It was the weekend before my first college midterms. There were many hours spent studying, not so many spent sleeping, and probably too many cups of coffee. Feeling overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities both inside and outside of school, I began thinking about healthy ways to manage my stress. A quick Google search revealed a popular suggestion: journaling.
According to Intermountain Healthcare, there are numerous mental and emotional benefits to daily journaling — stress reduction, improved memory, increased happiness, and greater creativity, to name just a few. In some cases, there might even be physical benefits. The article reports that “those who journal boast improved immune system functioning” and “lessened symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.” Intrigued, I made a trip to my local Target to pick up a journal.
I decided to spend about 10 minutes each night before bed journaling. Popping in my AirPods to play my favorite music, I began to write. At first, I struggled with thinking too much about structure and organization, but the words started flowing when I let myself write in a stream-of-consciousness manner.
My daily journaling consisted of many different topics, but there were a few I frequently tended towards. These included events that occurred throughout the day, overall feelings, moments of gratitude, goals for the future, or anything I was particularly worried about.
Over the course of my first week, I noticed a shift in my overall mindfulness. I often find myself thinking too far ahead, but journaling allowed me to be truly present. I was able to pay more attention to my surroundings and how I was feeling at a given point in time.
After practicing gratitude, I felt a boost of positivity and optimism. I began taking note of little moments throughout the day that made me happy and that I might have previously overlooked.
Rather than dwelling on the things that were bothering me, writing them down on paper helped me put them out of my mind. Reflecting on my problems in this way made it easier for me to brainstorm possible solutions.
Finally, looking back through past journal entries reminded me of how much progress I had made. No matter how challenging life felt at the time, I had gotten through it.