Through adolescence, I had always liked the idea of writing in a journal, yet I hardly kept with it. I always felt people viewed it as childish or girly. However, since I began college, I've found more and more of my friends keeping journals. They would tell me how great it is for relieving stress, organizing thoughts, and reflecting on past experiences. It sounded beneficial, so I bought the prettiest journal I could find and began writing. I can honestly say it's changed how I view my life, how I view myself, and how I make sense of the circumstances I find myself in. It is a habit I recommend to any and every college student, and here's why:
1. Journaling makes you more organized.
Ever feel like you have so many tests this week, papers to write, practices to attend, club meetings to go to, all on top of working or seeing your friends? All college students have been there, feeling like you need 30 hours in a day instead of 24. Writing down all your day's or week's responsibilities in a journal is actually a practical and useful solution. Seeing them written down makes them seem more tangible and far less overwhelming than when they're spiraling around in your head. As you check each item off your checklist, it all seems a lot more doable and you will get them done more efficiently.
Journals aren't just for reflecting what you did that day, but planning for tomorrow. Checklists, notes, reminders, events: writing them down helps you categorize and strategize, therefore making you more organized and efficient. Plus, it's very satisfying to see all your responsibilities checked off at the end of the day, probably with some time to spare!
2. Journaling helps you achieve your short term and long term goals.
Regularly writing can serve as a reminder for past successes and future goals, things you're proud of, things you want to work on, etc. According to a study done by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, those who wrote down their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write down their goals. Writing them down helps you create a vision and strategize how to get there, whether it be for that day or that year.
For the big goals you may have, such as studying abroad, graduating college, getting a promotion, or moving to a new city, don't just write them once. Write them often. Writing down your goals repeatedly keeps you actively engaged in thinking about them, and in turn, helps you stay on track to get there. Additionally, write about where you are on your journey toward that goal. The journey is also the reward. Actively writing about your steps in the process helps you appreciate the road toward your goal and identify the blessings and opportunities presented to you along the way.
3. Journaling helps build better habits.
By writing down your thoughts, habits, successes, and failures, you learn what you appreciate about yourself and what you want to work on. Keeping a journal forces you to be aware of your actions and behaviors. Whether it be tracking what you eat, tracking your mood, or identifying patterns in your life, writing them down regularly forces you to be aware of your habits and which ones you should stop or continue.
4. Journaling improves communication skills.
Writing and speaking are connected. Allowing yourself to trace and organize your thoughts regularly through writing strengthens your ability to do so through speaking. Personally, I've found that by writing in a journal, as well as writing academic papers, my vocabulary, sentence fluency, and overall verbal communication skills have strengthened. I have also found myself able to discuss difficult or personal topics with others more naturally and with ease after expressing similar thoughts in the private environment of my journal.
5. Journaling benefits your mental health.
Writing gets the creative juices flowing just as much as drawing, painting, or any other art. Having a creative outlet helps you relieve the stress of your daily life, an outlet every college student needs. Writing allows you to explicitly express your thoughts, emotions, and stresses in a healthy and productive way while allowing yourself to make sense of them. By offloading your racing thoughts, your mind will be quieter.
Writing can also boost your self-esteem. It makes you feel more confident and mindful while allowing you to re-live past events, make future plans, and express yourself creatively through a safe and private outlet. This can become especially beneficial when dealing with grief, trauma, or stress. In a study conducted by Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, participants were asked to write about stressful or emotional events in their lives for 15 to 20 minutes on three to five occasions. Those who did so had generally better psychological and physical outcomes than those who wrote about neutral topics or didn't write at all.
It's not just what you write, but how you write that plays a role in your mental health. In a study by the University of Iowa, "writers focusing on cognitions and emotions developed greater awareness of the positive benefits of the stressful event than [writing focusing on emotions alone]" (2002). In other words, you get the best benefits of writing when you tell your personal story rather than writing your feelings alone.
6. Journaling makes you more mindful.
When you write in your journal you don't have to filter yourself as you do when talking to others. You are only talking with yourself, so you can be as honest as you want without worrying about judgment or lack of confidentiality. Letting this honesty flourish lets you learn about your authentic self better. You learn what makes you feel happy, confident, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc. More importantly, you make sense of why you feel a certain way and what can make you feel better. Writing can also help identify which situations, habits, or people may have a negative impact on your life and emotional well-being.
Writing helps you understand and decipher what is happening in your life, how you feel about it, and how to move forward. You take a step back to look at each situation objectively. You decipher between logic and emotion. You stop passively dancing around your thoughts and feelings and actively confront them. By writing in a journal, by becoming more mindful, you feel more accepting and in control of your circumstances rather than at the mercy of them.