Today we’re discussing something that isn’t strictly school-related, but that has many benefits and is an activity I wholeheartedly recommend for all students– journaling! I was inspired to write this because I actually just filled up my first journal ever a couple days ago. I’ll be talking about types of journals you can keep, benefits of journaling, supplies I recommend, advice I’ve accumulated, and my experience with keeping a journal for the first time in my life.
TYPES OF JOURNALS
There are many types of journals you can keep, including, but not limited to:
(click links for more information)
- Traditional “diary” journal: This is what you probably associate with teenage girls and pink gel pens, but it’s a popular choice amongst all kinds of people! In it, you could write what happened that day, your thoughts and emotions, fun memories, rants, and anything else you would talk about with a friend.
- Bullet journal: An analog task management system and a studyblr favorite! Consider starting a bullet journal if you’re looking for a flexible, customizable way to organize all aspects your life.
- Travel journal: Whether you’re going across the world or to the next town over, keeping a journal can be a great way to record your trip. In addition to writing memories, you can paste in photographs, ticket stubs, and other souvenirs/memorabilia.
- Reading journal: If you’re a bookworm, you may like to keep a reading journal for recording book summaries, after-reading reflections, ratings, and reviews. You can keep similar journals for movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc.
- Gratitude journal: In an increasingly hectic world, a gratitude journal can help you appreciate all the joys of life. Recording things you’re grateful for, whether big or small, encourages mindfulness and positivity.
BENEFITS OF JOURNALING
Journaling has countless physical, mental, and emotional benefits such as:
- strengthens immune cells called T-lymphocytes
- decreases stress, anxiety, and depression levels
- helps you work through problems, decisions, and conflicts
- provides a safe, non-judgemental place to vent
- builds self-confidence
- increases your self-knowledge and provides insights about yourself, your relationships, and your goals
- harnesses creativity
- preserves your memories and thoughts for you to look back on and see how far you’ve come
- makes you a better writer!
You can begin to journal in all sorts of mediums with any notebook/pen/app you choose. Don’t hesitate to start because you don’t have the fancy markers and shiny washi tape you see on Tumblr. Download a free journaling app right now, or grab a $0.50 composition notebook and just start writing.
However, if you’re ready to commit to journaling and you’re somewhat sentimental, I’d recommend investing in an acid-free, archival-quality pen and notebook to ensure your writing won’t fade or disappear over time. These are a little pricier than regular supplies, but they’ll ensure that your journal entries will be in good condition for decades down the road.
I recommend the following archival-quality supplies:
- Sharpie Pens (NOT the permanent markers!): These are my personal pen of choice. They’re available in an assortment of colors. They’re relatively inexpensive and can be found at almost all Target, Walmart, and Staples stores.
- Sakura Pigma Micron Pens: I used these before I found the Sharpie Pens and loved them. The black ink is a much deeper shade of black than the Sharpies, although they also come in a variety of colors. They offer several tip sizes while the Sharpie is limited to just one. However, the tips tend to flatten extremely quickly and they don’t last as long for what they cost.
- Moleskine Notebooks: These are the notebooks I use for my journals (I’m on my second one now). The binding is durable and the size is perfect for carrying in my backpack. Both the Sharpie Pens and the Sakura Microns will shadow/ghost through the paper, but they’ve never bled through, and it’s not severe enough to bother me.
- Leuchtturm1917 Notebooks: Never used these myself but I’ve heard good things about them. Generally seem pretty comparable to the Moleskines, although a tad bit bigger and available with dotted paper.
Of course, if you want to keep a digital journal, archival-quality materials aren’t an issue! Search for some app recommendations to find a journaling app that’s accessible, reliable, and suited to your needs.
The following are some pieces of advice that I’ve accumulated while keeping a journal that can help you get started.
DON’T feel pressured to write every day. Journaling is supposed to relieve stress, not provide another burdensome commitment. If once a day is too much for you, it’s perfectly fine to write once a week, once a year, or simply whenever inspiration strikes.
DON’T filter your thoughts. Write anything and everything that strikes you. Don’t worry about sounding whiny or frivolous or repetitive or annoying or weird. If you’re having trouble with self-criticism, try using pen-and-paper instead of a digital notebook, which will make it harder to edit and filter yourself.
DON’T get hung up on aesthetics. All the “journal inspiration” on Tumblr and Pinterest with beautiful pastel stickers and perfect handwriting made me scared to start journaling at first, afraid of “ruining” my notebook with my chicken-scratch. Only decorate your journal if it’s helping you express yourself, not because you feel pressured to conform to an online aesthetic.
DO experiment with several styles. Along with your standard “here’s what I did today” entries, try mixing in journal prompts, doodles, and other various forms of self-expression. Write about silly things like “What would I do if I won a lifetime supply of ice cream?” as well as deeper personal things like “What advice would I give to my younger self?” Eventually you’ll figure out what you like journaling about best, but when you’re first starting out, it’s a good idea to give everything a shot!
DO make it a habit. As mentioned above, it’s absolutely fine to journal randomly and spontaneously. But if you’d like to make it a regular ritual, make sure to set aside time that’s devoted to journaling and nothing else. For me, this is at night just before bed, so I can reflect on the day that’s passed. Maybe you’d like to journal in the morning, so you can set the day’s goals and start off strong. Whatever time(s) you prefer, it’s important to block off parts of your schedule and make journaling a priority.
MY JOURNALING EXPERIENCE
I began journaling on January 1st, 2016 as one of my New Year’s Resolutions. It started off as a half bullet journal, half diary in which I wrote some personal reflections underneath the day’s tasks. However, the bullet journal system didn’t work out so well for me– setting up the layouts was too time-consuming, I never remembered to refer to it, and it didn’t do anything that my planner couldn’t. So I gave up on bullet journaling a couple months in and started keeping solely a personal diary-type journal instead. I try to write in it every night but I don’t beat myself up if I miss a couple days. In my journal, I write memories from the day, my thoughts and feelings, and prompt responses. I also put in movie tickets, dried flowers, small mementos I come across, and cute labels from items I buy.
Although I’ve only been journaling for about six months, I’ve already experienced many positive changes. Writing each night is a fantastic stress-reliever and helps take my mind off school and responsibilities so I can sleep better. If I have an argument with a friend, writing out the entire conflict helps me see it from a more objective viewpoint and enables me to determine the best course of action. I can now let out and work through all my frustration, anger, jealously, fear, etc instead of bottling it up inside me. I recently read back through my first journal after filling it up and it was amazing to revisit all the joys and pains of the last half year of my life. I could see all the places where I started writing faster out of excitement, where my hand trembled, where tears fell. As I flipped through the pages, I could literally see myself growing up and changing, just like a book character would as the novel progresses. Keeping a journal has allowed me to read the story of my own life, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
So long story short: journaling has changed my life. Now I encourage you to give it a go and see if it changes yours.