A lot of the time, individuals fall into maladaptive patterns of being without even realising it. These patterns are essentially streams of thought and behaviours that become subconscious and automatic. Soon enough, reaction takes precedence, without the individual being able to identify what triggered said reaction.
Thought/mood journaling calls for consciously paying close attention to the way you feel at different points in time. Any event that causes a shift in mood or a new thought is jotted down, along with the thought and the feeling at that point in time. Thought and feeling could subsequently be noted down after certain intervals of time as well. In addition, the intensity of the feeling is rated on a scale of 1 to 10.
Personally, I feel journaling and other forms of expressive therapy are a great vent. Journaling needn’t necessarily follow the format of a table, as much as the vague outline of what content should be included. Therefore, it can be as colourful and creative as the individual deems fit, which in itself is therapeutic- it’s almost like creating a little space for yourself.
The idea is that over a period of time, individuals will be able to see overarching belief patterns emerge, which will result in connections being drawn between their beliefs, thoughts and feelings. These belief systems are then critically analysed, and more rational beliefs take their place. This has a domino effect on the thoughts and feelings in turn- the individuals realises that reality is not as set in stone or definitive as the previously held irrational belief deemed it to be; thus the helplessness so often associated with or involved in strengthening anxiety provoking thoughts diminishes.
Rationale: Individuals often fall prey to automatic thought and behaviour patterns, which result in undue anxiety. Not knowing the reason behind your anxiety is even more anxiety provoking. Sorting it all out helps identify automatic patterns that we fall into, and identification is the first step towards addressal.
Procedure: Individuals write in the thought/mood journal when they feel anxious, nervous, a sudden change in mood or a distressing thought. The columns usually are date, time, current scenario, feeling, thought. Over time, these are reflected upon and patterns may be identified and addressed. Can also be in the form of emotion name, emotion’s cause, emotion’s behaviour consequences, appropriateness, and whether this is a situation that can be resolved or has to be made easier to tolerate.
Outcome: Once patterns are identified, triggering events are identified. Triggering events are usually triggering because they are coupled with a series of cognitive distortions or cognitions backed by intense emotions. Rationally arguing against these cognitions helps ease the situation.
Indications: Can be useful for clients who feel stress/anxiety/nervousness with no identifiable cause.
Note: Journaling goes hand in hand with CBT/REBT techniques, wherein thoughts and beliefs once identified are disputed if unhealthy.