By: Lani Tran
When you were younger, like many of us, you might’ve kept an exclusive diary hidden under your pillows, holding a secret world for you to escape to. But, as you grew up, you might’ve stopped using your diary because it seemed “childish”. However, a diary is never something to grow out of over the years. If anything, writing down daily thoughts is something that people should get into as they continue to mature.
Journaling, or writing your thoughts down on a piece of paper, has been shown to help people, especially teens, cope with stress. According to Elizabeth Scott M.S. from Very Well Mind, “Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of journaling for health, happiness, and stress management. It's not just a simple technique but an enjoyable one." A pen, paper, or electronic device should be at anyone’s disposal. It merely takes 5-15 minutes out of your day to use these objects to clear off built-up frustration and sadness from your shoulders. The steps to journaling are quite straightforward.
First, try to find a comfortable space where you can indulge in your journaling adventures without any interruptions. Next, write down whatever is on your mind that is bothering you. Keep going for as long as you want! You can list out any fears and concerns you have in your life. Once you’re finished writing, re-read and re-think about what you have just written. Reflect on your fears and think of answers to questions such as, “Could things be different? Is there something that you could do to change your circumstances right now—or your thoughts about your circumstances?” Challenging your fears and concerns will help you relieve anxiety. It helps you view your circumstances from a different perspective. By processing your thoughts on paper, you are inadvertently training your mind to understand what might happen in the future, what you would do, and how you could prepare for the future.
There’s actually a lot of science going on behind the scenes of journaling! Research shows that journaling has helped people with physical health conditions overcome their obstacles. Harvard Medical School also provides some insight: “More recently, researchers have evaluated whether expressive writing helps reduce stress and anxiety. One study found that this technique reduced stigma-related stress in gay men. Another found that it benefited chronically stressed caregivers of older adults. And a study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that anxious test-takers who wrote briefly about their thoughts and feelings before taking an important exam earned better grades than those who did not.” Theoretically, when people open up privately about a traumatic event, they are more likely to feel comfortable talking with others about it. This suggests that journaling leads to a much-needed confidence boost that can help people reach out for social support.
Essentially, journaling is the stepping stool that helps a person reach a conclusion for themselves on how to overcome their obstacles. People learn to become expressive through journaling as they are putting their thoughts into words, and they are creating something on paper. The fun thing to keep in mind is that the journal is completely personal, so the way you want the journal presented is exclusively up to you. Many people appreciate the creative freedom that comes with journals. You can add your own doodles, colors, and pictures. It’s a world that’s entirely in your control, so a journal will be something that helps you feel safe in a world of chaos.
Next time when you're overcome with fear and stress, remember that you have your good old friends, the pen and paper to help you get through your worries. Look forward to journaling as your relaxation and bonding time with yourself. You’ll get to know much more about yourself after the experience. Go ahead, and “Write Your Worries Away.”
“Journaling for Mental Health.” Edited by Renee L Watson et al., Content - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center, University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester, www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552.
Ackerman, Courtney E. “83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress.” PositivePsychology.com, PositivePsychology, 1 Sept. 2020, www.positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/
Publishing, Harvard Health. “Writing about Emotions May Ease Stress and Trauma.” Harvard Health, Harvard University, www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/writing-about-emotions-may-ease-stress-and-trauma.
Scott, Elizabeth. “Here Are Ways You Can Journal Your Way out of Anxiety.” Verywell Mind, Dotdash, 26 Jan. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/journaling-a-great-tool-for-coping-with-anxiety-3144672.