Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Defending the Art of Journaling: Get Started Today

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

What do Oprah Winfrey, Emma Watson, and Lady Gaga all have in common? They journal. While all from very different walks of life, each of these pioneering women have found a meaningful spot in their lives for the simple habit of journaling which holds the powerful catalyst for self-reflection that many people gloss over. This common thread can be found amongst not only some of the most successful and ingenuitive people of our generation, but also amongst the happiest and most grateful (who wouldn’t want that?). 

Before we dive headfirst into the world that is journaling, I think it’s important to recognize what journaling is and what it isn’t. I’m certain a vast majority of girls kept pink fluffy padlocked diaries stuffed away in corners of our childhood bedrooms, filled with random scribbles and disorganized bursts of thought (something like: “Joanna didn’t sit next to me at lunch today…”). While these diaries were great for keeping track of Christmas lists and which boys looked at us on the playgrounds, I think it’s safe to say we’ve left those days far in the past. However, the written nature of looking back on the day or planning ahead that started with diary-keeping is still a concept important for maintaining the practice of self-reflection. Thus, we come to the idea of the ‘journal’: the older mature cousin of the diary. 

The journaling trend has recently taken up the spotlight of mental health, but unlike some superfluous crazes, it’s roots in self expression and the process of journaling itself has benefits that are backed by science. Sometimes trying to balance school, work, relationships, and health can feel like drinking water from a fire hose, and added stress only increases the pressure. While there are many ways to deal with stress and anxiety, journaling has been identified as a benefactory to mental health wellness. In an article published by WebMD and reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD, journaling has been shown to reduce anxiety, help with brooding, regulating emotion, and encourages mental and physical healing. 

Despite what you may see on aesthetic Instagram reels or TikToks, journaling doesn’t have to be in a fancy notebook, complete composed pages of literary greatness, nor does it need to be pretty; all that matters is the simple act of writing down whatever thoughts and ideas occupy your mind. We all have different thoughts and feelings, so of course journaling will be unique!

Here’s my advice for starting to journal: Just write. Sever any preconceptions or expectations you may have about what journaling should be, and instead focus on transforming your emotions into written words. However, journaling isn’t just writing– it’s a habit. To build a habit requires a dedication of time, so again: just write (every day!). Whether you write as soon you wake up, or sit down with a warm cup of tea to synthesize the day into words, all that matters is the repeated habit of distilling your thoughts down into your journal. That’s really all there is to it!

A Few Journaling Pointers

  • Write in a relaxing and comfortable environment. 
  • Keep it simple and don’t focus too much on making your writing perfect. 
  • Use materials that you feel enhance your journaling experience. Some examples include: colored pens, highlighters, border tape, or stickers!
  • Don’t place too much pressure on yourself! Looking back and seeing your progression journaling is such a confidence booster. 
  • Use your journal as you best see fit. Everyone has a different motivation when journaling and however you plan to use your time is probably what’s best for you. 
  • Don’t know where to start? Try a gratitude journal: List off things you are thankful for, and you’ll quickly see how beneficial this can be. 
Olivia Neilly

CU Boulder '26

Olivia is a sophomore at CU Boulder double majoring in Molecular Biology and English. While one day she hopes to attend medical school, she still loves to read and write, often curled up with a good book and a cup of hot coffee. When not in class or studying, Olivia enjoys visiting cafes, shopping for new books, playing with her dog, or watching movies. Her favorite films are La La Land, Silence of the Lambs, and Amadeus. She is also passionate about research in biological and neurological fields, and she works in a lab at CU to help learn more about neurogenetics and mental disorders. Olivia is excited to be able to publish her work and explore a wide variety of topics that bridge between science and art along with what it's like living as a college student in Boulder, CO.