5 Surprising Ways Journaling Could Change Your Life

By: Haley McClelland, RecWell Adventure Trip Leader & Active Terp Outreach Team Member

I never really thought that I would enjoy writing in my life. As a student, writing seemed more like a chore than anything. Essay assignments were always put off until the last minute and writing them caused major suffering. That was until I started to journal.

You may be thinking, “journaling is just another obligation.”

Considering how Pinterest boards and beautiful bullet-journal Instagram videos build up expectations around journaling, I don’t blame you. Trust me when I tell you it doesn’t have to be an obligation.

So what is journaling? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, journaling is “a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use.”

Journaling can focus on anything about your life that you feel like writing about.

Journaling doesn’t have to be strict! You get to make the rules. There doesn’t even have to be any rules.

When I remember to journal (which isn’t every day), I write about anything: how stressed I am; how happy I am; how tired I am; what I’m looking forward to. I might use my journaling time to complain about my classes, parents, roommates, or my bad hair day. I may jot down a quote that caught my attention on Pinterest. Or I might simply write down the events of my day. And honestly, some days I only get to writing down the date.

But, you know what’s great?

No matter what or how much or how little you decide to write, you can still reap the benefits from taking time out of your day to journal.

How journaling might just change your life (and changed mine):

    1. Clears your emotions. Journaling provides a safe place to spill anything you are feeling. You know how you tripped over a curb and landed face first in a pile of torn-up grass and mud? You can destroy the page with how embarrassed you felt. Did you achieve something you have been working towards for a long time? Write it down! Congratulate yourself! I have written in my journal long stories about both happy and lonely days. There are a few pages in my journal where all I wrote was, “ Today sucked;” or, “ Today was the bomb.com.” And that’s it. Having an outlet for anything you want to say is so relieving and freeing. Journaling allows you to say anything without any judgment or criticism.Writing down your emotions is also a great way to work through the origin of those emotions. Maybe you are feeling down and you don’t know why. Writing through your day might reveal when and what put you in a bad mood in the first place.
    2. Reduces stress. Scientific studies have found that journaling reduces stress by providing certain benefits, including: organizing your thoughts; developing a greater understanding of priorities; empowerment; reflecting on the past with a new mindset; letting go of the past; embracing your inner desires and future hopes. Don’t all those sound awesome?
    3. Increases your gratitude. Even though you might begin journaling in a poor mood or negative mindset, I find that often my thoughts shift to thinking about the things in my life I’m thankful for.When you start to recognize what you’re grateful for, your mind opens up to the beauty in your own life. What seemed like a bad day might just turn into a peaceful, brighter one full of gratitude. This is one practice I like to do to practice gratitude: write down three things: (1) someone you are grateful for; (2) something that happened today that you’re grateful for; (3) something about yourself that you like (i.e. color of your hair, a personality feature, how you handle situations, a specific hobby, etc.). Here are some other gratitude journaling practices to consider.
    4. Strengthens your sense of self. Writing through your day or whatever is on your mind is a very self-reflective practice. You might discover your true values or underlying conflicts. From those discoveries, you can take action. Maybe that dream you’ve been writing about will start to develop a well-organized plan. Maybe you’ll start to understand the perspective of your mother when you are complaining about her illogical argument. Whatever it might be, journaling can unravel your inspirations and allow you to more clearly see yourself and what you truly care about.
    5. Provides a break from life. In our busy lives, we often forget to reflect on how far we’ve come or what we care about. Taking time to write, get lost in our mind, and become more aware of our present situation provides a self-controlled pause button.When I am overwhelmed or even just bored, journaling allows me to take an intermission in my own life. The play is on pause and I am able to refresh and reflect on everything that has happened so far to prepare myself for the next act.

Next time you are bored, confused, or overwhelmed, try writing. It can transport you to another temporary world.

Journaling has so many mental health benefits, but these five have been the ones I’ve experienced the most seen since I began to journal consistently.

Journaling has helped me become a more productive person, have stronger relationships, and understand myself on a deeper level. It’s ultimately helping me become the person I want to be and have the life I’ve always wanted.

So, go ahead and grab a journal and pen and go to town!

Have you tried journaling? What benefits have you experienced?