How Journaling Can Help Students Improve Their Writing Skills and Mental Health

Student life is like a magician’s hat. It is full of so many different things that sometimes one starts to wonder how they all can fit into it. Books, coffee, exams, procrastination, movies, cramming, podcasts, friends, sleepless nights, anxiety, social networking, plans, self-doubt, homework… We could go on forever. It is inspiring chaos, but sometimes it can get overwhelming, especially if you are stuck at home due to a global pandemic. Luckily, there are techniques you can use to bring more peace and order into your life. One of the best of them is undoubtedly journaling.

How does journaling improve my mental health?

Journaling has a wide range of benefits for the mental health of young people. According to the Health Encyclopedia of the University of Rochester, journaling helps you manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression. It provides you with a safe space where you can reflect on your problems and fears, track the progress you are making, recognize negative thoughts, and replace them with positive self-talk. Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc., summarizes the amazing results that journaling can bring in her article “83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress“: expressive writing has been found to lift your spirits, enhance your sense of well-being, mitigate the effects of stress, sharpen your self-awareness, and improve your working memory. All in all, when life gives you lemons, start a journal!

What are the main benefits of journaling for students?

Journaling is an extremely versatile and flexible tool that fosters independent thinking, learning, and writing skills. Educators say that students who practice journaling write more fluently and need less ‘think’ time. Journaling is a great brain booster. It helps you learn to generate ideas and implement them into your writing, communicate more effectively, and express yourself. You can also use a variety of more specific learning journals aimed at honing your analytical skills and encouraging you to think out-of-the-box. 

How do I maximize the beneficial effects of journaling on my writing and learning?

  1. Write daily. Even a little writing done on a regular basis will bring great results.
  2. Ask questions even if you do not know the answers yet. Highlight them and get back to them later.
  3. Keep a list of creative ideas, projects, and experiments that excite you.
  4. Draw schemes, maps, graphs, pictures, and doodles. 
  5. Search for additional information on the web and make notes in your journal.
  6. Re-read your journal from time to time and get back to the passages you find especially significant. 

How do I find time for journaling?

  1. Write in your journal first thing in the morning. It will help you boost your positivity for the day. 
  2. Carry your journal around with you and write whenever you have a spare minute: at a bus stop, in the dentist’s waiting room, in a queue, during a study break, etc.
  3. Use journaling as a reward for working hard on a causal analysis essay or any other task that you find challenging.
  4. Do reflective journaling as a form of revision and exam preparation.
  5. Introduce journaling as a healthy substitute for social surfing and other time stealers.
  6. Look at journaling as a useful writing practice and schedule daily journaling sessions. 

How do I start journaling?

First, you need to decide if you want to write in a paper journal or do digital journaling. You can try such helpful apps as Day One, Diarium, Penzu, Momento, or Five Minute Journal. Whichever you choose, do not waste time waiting for inspiration. Set the timer for around 20 minutes and start writing right away. If you struggle with a lack of ideas or are just afraid of the blank page, try free-writing: write anything that comes to your mind without worrying about the mechanics. You can also choose a quote, a song, a photograph, or a movie to respond to. You can write a letter addressed to your own self in 20 years or a welcoming address to an alien visiting our planet on holiday. Finally, you can always pick one of the prompts that will get you started. For example:

– If you could time-travel, which epoch would you visit? 
– If you could meet any outstanding personality of your choice over a cup of coffee, who would it be? 
– If you met your own clone, what would you do?  
– If you wrote an autobiography, how would you call it? 

How do I get creative when journaling?

When journaling, you can set your imagination free and enjoy the magnificent sight of creative sparks flying in all directions. Try one of the more unusual learning journal formats – an “I Wonder” Journal, a Visualization Journal, or a Doodle Journal. A great alternative to traditional journaling would be one of the 8 journaling techniques for better mental health, for example, Gratitude Journaling, Musical Journaling, Mentor Journaling, or Unsent Letter Journaling.

On a final note…

Have you seen the transformer furniture? A bookcase can be turned into a work station and a wardrobe becomes a bed. In the very same way, journaling can satisfy your needs in different spheres of your life. It can help you both improve your writing skills and take care of your mental health. You will be surprised to see how much progress you will make within only several weeks. So, what are you waiting for?

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