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For Your Eyes Only: Video Journaling for Your Mental Health

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Many people know the mental health benefits of keeping a journal. Whether you write, draw, or both, some advantages include mood regulation, self-expression and self-awareness. But have you ever considered switching formats and trying video? Although we usually speak to communicate with others, your video journal can be completely private, for your eyes (and ears) only.

Here are five reasons you may want to try video journaling. These include it being a safe space and a form of self-therapy. And these video journals also let you record personal progress, increase your self-awareness, and are simple for anyone to make.

A safe space to discuss and vent

Similar to speaking with a trusted therapist or friend, you can open up about whatever’s on your mind, helping to declutter and make sense of it all. While expressing ourselves to our loved ones is also important, there are some things that we’d rather work through privately.

And sometimes you don’t want to bother them with topics that you could expand upon in depth. I believe we all probably have such stuff that we’d love to talk about at length.

In addition, you can always keep your musings and rants completely private, as with written or art journals. Unlike vlogs and public content, your recordings are safe from the judgements and reactions of others. Your only audience will be the person who “gets you” the most: you.

Private videos are a safe space, where you can explore any thought or emotion. Without possible misunderstandings. And as you’re the only one who’ll see it, you don’t need to worry about getting the lighting perfect, dressing well, or other aspects that vloggers can fuss over! We all need a space to be our genuine selves without the fear of criticism or rejection.

Related to social media, a 2020 paper analyses how social media users’ idealised or authentic self-presentation correlates with their personal well-being. The results indicate that “individuals who are more authentic in their self-expression also report greater life satisfaction”. But you can gain the same benefits via private media.

 A form of self-therapy

If you don’t have a psychotherapist or you see them infrequently, your video journal can stand in for them. It can even help you identify topics you’d like to explore in greater depth with a professional. And it’s free.

Self-therapy has been described as “psychotherapy we can conduct, on ourselves, without the intervention or assistance of a therapist.” Essentially, it involves analysing ourselves (with compassion, hopefully) rather than just going through the motions.

As we’ve always got a stream of consciousness happening, we can get stuck in habitually thinking over certain things without realising it. Recording your thoughts lets you observe what topics get brought up a lot, what worries or angers you, what brings you genuine joy, and so on.

Importantly, it can help you clarify what’s important and what your values are.

If you keep video journals for a while (related to the next point), you can see patterns emerge in what you discuss the most. As in conversations with others, this talk with yourself evolves in a way that provides deeper insight into who you are.

But unlike conversations with others, your thoughts won’t get derailed. Haven’t we all had those talks where we could’ve/wanted to talk more about something before the subject was abruptly changed?

Even if you’re not interested in self-analysis, any kind of journaling process is therapeutic in itself.

As just one example, a 2022 study recognises that many people with mental illness journal to help manage their symptoms. The authors also conclude that “there is some randomised control data to support the benefit of journaling” for those with a variety of mental illnesses.

A record of your personal progress

You can keep your video journals for as long as you need. Storing them for a few months or even years allows you to look back on the progress you’ve made. They can remind you of past achievements, of how pleased you were about reaching a goal.

Living in the present moment is great. But we can also benefit from remembering how we were in the past, inspiring us to keep going if we hit a bump. Rather than comparing ourselves to others (“comparison is the thief of joy”), it’s better for our emotional state to only compare ourselves to how we were in the past. Any kind of personal record allows you to do that.

On that note, you may choose a specific topic or goal for your video journals to revolve around; or they could be more free-form, where you talk through a range of topics.

If you’re keeping the videos for a while, you might be concerned about storage. One option is to privately upload them to YouTube. They’ll be inaccessible to anyone but yourself (and those with whom you share the link via email). The site also lets you create private playlists

Additionally, YouTube is convenient in that it allows you to upload as much as you want for free. Remember when the video limit was 15 minutes? Those days are gone. 

But if you’d rather not go that route, you can back up your video journals another way. And if they’ve long served their purpose, it’s easy to free up that hard drive space again.

A way to gain greater self-awareness

Have you ever read something and thought that it sounded pretty generic? Like it could have been written by anyone, or even AI generated? Or that every writer on a site seemed to have the same voice – as if they were the same person? If we are writers, we know that public-facing content often needs to adhere to certain styles, tones of voice, and attitudes.

Personal diaries are unlike writing intended for public consumption. We can be ourselves. We don’t need to censor what we say or avoid any topic. In addition to this, though, video journaling adds some extra elements that can’t be replicated as well in written form.

In terms of human history, writing systems only developed very recently. Written language is believed to have first evolved in Sumer, a civilisation in Mesopotamia, around 3200 BCE.

As a side note, “scholars now recognise that writing may have independently developed in at least four ancient civilisations”: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and lowland areas of Southern Mexico and Guatemala.

Before writing, we relied on speech and body language. You might’ve read someplace that “X amount of communication” is nonverbal, e.g., 70%. In any case, we can tell a lot about a situation just through people’s body language.

So, another benefit of video journaling for your mental health is that you gain this extra insight. What are you saying without saying it? What are your facial expressions, posture, and other nonverbals indicating? What is your tone of voice like? We don’t really see ourselves much or hear ourselves as others do, so video journals offer that dimension.

An easy mode of self-expression

We all communicate. Some of us love writing and find it comes easily. Same with art. But others are less inclined toward these more traditional journaling forms. For instance, you might get perfectionistic, distracted, or blocked when writing. And thoughts might escape your mind before you can write them.

A video-form diary could also benefit those with low levels of literacy. However, people with vision impairments may prefer an audio journal, which includes many of the same benefits as other diaries.

Additionally, people speak faster than they write; another reason a video (or audio) diary could benefit you. But remember that rewatching the videos later can be time-consuming compared to rereading your entries.

Lastly, it’s simple and free to record on your phone or a webcam. You can easily edit it or add more content later. If you feel uncomfortable, remember that nobody else ever has to see it. You can always delete it later.

In conclusion, private video journals offer many of the same benefits as written diaries and some interesting extras. They provide a safe place to express yourself, process your emotions, record personal growth, and gain self-insight.

Monique Moate is a writer, editor, wife, cat mum, and night owl who enjoys writing about a wide range of topics. She cares about mental health awareness and destigmatisation and enjoys travelling around East and Southeast Asia.

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