Life can be very hard and sometimes it is really difficult to get to the place that you want to be. Many people struggle with this, as this balance of both the rational and emotional life can be extremely hard to maintain. Time after time of ignoring our emotional selves can build up until we crack or breakdown. Even those who know how to actively express themselves when presented with difficult situations can run into roadblocks. It may be hard to assess what is actually needed in the present moment. Unfortunately, there is not one complete and perfect solution to this mental sparring. However, there is one coping mechanism that I have found helpful in my own life and maybe some of you can get some use out of it as well. That mechanism is the power of keeping a journal.

Journaling is something that has been around for centuries in our history. Many of the historical texts and works that tell us about past humanity were firsthand accounts of those who experienced them. It is an ancient technique and one that provides extensive benefits to those who are involved with it. The most interesting aspect of this activity is that there is absolutely no right way to do it. If you want to complain about your day for pages and pages, go for it! If you are in the middle of writing and decided to draw a picture of a tree, why not? Nature’s great! It is this completely up to you what you do and how you do it. With this in mind, I can not tell you how to journal as that is decided by you and you alone. I can, however, let you in on some of the results from getting involved in this practice. These are some of the benefits that I have seen personally from applying this practice to my everyday life.

1. Stress Reduction

One of the most interesting aspects of this activity is the way you feel afterwards. People do not necessarily realize the stress they are under until they have a place to put it outside of themselves. The transference of life situations to the page allow the mind to calm, as you are addressing the situation at hand and giving yourself a break. This is an extremely valuable tool, especially when in a college or academic setting where tensions and expectations are high in even the most common situations. The ability to carry with you something that can help you reconnect in even the most stressful situations is an extremely valuable tool.

Journal prompts for stress: 10 Quick Journal Prompts to Calm Your Mind

2. Help with Anxiety and Depression

This one is especially close to my heart as a person who experiences anxiety on a daily basis. When using journaling for this purpose, separating reality from the irrational thoughts you are feeling can be extremely helpful. The benefits of this have even been scientifically proven. The “Bridget Jones Effect” (as it has been since named) is what happens to the brain when studying how consistent journaling affects participants. In a study done by the University of California, participants were told to write about either an emotional or a neutral experience. As it was revealed, “Those who wrote about an emotional experience showed more activity in part of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which in turn dampened down neural activity linked to strong emotional feelings.” In other words, those who expressed their overwhelming emotional states through writing were able to calm the part of the brain producing those feelings, in a way helping them cope with the experience.

This benefit is fitting for those who also experience anxiety and depression, as it lets one step back from situations connected with pure emotional stress and see them in a new light. As well as this, it helps one calmly explore the reasoning behind feeling those emotions in the first place. I, myself, keep a journal on me at all times during the school week to pull out when I feel lost in a situation or experience something that triggers my anxiety. Since delving into this practice, I can truly say my anxiety is much more tamable than it used to be.

Journal prompts for anxiety: 7 Journal Prompts That Will Help Tackle Anxiety

Journal prompts for depression: 50 Journal Prompts for Mental Health

3. Discover Yourself and Who You Are as a Person

Have you ever truly wanted to know yourself? Sometimes we can feel so disconnected to our own being, but do not know how to start looking within ourselves. Journaling allows a starting point for this process, as it makes it much easier to sit and have a conversation with yourself. This aspect is extremely helpful during an upheaval in one’s life, as well as for everyday use to connect with parts of yourself you may not even know existed. One helpful strategy when using a journal in this way is to write down the things you want to address and walk away for a couple minutes, allowing yourself to regroup. When coming back to what you have previously written, look at it as though you are talking to a friend, allowing distance from your personal stake and (hopefully) a new way of looking at those aspects about yourself. What becomes abundantly clear is that life, the way we act within it, as well as the decisions that we make for ourselves are all routed in perspective. By experimenting with new ways of looking at the aspects that define you, you are opening the mental door to adventure and discovery within yourself. Who knows what you may discover!

Journal prompts for discovering yourself: 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery

4. Expressing Your Creativity

Going hand-in-hand with self discovery is creativity. The more that you explore your own mind, the more you can do with what is within it. You are the artist. You are the creator. As this practice improves your creative skills overall, it can also help you explore new aspects of your writing. You may find yourself diving into narrative writing or poetry. You may take your mind on adventures that were before unknown to you. You are the master of your universe and that can become extremely clear when you are expressing your deepest feelings without fear of rejection. So go ahead - go on those adventures.

Journal prompts for discovering yourself: Daily Journaling Prompts For Creative Happiness

For more information, I recommend Overall Adventures on Youtube. If you need help setting up your journal, or would just like to know more about it in general, she has several videos that may be very useful.