When you hear the phrase “journaling,” it’s pretty easy to picture the stereotypical locked diary hidden underneath a pillow filled with secrets about what your crush said that day. I’m extremely guilty of visualizing this exact same image, but recently, I discovered that journaling can be a wonderful outlet for absolutely any emotion you’re feeling or any event you are going through. Whether you are angry at a friend, falling in love or just going through the motions, here are 11 important things to journal about.
1. Make a goal.
As college students, we are all pretty prone to rolling out of bed in our sweatpants, picking up our backpacks and trudging to class. Some days it is easier to wake up than others, but oftentimes, it is hard to start off the morning optimistically when all that is on our minds is leaving the comfort of our beds for that 8 a.m.
Set your alarm for five minutes earlier, and write down one thing you want to accomplish for the day. It can be something as little as setting aside an hour for studying, and doing this allows you to start off the morning organized and motivated.
2. Acknowledge the little miracles in every day.
Many times, the cons of the day tend to outweigh the pros. There could be so many amazing things that took place, but as soon as something undesirable occurs, our day is ruined. Taking the time to acknowledge all of the good that happens throughout a day can overpower the pessimist in us all.
You can take notes on your phone about each event that makes you happy or laugh and, at the end of the day, journal about them. Allow yourself to recognize how many miracles happen on a daily basis so when it feels like nothing is going right, you have on record all of the things that made you smile.
3. Acknowledge the bad things, too.
Although writing down the good really prioritizes the positive in our heads, it’s important to get the bad out too. Instead of waiting all day to be in bed to reflect on the day and what upset you, write it down and let go of it as you do. It is so much easier to lay out on paper what went wrong instead of letting it simmer in our heads.
Similarly to how nice it feels to rant to someone about the day, let the journal be your listener. That way your roommate doesn’t have to hear you complain about the COTA bus splashing you while it drove by earlier.
4. Reflect on a quote/lyric/verse that encompasses the day as a whole.
This section without a doubt makes up the majority of my journal. If you hear someone say something that sparks your interest, write it down right away. If you spent the day studying in the library and listened to a song that hit you right in the feels, write down the lyrics. If you want to look through bible verses to see what inspires you that day, go for it.
Write this down and annotate why it meant so much to you. It could be something as simple as it related to how you were feeling or something as extravagant as triggering an epiphany. Note that there is no wrong way to interpret these quotes; it’s your journal, after all.
5. Talk about your feelings.
I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. For those who feel like they burden others by talking about their feelings, it’s your chance to let it out. These can be good or bad. It is so important to acknowledge how you’re feeling and oftentimes, you’ll notice that once you start writing you can’t stop.
These are also interesting to look back on to see how you’ve grown from a hard time or encourage yourself to reach a level of happiness that you previously had. Similar to writing about the bad things that happened, recognizing how you’re feeling allows you to really analyze the causes of your emotions and puts you back in control.
6. Who inspired you today?
Did you have a good conversation with a friend? Did you see a complete stranger perform an act of kindness? Record these interactions. Let them influence how you grow as a person. Every interaction you have or every action you witness shapes who you become.
Give yourself a way to see who built you up and why you are the way you are. As much as we like to think we create ourselves to be our own person, we pick and choose who we want to be based on influential people in our lives. Give them the credit they deserve for making you, you.
7. Pray for someone.
Religious or not, know that there is always someone out there that needs a little TLC. Wish for good in people’s lives and hope that they find clarity in their daily struggles. Recognize that you are journaling as an outlet; you have found something that helps you de-stress.
Some people have not found that yet. No specific names are required, just write to the world that you hope people achieve the level of contentment that they deserve. It’s nice to be nice!
8. Reflect on that goal.
Remember when you woke up at 7:30 a.m. to write down that goal? Did you complete it? If not, why not? If so, write about how it made you feel to achieve it. Think about how good it feels to cross off all of your daily tasks from your to-do list; let this be another form of that.
If your goal was bigger than what can be accomplished in a single day, write about what is left to reach it and how you are going to do it. Push yourself to accomplish big things.
9. Write an open letter to…
Think about those times in middle school where you would type an angry text on your flip phone to someone and then erased it instead of sending it. Or when you wanted to tell your crush you liked them so you wrote them a note expressing your feelings and then threw it away. Do that again! This can be a letter to anyone you desire.
Write about how much you love your mom, how attractive you think the back of the head of the cutie that sits in front of you in class is or to someone that once was influential in your life but isn’t anymore. This is a time to take all of those nights you stayed up in bed thinking of things you wish you said, even though it was too late, and writing them down.
10. Make exciting plans.
Maybe you want to go see a movie this weekend, or maybe you want to plan out your entire wedding down to the color of the invitations. Give yourself something to look forward to. This is so incredibly important following a bad day.
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and are blinded about the amazing and incredible life that is to come. Get excited about the future and give yourself a reason to wake up the next day. Remember, it’s important to live in the moment, but also important to know that every moment leads up to something great.
11. Write down what you want to dream about.
Paint an image in your head of what you want to dream about and write it down. Make this the last thing you do before you go to sleep. Put down the YouTube videos that have advertisements of the scary movie that’s about to come out.
Make your last thoughts before bed happy ones. Not only will this make you tired because if you’ve followed all 11 of these points you’ve been writing for a while, but it allows you to take control of the end of your day. If your day was full of unexpected twists and turns, let this be your responsibility.
Journaling is not an easy habit to get into. We have homework, exams to study for, conversations to have, Netflix to watch and sleep to make up. Life is stressful, and bottling everything up will become too much to bear.
Put down the books, lock away your phone and sit down in a quiet place to collect your thoughts. Set aside an hour to resonate on all aspects of your day and be as detailed as you want to be. One day, you will be able to look back and read all of these entries and learn from these reflections.