I first started to keep a journal in eighth grade, but it was nothing like the journaling I do now. I vividly remember that journal: a blue spiral with brown edges that was worn and tattered and completely full of all of my feelings and things that had happened to me. But it wasn’t really my journal. This journal was strictly for reporting how I felt about the boy I liked. Toxic, I know. Every night I would write in that journal about what we had talked about in school that day or how many times he waved to me in the hall. Definitely not the best or healthiest way to get into journaling, but that’s how I started.
Even after that boy I still continued to journal, but I completely changed how I did it. I purchased a new journal, a green one this time, and I wrote about everything in my life from relationships to school to new hobbies. Throughout high school I continued to write to myself as I started new school years, gained friends, lost friends, fought with my brothers, experienced my first love and everything in between. Journaling became a safe space for me. When all those feelings were too much to hold by myself, I could take some of that weight off my shoulders and put it in my journal. It gave me a chance to slow down. Sometimes life just seems to happen way too fast and we encounter things that are just too much to hold by ourselves. Having a strong support system is very important, and I am so grateful to have always had people who care about me to talk to, but there were a lot of times when sharing my feelings and struggles with others was just too exhausting. So that’s where journaling came in. I knew that it was always going to be there and my journal wasn’t going to judge me for what I had to say. This was an opportunity for me to be completely honest with myself and be conscious about my actions and habits. I didn’t have to worry about what someone would say or think because these words were just for me.
I fell into a groove with the way I enjoyed journaling. I mostly did what I call “brain dumps.” I spewed out every feeling and thought that I had at that moment and let the writing organize itself. Well, it was actually all very unorganized. But that’s the beauty of the brain dumps; they don’t have to be organized. However, in the past year or so I have been trying to switch things up a bit. I know many of us have heard about how important practicing gratitude is, and in all honesty, I used to think that writing down what you were grateful for each day was a silly waste of time. But I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone and I’m grateful (no pun intended) that I did. Physically writing down what I am grateful for really helps put things into perspective. It’s no secret that life can suck sometimes, but taking a few minutes to think of things that bring me joy in the midst of it all makes such a positive difference.
I’ve always had a hard time changing my mindset about things. Once I have an idea of how something is going to turn out, it’s really difficult for me to change that, whether it is positive or negative. My mom always reminds me that my mindset is the one thing I have control of, and journaling has helped me to improve my mindset towards both the small and big moments in my life. Being able to look back on what I was feeling four years ago or four weeks ago allows me to see how I really have grown. It’s easy to overlook progress and growth when it happens over a long period of time, but having the ability to open my journal from sophomore year of high school and read exactly what I was feeling at a certain moment in time allows me to see how much I have really grown, especially when I never thought that feeling that I wrote about would ever leave. In high school I wrote a lot about the sad moments in my life, but as I have gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is to document the happy moments too. You want to be able to look back on both the highs and the lows. So if you’re feeling stressed, sad, happy, overwhelmed or excited, journal! There are truly no rules; you can make it whatever you want! Maybe it will change your life, too.