Journaling: Reasons why you should try it

Illustration of a girl journaling while sitting on her bed, by Nishali Naik
Nishali Naik/File

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Journaling. We’ve all heard this word tossed around frequently, but what is it? Why should you do it? I once thought these very same questions, and though I am still no expert, I’m here to demystify the concept and process.

The only time I had previously dabbled in journaling was when I would maintain travel logs of the places I’ve visited. As a child, I would collect ticket stubs, maps and museum pamphlets and preserve them in a little notebook along with my experiences of the visits. Apart from this, I was not in the habit of maintaining a daily journal. I’d either have my schedule and to-do list in an online planner or jot them down on sticky notes. Thus, it came to me as a surprise when I noticed that journaling seemed to be a more common practice among my friends — complete with beautiful spreads for each day and meticulous records.

It was then that I noticed how journaling is extremely versatile in nature and entirely up to the individual as to what they would like to write. One of my friends who’s always going at 100 miles an hour uses journaling to slow down. She takes her time to decorate each page, enjoying the art and reflecting by creating habit trackers and staying on top of tasks. Another friend of mine likes to keep it simple and just makes a note of what made her happy each day and what she is thankful for.

Inspired by my friends, I decided to start a journal myself during this spring semester to record all the fleeting moments we experience at college. Looking back, I realized that my first semester went by so quickly that I hadn’t previously stopped for a moment to reflect on my new first experiences. The experiences of making new friends, attending my first college class, living on my own for the first time and even mundane things such as grocery shopping or managing finances. Not just these, but also the smaller moments such as getting lost in Dwinelle Hall, all the mornings I spent running from Unit 2 to Evans Hall for my 9 a.m. classes, my ritual of getting a bite at Yali’s before my lab or discovering my favorite library.

So from then on, I’ve tried maintaining a written record of moments, big and small, that happened each week. I came to appreciate the discipline it took to form the habit of journaling even a little each day. It is effortless to put it off among the million other little things we have to do, and I would be lying if I said I was able to follow through on my goal of journaling every day.

Sometimes the consistency is hard, and with all the disruptions from the middle of the semester, journaling took a momentary backseat. It was only the two weeks that I was in self-quarantine and complete isolation from my family, after traveling to India from the United States in the middle of March, that I meticulously maintained a journal of all the events of each day. It was just me in an apartment for two weeks until I could go back home, and to help with the complete isolation, I recorded each minute of every day. Things like washing the dishes and sweeping the house, as well as doing my homework, watching Netflix and talking to my friends. In retrospect, I believe that journaling helped me stay optimistic and enabled me to form some sort of routine for myself.

Journaling is effortless, and you need nothing but a pen and paper to start. During these chaotic times, it can help you stay active and enable you to manage stress. And the best part is that you can write about whatever you wish — your favorite quotes, feelings, things you are looking forward to, anything! There’s something about writing things down that allows us to navigate our thoughts and gain clarity.

So, what are you waiting for? There’s no better time to start journaling.

Contact Nandita Radhakrishnan at [email protected].