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Opinion

Journaling proves mentally, physically, spiritually beneficial

February 17, 2012

Journaling fosters the ability to heal, learn, grow, discover, recover, plan and explore. Through journaling you can realize your values, know yourself better, share secrets, develop goals, reflect on lessons learned, work through problems and reduce stress; essentially, journaling can take you anywhere and help you do anything if only you start.

Unfortunately, merely starting can intimidate many people. Remember that you do not need to be a good writer, journal every day, follow any set of rules, or be accountable to anyone. Journaling is for you and you alone. With that in mind, start by picking a journaling medium. Try one (or all) formats: a Word document, a diary, notecards, on the back of photographs, in a notebook, on a calendar and/or any other element you imagine.

Once you establish a general plan, take a moment to gather what type of journaling you want to try. Since everyone reflects, shares and learns in different ways, no one style of journaling is correct. If you enjoy writing, a simple handwritten diary that chronicles your day and thoughts may suffice. More artsy journalists may create collages, paintings, drawings, or unique layouts for each page and intertwine a few words within the pictures.

Some people prefer a computer format due to its simplicity and the ability to type faster than write. Others may like journals with a fill-in-the-blank style. Depending on the type of journaling, entries vary anywhere from a key word or picture to several pages. Select a style that appeals to you to make journaling more effective and enjoyable.

With your materials in hand, determine what you want from your journal. Perhaps a place to record your journey to a goal, observe the world around you, learn more about yourself, work through problems, share emotions and thoughts, allow stream of consciousness, tell stories about your life, reflect on the past and present, or even dream about the future. While many journals are kept private, perhaps you will want to share by transferring certain entries to a blog, or gifting a relationship-related journal to someone close to you. Either way, stay true to yourself and love the creation process.

If you are just beginning, a good way to get in the habit of journaling is to make a pact with yourself that you will journal a certain number of times each week for one month, then stick to it. However, even the most dedicated journalist comes across the following two problems: feeling clueless as to what to write about or pushing journaling so far down the list of priorities that it rarely occurs. In regards to not knowing what to write about, dedicate a location (the end of each entry, the last page of your journal) and list different topic ideas there. Then, when you do feel blocked, you can refer to your list.

An easy way to build the list is also to simply search the Internet for ideas—tons of suggestions will surface and you can choose your favorites. As for feeling like you lack the time to journal, try making it more of a habit. You can do this by journaling at the same time each day (morning, lunch, after classes, before bed) or by keeping your journal more on-hand by carrying it with you so that when inspiration or a spare ten minutes occur, you can write immediately.

No matter what your medium, your intent, or your content, journaling offers wonderful benefits of all kinds: physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health, clearer goals, better communication or problem-solving skills and most importantly, a place to reveal who you truly are as a person without any sort of censorship or worry. So take the time to do what no one else can: tell your story.

Jaime Haines is an exuberant puppy-lover and “House” addict and plans to use her psychology degree to encourage activism and well-being through counseling, workshops, speeches, and the written word.

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