It’s not just for historians and The Swiss Family Robinson.
There’s a lot to think about these days. Many people—including kids and teens—are feeling anxious and uncertain. That’s understandable. Even in the best of times, school can be challenging. But did you know that keeping a journal can help you manage your stress and figure out life? It’s true. Research shows that writing down your thoughts and taking the time to reflect on them can help you relax, put things in perspective, and lead to better decisions. It also helps people identify and accept their emotions and has even been shown to have a positive impact on physical well-being by strengthening the immune system and helping you sleep better. But that’s not all!
The Top 7 Reasons to Journal
- It organizes your thoughts and allows you to reflect on them. Try writing about daily events in your life, your thoughts and feelings about your experiences, or opinions you have that you are afraid to express.
- It improves your writing. Keeping a journal is an excellent way to practice narrative, sentence constructions, dialogue and more. The more you write in your journal, the more your writing will improve.
- It is a good way to decide on your goals and a plan of action. Write down all the thoughts you have about where you want your life to go: personal and academic goals, your ambitions for a career one day, even your New Year’s or new school year resolutions. Writing them down lets you monitor your progress and consider new ways to achieve your goals.
- It helps you record ideas for stories, activities, and ways to solve problems. Every time you get an idea, write it down in your journal! Keeping all of your ideas in one place lets you revisit them and take action on them, if you decide.
- It helps you control your stress and anxiety. Sometimes, writing down your feelings helps you let go of them. Try expressing your anxieties and frustrations in the stream of consciousness style and record your mood in your journal each day. This will help you release tension and your journal is proof that you are dealing with the challenges that life hands you.
- It allows you to self-reflect and learn to be kind to yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day drama and forget what’s really important. Journaling is a good way to step back and reflect on what we’re grateful for that day, what you did that you were proud of, how you’ve grown and what you like about yourself.
- It can improve your memory. If you write something down in a diary, you’ll have an easier time recalling it in the future. (This is the same dynamic at play when you handwrite down notes in your class.)
If you feel like giving it a try — and chances are good you have the materials you need right there at your house — here’s what you need to know.
- All you need to journal is a notebook and pen. You can make it a special notebook and a special pen. Or you can recycle what you have lying around the house. What counts is the thought you put into it and the way you organize your thoughts.
- You don’t have to write every day. But writing regularly will maximize the benefits of journaling and increase your ability to articulate your thoughts.
- Privacy is important so that you feel comfortable writing about anything in your journal. Pro tip: If you have snoopy siblings, take the time to create a decoy journal and fill a few pages with the dullest thoughts imaginable, then “hide” it an obvious place where they will find it. Once they do, they’ll never to think to look for a second one. (Unless they’re reading this article, of course!).
- Prepare mentally before journaling in whatever way works for you, like exercising, talking to someone you trust, cuddling your dog, or meditating.
- Be honest with yourself when journaling. No one else is going to see it, so it doesn’t matter whether you “look good” in it or not. Just let it all out.
What to Do When You’re Stuck
If you find yourself with no idea of what you want to write about, try one or more of these prompts:
- Describe what you did that day and what you thought about it.
- Try writing affirmations to boost to your self-esteem, such as, “I’m getting so much better at writing!” or “My basketball has really improved.”
- Write about the people and things in your life that you are grateful for.
- Analyze your performance in school or during an extracurricular activity. How did you do? How did you feel? What could you have done better?
- If an event is unfolding that has evoked powerful feelings and you don’t know what to do, try writing about it in the moment, as if you were reporting on it live on camera. Record events and feelings as they happen and pay attention to your responses so you can learn about yourself.
- Maintain a log of your successes, from small to large. Celebrate your accomplishments!
- Keep a log of your favorite songs or books and why you feel that way about them. How do they make you feel? What did you learn from them?
Are you already an avid journaler? Share your tips and strategies in the Comments section. We’d love to know how journaling has helped you.