keep a journal
Did you ever write in a diary then hide it from your mom or sister so they couldn’t read about your secret crushes? Well, a journal and a diary have similarities but are also a little different. For one, “journaling” is actually a verb. It basically means “writing in a journal”.
Journaling has many benefits, especially during these teen years when there are so many changes happening. It is a place that you can dispose, organize, explore and connect your thoughts and feelings on all sorts of topics. Journals don’t have to be hand-written, but scientists believe that our brains are wired to remember and process information better if written rather than typed.
There are many benefits of journaling.
It reduces stress and anxiety. If you are truly engaged in writing down your thoughts, you can’t also be on your phone, watching TV and talking on the phone. Turning off electronics for a few minutes can make you feel less overwhelmed by posts, texts and snaps.
Another way journaling reduces stress is that it helps you organize your thoughts, emotions, even your “to do” list. Once you get all of that swirling information from your brain onto paper, your mind is cleared. You can identify the cause of your stress. And your problems will be more manageable.
It helps solve problems. When you are journaling, you allow both sides of your brain to work. Your left side is analytical and practical while your right side is creative. Using both hemispheres of your brain allows you to think through your situation in different ways.
It helps identify and process strong emotions. Writing down your thoughts and feelings about a new experience or situation can help you think through the event and identify the emotions associated with it. It can help you find “triggers” for those feelings so you know what…or who…to avoid or engage with.
Writing any time of day is great but before bed can help you sleep better. By releasing all of those thoughts and feelings, you probably won’t wake up worrying about them in the middle of the night. Journaling before bed also allows you to reflect on the entire day.
There are a few ways you can organize your writing.
- List all the things you are grateful for every day.
- Practice “stream of consciousness”. That means just write about anything that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to make sense, just write.
- Create a “to do” list for the next day or an action plan for a specific event like a test or a relationship.
- Doodle or draw. Similar to stream of consciousness, just let your creativity flow.
- Write down the events of your day. Think about your friendships, your school work, your family, your activities and write about them.
And the rules to journaling are…there are no rules!
But some suggestions are:
- Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or grammar. This isn’t going to be graded. Just write.
- Explore ideas that take shape.
- No one is reading this so be honest and open with yourself.
- If you have a problem that you can’t solve, ask someone for advice. Journaling is one tool to work through an issue. It is not meant to replace interactions with people who can help.
- Try to write in your journal everyday. Date your pages so you can refer to them if you need to.
Lastly, after you are finished, read back through what you wrote. See if you can make any connections or notice any common themes that you might want to think more about.