While keeping a personal journal or diary may seem like a middle school fad, having that safe space to write down or draw your feelings is a crucial part of self-care. It is a cathartic, inexpensive way to cope with the stresses of everyday life. I have a drawer of notebooks that I’ve used over the years as journals, dating all the way back to my first day of sixth grade. For me, journaling is about seeing how far I’ve come, mentally and emotionally, and being proud of myself for my accomplishments, no matter how small. There are many ways that journaling can be beneficial to your mental health, and also enjoyable:
- Relive memories.
Have you ever seen a cringey photo of yourself and wondered, “What was I thinking?” Well, now you don’t have to wonder. With a journal, you will know exactly what was going through your head that day. On a less cringy note, writing down your thoughts and feelings from the day allows you to relive memories like they’re little movies. Having that physical reminder of a special moment, whether it was your crush asking you to the school dance, or the day you got a promotion at your job, makes the memories that much more cherished. Also, as a writer, I often look back at old journal entries, and create stories from the material.
- Get your thoughts in line.
Everyone gets overwhelmed. Sometimes there are days where your head is going a hundred miles per hour, and you can’t focus on anything important. By writing in a journal, you have to actually think about what you’re feeling in order to translate it to paper. Personally, when I find myself in a storm of negative feelings, I don’t even write actual sentences. I scribble out words or short phrases in exaggerated, big handwriting. I fill the page with curse words and exclamations; I use my pen as a weapon, rather than doing something I might regret in the morning. Another coping skill associated with journaling is ripping up the page you wrote on and throwing it away. While you won’t be able to have that reminder of your feelings, the fact that you could let out your feelings in a healthy way is huge.
- Say what you want to say.
My favorite part of having a journal is that it’s for you, the writer. No one else owns that book. You can write from your perspective, completely uncensored. You can write down thoughts and feelings that you might not want to let out in person. Did your teacher tick you off because they assigned an insane amount of homework, but you didn’t want to curse them out, or else you’d be expelled? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Fill your journal with as many profanities as your heart desires. From another angle, you can write about your crush, or a gorgeous barista who made your Starbucks coffee, without peers judging your taste or your opinions, if that’s something you worry about.
You don’t have to journal everyday if you don’t want to. Set aside a notebook that you use for certain feelings or ideas, and fill it when the time is right. Like I said, at the end of the day, no one can tell you how to use your journal; no one can say you’re doing it wrong. Journaling is a beautiful hobby that I encourage everyone to try.