Journaling is the act of keeping a written record of something. There are no rules when it comes to where you need to write down your thoughts or what you need to journal about. The possibilities are endless, and many people journal for a variety of different reasons. Journaling can be used as a coping mechanism, a way to deal with stress and anxiety, or simply a way to pass time. Additionally, many journal to gain control over their emotions and improve their mental health.
Olivia Mays, the Mental Health and Stress Management Coordinator at the University of Maryland, said our physical and mental health are equally as important.
If people are unable to cope with their stress, it starts to affect their relationships, sleep, hygiene, and eating habits, Mays said.
“Journaling is a cathartic way to process strong emotions, everyday stress, and any other life events,” Mays said. “It’s a great way for folks to work through the things that they might not have the words for.”
Mays added that one of the best parts about journaling is that there are no rules. Journaling every day as an undergrad helped her process emotions without feeling judged.
People can use journaling to reduce stress and anxiety and achieve goals in a safe space without worrying about it making sense to anyone but themselves. Mays said having a private place to write everything down improved her writing and communication skills while providing stress relief.
Caroline Shifflett, the public relations officer of Active Minds at Maryland, a mental health awareness and education organization, said she journals weekly. Shifflett said it is important for people to know that journaling isn’t only used as a coping mechanism, and people can journal about anything that crosses their mind. “Journaling is a great way to reflect and put things into perspective,” Shufflett said. “Whether I’m happy or upset, it helps me get all of my thoughts out without feeling the pressure to explain them to anyone else.” Sophomore nursing major, Jenny Lieberman, the president of Prescription for Happiness, a mental health club on campus, said the act of writing down your thoughts creates so much more space to prioritize other things going on in your life. “There’s something really freeing about just putting it out there in the open, even if no one else is going to read it,” Lieberman said. “It really just allows my mind to relax and allows me to compartmentalize everything that is going on in my life.”
Lieberman said journaling can be very personal, but she likes to think of it as a simple act of putting your pen to paper, in whatever way will benefit you in the moment.
“This can mean reflecting on what you did that day, how you felt that day, or what’s been looming in the back of your head lately,” Lieberman said.
Sophomore information science major, Brittany Kupcho, said journaling allows her to look back on certain experiences to see the progress she has made. “Journaling really puts into perspective how much can change, and how much you can grow over time,” Kupcho said. Kupcho recommends journaling about things that speak to you, and to be prepared to feel strong emotions. Even though you are just writing, she said it is very typical for people to have strong reactions to words. “Journaling has helped me connect with my feelings and has helped me better understand emotions in general,” Kupcho said. “I definitely feel more compassionate and emotionally intelligent.” Kupcho said her decision to start journaling has been one of the best and most beneficial practices she picked up. She said adding journaling to her daily routine has relieved considerable amounts of stress from her life that she didn’t even know she had. “A lot of times I wrote about things that I didn’t even know were bothering me,” Kupcho said. “I will never underestimate the power of journaling again.”