ways…

Firstly, cosmetic companies are not required to display expiration dates on their products, although a few still do. While this may be the case, it can be difficult to ascertain when a makeup product has expired, especially when it still seems to be working after a couple of years. 

However, even though it may seem as though that forgotten-about product is still doing its job, what you won’t be able to see is all of the bacteria that is now living in that product. 

To avoid unnecessarily infecting your face with bacteria, follow these guidelines when it comes to throwing out expired makeup products: 

  • Liquid Foundation – 2 years 
  • Powder – 2 years
  • Blush – 2 years 
  • Lipstick – 1 year 
  • Eyeliner – 1 year 
  • Eyeshadow  Powders – 2 years 
  • Concealer – 2 years 
  • Eyebrow Pencils – 1 year 
  • Lip Liners – 1 year 
  • Mascara – 6 months

Of course, those shelf life guidelines will be even shorter if you don’t store your makeup products correctly…

Make sure that you tightly screw on any caps and lids once you are done using them, to prevent the products from drying out and to also prevent the ingredients from oxidizing. Keep your products away from extreme temperatures too, as this will only have an effect on their consistency. 

Don’t forget, the tools that you use to apply your makeup, from brushes to sponges, can carry bacteria too. These need to be regularly cleaned in order to prevent bacterial skin infections. 

How often should you be cleaning them? 

Ideally, give them a quick clean after each use, and then a deeper clean every couple of weeks, or at least once a month. Brush cleaners are available for this, or you can simply use some warm water and a gentle soap. 

Accelerated Skin Aging

While makeup itself does not cause accelerated skin aging, failing to remove it before you go to bed at night definitely does. 

How are the two connected?

Well, each and every day, your body produces thousands of free radicals. These are basically unstable molecules within the body that go around attacking healthy cells, and this includes your skin cells.

Free radicals are created by exposing the body to so many different environmental factors, from the sun’s UV rays to pollution, making them pretty much impossible to avoid. 

What does this have to do with your makeup? 

Well, your makeup actually holds on to free radicals. When you remove your makeup at night, you are clearing away those free radicals along with it. However, failing to remove your makeup means that the free radicals end up causing even more damage than usual to your skin. 

Leaving your makeup on at night can lead to: 

  • A breakdown in the collagen and elastin in your skin 
  • An increase in fine lines and wrinkles 
  • A rough skin texture 
  • Skin dullness 

Of course, leaving your makeup on at night also means that there is more chance of your pores becoming clogged, resulting in breakouts. 

When it comes to removing your makeup…

A simple swipe of a cleansing wipe simply will not do. 

Although these wipes may be super convenient, they only end up smearing your makeup across your face, along with the dirt, oil and dead skin cells that were also on your skin. 

While a cleansing wipe is better than nothing on those evenings when you are just too exhausted to properly cleanse your face, you would be far better off with a proper cleanser for all of the other nights.

When using a proper cleanser, make sure that you massage this into dry skin, rather than damp. 

Why? 

Because damp skin means that the water that is already on your skin will end up diluting the cleanser, meaning that it will not do as good a job of removing every single makeup particle. Instead, massage it into dry skin for about 30 seconds, before adding a bit of warm water and continuing to massage for another 30 seconds or so. 

After that, rinse the cleanser off and follow up with the rest of your skin care routine. Make sure to never leave your skin bare after cleansing, as it is quite vulnerable at this time and will be prone to dryness and sensitivities. 

Young woman washing her face at the sink

One more thing to keep in mind when removing your makeup…

Make sure that you are extremely gentle when handling your skin. It may be tempting to tug at parts of your skin, such as your eyes when removing mascara, but avoid doing this. The skin on your face is so thin and delicate, and any extra tugging and tension will only lead to an increase in facial sagging and fine lines. This is especially the case when dealing with the fragile skin around the eyes. 

Dry Skin

Not only can certain makeup products exacerbate dry skin, but they can sometimes even cause this in the first place. 

How? 

Well, if you have dry skin, then this means that your skin has a lack of natural oils. These help to prevent moisture from evaporating out of the skin. 

Certain makeup products, such as powders, actually absorb the oils on your skin. If you already have a lack of these oils, then losing the little that you do have means that you will quickly experience the symptoms of dryness. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of hydrating powdered makeup formulas available now. You could also try applying a moisturizer onto your skin and then waiting for a few minutes before applying the powder over the top of that. Not only will this keep your skin more hydrated, but it will also give your makeup a fresher and dewier finish. 

In general, creamy makeup formulas tend to be better than powders for those who have dry skin. The creams will be so much more moisturizing and nourishing, and there is little chance that they will cause your skin to dry out. 

For most people out there, wearing makeup will not really cause any skin problems. However, it is always good to be aware of the potential side effects, so that you can recognize the symptoms and deal with them as soon as they start to appear.