Start Your Journaling Journey


Elena Zhang

Sometimes, as you try to sleep, your mind races away from dreamland: I should tell my friend about that thing. Wait, what did I do this morning? Oh, I probably solved that question wrong on the test. Maybe you’re looking for a way to declutter your brain and manage racing thoughts.

Try journaling. There is no one correct definition, but it basically has to do with writing your thoughts down. Journaling can come in many forms, either as diaries, records, or even lists. Conventionally, it is done with paper and pen, but some may type them digitally. 

James Pennebaker, a psychologist from University of Texas at Austin, has done studies that indicate journaling on a regular basis can strengthen the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and improve bodily functions. Specifically, it can aid the development of T-lymphocyte immune cells that are responsible for fighting off infections as well as enhancing lung and liver function. 

Other research has shown journaling to be an effective tool for coping with mental health. Journaling can help regulate the effects of depression and anxiety by tracking any symptoms, triggers, or emotions, and prioritizing any problems, fears, or anxieties, helping you to better control your feelings. Journaling also provides opportunities to reinforce confidence with positive self-talk, or further regulate well-being by identifying negative thoughts or behaviors. Overall, journaling can reduce stress and may put you into a positive mindset.

Studies conducted by North Carolina State University and Duke University show that these benefits can be reaped from a simple 20 minutes of writing about your problems, as it not only affects physical and mental health, but also assists with cognitive abilities. Journaling overall facilitates better performance in school by as much as 25%. Beyond enhancing problem solving abilities and short and long term memory, regular journaling also sharpens creativity and makes thoughts more coherent. By writing down your thoughts, your brain is able to process ideas more efficiently and declutter racing thoughts.

If you’re wondering how to start, the first step is designating a notebook; any kind (paperback, hardcover, spiral, etc.) is acceptable. Once you have your journal, set aside around 20 minutes each day to write. You can write about anything, from something as mundane as a joke your friend said to any exciting adventures you may have experienced that day. The best journals not only include events, but also reflect on them, meaning “what else could I have done to make it better?” and so on. Answer any questions you may have had, reflect upon yourself, talk about how you felt, or write or doodle anything that comes to mind. It’s all up to you, so make it your own. 

Use those daily 20 minutes as a time of reflection and relaxation. No need to overthink it; just write whatever seems natural. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or sharing it with anyone else. Journaling can be a very private matter. It is a chance to open up about any unconscious feelings or insecurities, so make it anything you want it to be.