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Journaling for Mental Health

by Kiana Carver

photography courtesy of Amanda Willis

Journaling has been a common practice for a while, but the age of social media sparked a resurgence of young people sharing their passion for journaling and posting photos of their own journal entries online.

Journaling is not only a fun activity but also has many benefits in other aspects of life. In fact, there is a strong correlation between using a journal on a regular basis and improving one’s mental health.

According to The University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling can help to manage anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression by controlling symptoms and improving mood. Journaling can be personalized to one’s own liking, but here are a few examples to help think of what kind of journal would work best for you.

Daily Log

The daily log is probably what most people would imagine if asked about journaling. The typical idea is usually a daily log where someone describes the content of his or her day or just expresses what is on one’s mind.

Amy Argentar (CAS ’21) said, “I’m inspired to write if I’m feeling a bit lost, bored or stressed.”

Writing a daily reflection is the best way to understand how you emotionally respond to daily stimuli. By doing so, it allows people to find healthy coping mechanisms.

“Writing [in a daily journal] helps me figure out things like why something made me upset or why I’m feeling a certain way,” Argentar said.

Bullet Journal

The bullet journaling craze became especially popular in the past few years. A bullet journal is a hybrid between a daily log and a planner. Most bullet journals consist of a weekly spread that is similar to that of a standard planner, where one can write down his or her schedule, extracurriculars, reminders and whatever else should be remembered.

In addition, many people include pages for a mood tracker, habit tracker, financial budgeting and short-and-long-term goals.

Dr. Lara J. Jakobsons of the North Shore University Medical Group lists mental health benefits such as, “prioritizing life tasks, identifying stressors, processing emotion and gaining personal insight.”

This style of journaling is suited best for type-A personalities, or those who desire more structure in their daily routine.

Art Journal

Art journaling allows for more creative freedom and flexibility. Art therapy is a common form of therapeutic treatment, and this kind of journaling builds on the idea that creating pieces of art helps to improve one’s mental wellness.

The kind of person who would enjoy this format—or lack thereof—is someone who likes to draw outside the lines and does not need to adhere to a strict set of rules.

Elena Allison (QST ’21) loves the care-free attitude of art journaling.

“The mix of writing and visuals means there is no way it can be perfect. The whole thing is meant to be organized chaos,” Allison said.

She also suggests beginning an art journal for those who have an interest in making art but don’t know where to start.

“I like making something tangible out of the clutter going on inside my head, and it gives me something to look back and reflect on,” Allison said.

Journaling does not need to be an intensive hobby, rather, it should act as a relaxing outlet for stress and anxiety. If you have an empty notebook lying around, see if any of these journaling methods would work for you.

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