Why You Should Keep a Journal in College

When you think about self-care, what do you picture? A bubble bath and facemask? Yoga? A homemade meal? Whenever I need to take a personal day, I always turn to pen and paper.

writing-in-a-journal.jpg

Photo via Getty Images

I took a personal essay writing class (which is basically writing essays about yourself) here at ISU and my professor made a point that I think I’ll always remember: you will forget what it feels like to be you.

When you think about your childhood, you remember snippets and major events, but what about the days in between? College is the time when we shape who we are, we learn about ourselves and the world around us. I want to document those discoveries, the small victories, the random thoughts. I want to cherish seemingly insignificant details. Then, when I am older, I can look back on something real.

I think a lot of people make a mistake when they treat their social media like a journal - ‘the story of my life’. Believe me, I love my Instagram and Snapchat and photos are beautiful mementos. My problem is that social media is not honest, so it cannot be a healthy outlet for self-expression or self-care.

Social media is based on approval; you post a picture or tweet and wait to see how many likes you get, and having little or no likes would probably make you upset (I know I would be). So when you do something for approval, you are not doing anything wrong, but you are creating stress that risks a cycle of insecurity and need for validation. Instead of posting something because you like it and want to share it, you start to post what you think other people will enjoy.

Your journal should be the opposite of social media in pretty much every way. The #1 rule of the journal: it is YOURS. No one ever has to read it or even know that you have it (even though I’m sure you’ll be so excited about it that you’ll tell everyone, right?) That privacy is the most important thing about journaling - paper would never judge you! You can put anything down on the page, and it is for you and you only.

When you’re feeling sad or frustrated or confused about something, talking with someone can help a ton, but I try to talk to myself first. Writing about a problem or conflict you’re facing is a helpful way to begin sorting it out because it forces you to slow down. You will articulate your thoughts more clearly, which will make it easier to talk to someone later.

This is also a useful tool for romantic relationships, because communication can get really difficult and sometimes you just need to plan a quick script. If you are in a fight with your partner and you stew on it all day until you see them in person, it might not be much of a productive conversation.

Also, after you’ve gotten your thoughts down, you can read things back to yourself and put them in a third-person perspective. I am a big overthinker, and when I write down the things I freak out and worry about, I can decide if my feelings are rational or not, without having to feel judged by another person for it.

Writing about your emotions does not need to be heavy, either. I write to check in with myself and be mindful of how I am feeling no matter what mental state I’m in, because I believe we must pay closer attention to ourselves to find value and clarity in our lives.

 

Don’t know what to write about? Here are some ideas to get you started...

  • Imagine you’re telling off your professor/boss/archenemy, no holds barred. You could even add a fight scene.

  • Dream journal

  • Doodle a cat driving a boat (because, you know, they hate water)

  • Write a poem about a hot stranger on the quad

  • Draw those tornados you draw when you’re bored in class

  • Make a summer bucket list

  • Write down all the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (from memory, of course)

  • Plan your and Chris Evans’s wedding (hey, it could happen)

  • Write a murder mystery story--maybe it was that stranger on the quad!?!