Journaling 101

Journaling has been around for ages, but recently it’s started to gain popularity on social media. Bullet journals and elaborate planners have become trendy on apps like Instagram and YouTube. It’s not uncommon to see elaborate monthly spreads, artsy scrapbook pages and picture-perfect handwritten entries. But what exactly is the point of journaling?

Journaling can be a great way to remember important events in your life. It can also serve as a mental, emotional and creative outlet. It can even be a way to get yourself organized. Bullet journaling, for example, typically involves tracking goals, events, budget, habits, hobbies and media consumption week-by-week or month-by-month, depending on your preference. Some people use journals as a kind of scrapbook. Travel journals typically include ticket stubs, photos and other keepsakes from a particular trip. Journals can be a combination of these things, or something totally different. Journaling is a very personal thing. Everyone has their own style of journaling and each person finds different benefits to it. A few of my friends answered some questions about their own personal journals and each person’s experience was unique.

Erin Cleary, a theater major at George Mason, said that she uses her journal as a scrapbook and a way to reflect on her life. She says she journals whenever she can. Erin writes a lot in her journal, such as, big moments, special events or whenever she’s “feeling creative”. She also uses it to doodle, review media she has consumed and even lets other people write in it if she wants to remember something she did with them. Erin has multiple journals but uses one main journal most consistently. She said her favorite part of keeping a journal is being able to look back on the great moments in her life and also see how her opinions and feelings have changed about certain things. Erin believes that journaling has benefitted her mental health, been a creative outlet and has given her a way to connect to herself. Journaling has helped her learn more about herself.

Sarah Millard, also a theater major at George Mason, says that she wrote more consistently when she was younger but still writes when she feels the need to “get [her] thoughts on a page”. She has two journals, one as a scrapbook, taping in keepsakes and writing about them on each page and another that is just for writing. Sarah says that she loves keeping a journal because she has the ability to look back on how she was feeling, thinking and how she worded things when she was younger. She says journaling has helped her “stay grounded and feel connected to my sense of self”.

In my own personal journey, I have found journaling to be an artistic outlet and a great way to reflect on my personal growth and track my goals. Last semester I started journaling pretty consistently for a class and it really grew on me. I used the journal to write down things that had happened that day and, more importantly, how those things made me feel. This was something that I found to be super helpful later on in the semester. If I found myself in a tough spot, I could look back and see physical evidence that I had felt that way before and what I did to work through it. There were some days when I didn’t feel like writing everything that I felt in proper sentences so I started writing poetry instead. This was something pretty new for me but I started to really enjoy it. I don’t journal as much as I did a few months ago, but the time I spent journaling regularly has continued to help me and writing poetry has become a new passion of mine.

There are a few common themes throughout each journaling experience. People use journals as a way to document important moments in their lives and reflect on their past thoughts and feelings. Oftentimes, journaling is used as an outlet, whether that be an outlet for emotions or a creative outlet. But each person’s journaling experience is unique. There’s no “right” way to journal. Don’t feel like you have to be super artistic or organized to keep a journal, and you don’t have to feel guilty for not journaling consistently. Journaling is a great way to express yourself and there are lots of mental and emotional benefits. I highly recommend trying to journal if you haven’t started yet. If you do have a journal, revisit your past entries and reflect on what’s changed. What you find may surprise you.