June 12, 2020
Have you ever felt that you needed 34 hours in a day instead of 24?
So that you could meet school deadlines, go to your club meetings, work, hang out with your friends, spend time with your family, organizing your desk and room, exercise, read, etc. etc. Have you ever felt stressed out because no matter how much you try, you are always behind and overwhelmed? I am sure you have been there (I have been there) and I have a simple solution to help you get through it. It is called “journaling”. Journaling makes you more organized, more efficient, and it can relieve your stress too.
Most journaling experts refer to two different benefits of journaling; achieving professional success and improving your mental health. In this blog, I want to help and inspire you to develop the habit of journaling so that your life get both easier and happier. Once you have developed this habit, you will see how it can also serve as free therapy to improve your mood (and we all need that these days!).
If you have read journaling blogs, you will come across statements such as “top 7 reasons to journal”, “top 5 methods to journal”, and “pros and cons of digital vs paper journaling”. Some of these blogs are even geared towards high school or college students. I will share with you some of the benefits of journaling and then give you some tips on how to start journaling with the goal of developing a fun, lifelong habit.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling is a very old tradition that dates back to 10th century Japan. I’m sure some of you have heard that many successful people implement the habit of journaling in their daily lives. So why not adopt this habit at a young age to ensure professional and personal success?
In addition to making you more successful in your academic and personal life, journaling can positively impact your mental and physical health. Over the past two decades, a number of scientific studies have been published to support this notion.
1. Journaling connects you with your inner self, allows you to reflect, and helps you develop good habits
When you post on your instagram or talk to your friends, you often present a fictional version of yourself and you filter yourself for the fear of being judged. When you journal, you are only communicating with yourself. Your journal is a safe place for you and you can be honest with your authentic self, without worrying about others’ opinions of you. By writing about your thoughts, intentions, actions, behaviors, goals, and dreams, you will get to know what makes you happy and what makes you sad. You learn who and what can drain you emotionally and who and what can make you happy and confident. By learning about yourself, reflecting on your weaknesses and strengths, and making a commitment to improve yourself, you will develop good habits too.
2. Journaling makes you organized and help you achieve goals
When you include your to do list in your journal, you will see them more clearly and you become more motivated to complete your to do list. I write my to do list every Sunday and then try to check the item off my list during the week. For some reason, when we see things on the paper, they beome more tangible and achievable. Keep in mind that your journal is not about just reflecting on what you have done but it is about planning future tasks and helping you achieve your goals. You can include a deadline next to each item on your list to make yourself more organized. Don’t be afraid to write about long term and big goals such as studying abroad, going to graduate school, becoming a doctor, writer, scientist, dancer, etc. in your journal. Write about these goals more than once and reflect on steps you need to take to get there. Journaling will also help you see where and when you waste time and how you can manage your time better. A number of studies have reported that people who write down their goals are more productive in life.
3. Journaling improves your writing (and speaking)
When you write in your journal, even if you are just writing for yourself, you will improve your writing skills. Journaling will give you the opportunity to practice writing in a safe and no-pressure environment. If one of your goals is to start a blog or write a book but you are not confident enough to share your thoughts with others, journaling can serve as a stepping stone to larger writing projects. You may have heard that writing and speaking are connected. Writing will help you to organize your thoughts, prioritize, and strategize. You will start strengthening your verbal communication skills. Once you see your thoughts on paper (or on a screen), you can talk more concisely and more clearly about them.
4. Journaling can serve as free (and very effective) therapy.
When you write in your journal about your anger, sadness, and disappointments, you openly express and release your intense feelings and thoughts. You will offload your negative thoughts instead of carrying them with you, and your mind will become more peaceful. Writing about your emotions and reflecting on them will allow you to identify stressors and feel empowered. Journaling can also improve your self-esteem and confidence. Studies have shown that writing about stressful events and life traumas helps with grieving.
5. Journaling can improve your physical health.
When you write in your journal, you reduce the impact of stressors on your body. A small number of studies have shown that journaling can improve our immune system (by increasing a type of immune cells called T-lymphocytes) and can also help with symptoms of asthma and arthritis by serving as a stress management tool. Of course, we still need need more studies to evaluate the impact of journaling on physical health, but there is no doubt that journaling can reduce stress. And as we all know, stress is the root cause of many human diseases.
How to begin journaling and make it a fun habit.
I hope that I have convinced you that journaling is a great habit to develop and that you are now committed to start journaling. Just like developing any other habits, you need to journal every day but if you missed a day (or two or three or a week) don’t be hard on yourself. Just restart.
- Journaling tools. Some people like to write in a notebook. If you are one of those people (I am one of those people), get a brand new notebook. It does not need to be an expensive one. You can decorate the cover yourself with your creative mind: coloring, sticking pictures or inspirational quotations like “I LOVE JOURNALING!” (Ok, that is maybe a bit too cheesy). Some people like to journal on their tablet, phone or their screen. Experiment with pen/paper and digital journaling to see which one makes you happier.
- Commit to journaling at the same time every day. Many people journal right before they go to bed (I am one of those people). Journaling before bedtime may help you sleep better because it clears your mind and it will also make you think about what you did during the day and how you can improve your thoughts and actions. It also limits your phone usage and takes your mind off of checking social medias, texts, emails, etc. Some people journal right after they wake up or while they are having their breakfast because writing will energize them for the day. If you missed your dedicated time, just journal any time you can.
- Be committed but also have fun. There is no one size fits all for journaling. There are many different styles of journaling. You can only write a few sentences or go deep on writing details and analyzing an event. You may draw some pictures in your journals or even doodle. No matter how you write, try to have fun with it.
- Just write. Don’t have any expectations and don’t edit. Remember? You are the only person who is going to read your journal. Do not set a length for your writing. Some days you may write paragraphs and some days you may just write a few sentences or words (some nights I just write a few bullet points). And that is OK.
Adams, K. (n.d.). It’s easy to W.R.I.T.E. Center for Journal Therapy. Retrieved from https://journaltherapy.com/journal-cafe-3/journal-course/
Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11, 338-346. doi:10.1192/apt.11.5.338
Farooqui, A. Z. (2016). Journal therapy. Good Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/journal-therapy
Smyth, J. M., Stone, A. A., Hurewitz, A., & Kaell, A. (1999). Effects of writing about stressful experiences on symptom reduction in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 281, 1304-1309.
Tartakovsky, M. (2014). 30 journaling prompts for self-reflection and self-discovery. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/09/27/30-journaling-prompts-for-self-reflection-and-self-discovery/
Karen Baikie and Kay Wihelm (2005). Emotional and physical helath benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 11 (5): 338-346