Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Life > Experiences

Gratitude: The Journaling Routine That Keeps Me Grounded in College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Many wish to master journaling, but few commit to practice. You’ve been there – after a long day of classes, homework, and socializing, all you want to do is lay down and knock out for the night. But wait! You forgot about your journal entry! A new habit you wanted to start after your favorite influencer gushed about the benefits of emptying all of your thoughts, feelings, ideas, or what-have-you into the pages of her journal every night for an hour or more (of course, only after you meditate beforehand). It’s a no-brainer that most people who try to dip their toe into journaling give up on it within the first few weeks.

But my version of journaling is one that’s kept me consistent for the past three years. (Well, mostly.) Each night, I write down three things I’m grateful for. That’s it. Just three things that, even if the world is on fire and the zombie apocalypse is happening right outside my window, I could say, “Well, at least…” Although it may seem lazy, this practice helped to bring me out of the major slump that was my first few weeks of college.

With all of the hubbub that comes with the first weeks of being a freshman, my mental and physical health were put on the back burner. My journaling routine suddenly became nonexistent. I couldn’t recognize the effects of its absence, but I felt them; although nothing was going horribly wrong, I couldn’t get myself to feel like anything was going right. By my third week at school, I already survived two major bouts of crippling frat flu, my classes were feeling too difficult to manage, I didn’t feel like I had any friends, etc, etc, etc.  I’ll never forget breaking down in my dorm room on the phone with my mom, tears dripping onto my cold Drey sushi roll, crying over why my college experience wasn’t living up to all of the expectations I imagined for it.

She coaxed me out of my spiral, only to then scold me to take better care of myself, and thus I started to get back (begrudgingly) into my gratitude journaling routine. At first, I felt stupid, like I was trying to gaslight myself into a false state of positivity, but I kept at it. 

“I am grateful someone held the door open for me…”

“I am grateful my roommate asked me if I wanted to grab dinner with her…” 

“I am grateful my TA agreed with my opinion in discussion…”

After a while of writing these daily entries, I realized I’d grown an awareness for the moments I felt grateful for something, and the bubbly, light feeling of joy that came with them. I learned to understand the moments I’m living in are beautiful as they are, and so much more valuable than the expectations I was clinging to. So although this journaling practice may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, I can say I’m pretty grateful it works for me!

Annie is a first-year student at UCLA from Connecticut majoring in Political Science and Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences. In her free time she loves dancing, working out, and baking.