Why it’s a good idea to start journaling now more than ever.
By Elizabeth Brownfield
It’s a stressful world out there right now. From those who have jobs to those who don’t, those working from home to parents teaching from home, everyone has a lot on their plate. It feels like the world is ending in more ways than one. Reality has shifted and we’re on shaky ground. There’s not a lot we can control at this point because for most of us we are simply citizens in the midst of a problem much larger than ourselves. We’re not the scientists creating the cure or the politicians writing the bills and passing (hopefully) life saving laws. But we’re doing the best we can and part of that means taking care of ourselves and finding control and stress-relief where we can without putting others in harm’s way.
I have to admit, I started this blog post with the intent of writing about how journaling can be an amazing stress-reliever and a good way to decompress in emotionally intense times, but instead of that I started writing about the events that have been happening around me as a college student. It took me almost 1,000 words to realize that I was putting in practice what I was planning on talking about — I was just journaling! At first I was a little guilty that I just spent 30+ minutes expanding on why working from home has been so hard but I feel so much better now that I’ve released the stresses of my life onto paper. Now that my brain is warmed up and my thoughts are out and on paper I can focus on sharing with you some of the main reasons I’ve found journaling useful in my everyday and current coronavirus life, and why you might find it helpful too.
1) Keeps your mind active.
It’s easy to get lost in your choice of video streaming platform when you don’t have much else to do. But if you start off your day with some journaling you can stimulate your brain and get creative. Journaling is a great addition to a morning routine and can allow for the exploration of thoughts that otherwise might get lost in the other mundane activities of the day. Maybe you’ll stumble upon an amazing idea for business or a creative solution to a problem.
2) Sets yourself up for success.
Adding journaling to your morning or night time routine can get you set up for the day. It helps add structure where there might not be any and can be a constant reminder of what you need to accomplish throughout the day. Personally, I have been struggling with motivation to work at home when all of my comforts are so easily accessible, but writing a realistic to-do list for the day helps. And I take it even one step further and write out how I will structure my hours, which helps me be more productive and more focused. Additionally, when there are other stressors in my life it can be really useful to get those things out of my mind at the beginning of the day so that I can focus more on the other tasks at hand.
3) Improves your writing and creativity.
Writing everyday will improve your writing skills. It can also stimulate more creativity. Especially within journaling, writing everyday allows you to experiment with writing styles, find your voice, and just generally practice better writing. No matter what you’re writing, whether it’s a detailed description of your sourdough starter or fantastical stories, your writing skills and potential will expand and grow with each word written. So if you’re interested in becoming a better writer, generating ideas, or want to feel more in tune with your voice, journaling everyday can help with those things.
4) Teaches mindfulness.
We all have small or large things that are better left unsaid or just need to be let go. Especially when only interacting with one person for a whole day or for a couple weeks, it’s hard not to let things get to you. If something particularly frustrating happens to me, I will write everything that I am feeling down in a journal. Sometimes this can lead to more emotional regurgitation because it brings the emotions back up, whether that is anger or sadness or frustration, but I’ve also found that it allows me to reflect on my actions and the other person’s actions. I can think about why something has happened, how I should have reacted, and how I can change my mindframe to be more calm and flexible in the moment. It is really important right now to be mindful about our actions because it is a very stressful time for everyone.
However, if you or someone you know is having a rough time and is in immediate danger due to depression, abuse, or neglect, please reach out for help first then journal later. Resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Sexual Assault Hotline, and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are all still operating. Futures Without Violence also has a COVID-19 resource page. Remember, you are not alone. We might be physically distanced, but you are not alone. Reach out and connect.
5) Improves mental health.
Listing out fears, problems and concerns everyday can help you identify commonalities and work through your issues with different things. Hand in hand with teaching mindfulness, journaling can be a positive space to make a gratitude or happiness list of things you have going for you and a constructive place to develop ways for self-improvement and taking control of reactions. Journaling allows you to have a safe space for negative and positive thoughts. Overall it can improve your relationship with yourself and others.
6) Organizes your thoughts.
When there is so much turmoil in the world and information to sort through, journaling about something can really clarify the actions you want to take or the things you really need to say about it. Especially if you are a person who struggles with explaining your inner thoughts to others or communicating deep ideas within a conversation, writing down your thoughts on different topics can help you verbalize the subjects later. This can be helpful for work or school presentations or serious conversations. By expressing thoughts through the written word it opens up an inner dialogue about subjects and helps you identify and open up subjects you’re interested in, then establish what you want to say about them or what you have been thinking about them in concrete words.
It doesn’t matter what medium you’re writing with, from crayons to computers the act of writing can improve your day and many days to come. Make today the day you start journaling!
Elizabeth Brownfield interned at the American Writers Museum during Winter/Spring 2020 while she was a senior at Lake Forest College where she majored in Art History with minors in Digital Media Design and Environmental Studies. She is currently writing remotely from her home in Kentucky.