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Why I journal – and why you should too

by Gaby Agbulos

DURING the pandemic, I found myself struggling with all these emotions, without any idea of where to channel them. 

I was angry and sad all the time. As someone who didn’t like to share my problems with others, I would just have all this negativity swirling inside me, weighing me down like an anchor.

One day, I was scrolling through TikTok and I stumbled upon a video of someone explaining how journaling has helped them, while another presented their journal’s contents. 

Soon enough, I was spending hours going through the journaling hashtag on the app, finding that there were several ways in which one could journal, as well as ways that it has helped people to deal with their feelings.

It’s not as if the concept was anything new to me—I’d tried it a few times in the past, though the habit never stuck. As someone who’s done nothing but write all their life, it was hard to do so in a way without structure. 

Even if it were just me sharing my feelings, I would pick apart my writing, finding imperfections in every line and thinking of how I could’ve worded things so much better. 

This time, though, I was hurting a lot. I was dealing with a lot more than I could handle, and I was desperate for a way to get my feelings out in a healthy way. So I bought a new notebook and gave it another go.

I haven’t gone back since.

Benefits of journaling

There are thousands of people who have benefited from this small hobby, most especially with their mental health and their memory.

As per Xianna Bengo, journaling helps with the following:

  • Achieving / listing down your goals
  • Building your confidence
  • Improving your skills in writing and communication
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Tracking your progress / growth

With mental health, in particular, journaling can be a huge help. In 2006, for example, it was found that journaling is just as effective as going to cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is great if you’re broke like me and can’t afford a therapist. 

It helps to reduce levels of depression, anxiety, and stress and even improves your health. In the past, it was documented that people who journaled for at least 20 minutes a day showed an improvement in their immune system, liver, and lungs, as well as reduced blood pressure overall.

In my personal experience, I used journaling in two ways: first, as a form of release, and second, as a form of remembrance. 

Any time I felt like my emotions were too much, I would take it all out on my journal. This could be either in the form of writing, drawing, or even just scratching at the page with my pen until I felt like I could breathe again. This was how I dealt with the negative.

And with the positive: journaling helped me to put all my little anik-aniks in one place. I am a maximalist to my core, and I’ve always kept even the smallest of things because of the memories associated with them: flowers, photos, ticket stubs, tokens, and the like.

One problem with that, though, is that I would just have them scattered around everywhere. If you were to ask where the trash can was in my room, you’d think it was on my desk.

My journal gave me a place to put all of these things, so I had a way to look back fondly at these memories, seeing them all in one place.

Ways you can journal

People might think that having a journal is like having a diary, and that’s true, for some. Some just log what happened that day, and that’s that. But there’s no proper and improper way to use a journal. That’s the beauty of it: you can do whatever you want.

If you’re struggling to figure out what to do with your journal, here are some popular methods of journaling to get you started.

  1. Freewriting

Perhaps the most common form of journaling, what you do here is pretty much already in the name.

In freewriting, you write down whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want, in a manner that’s both unedited and unfiltered. Whether it’s a song or a poem or even just recounting the things that happened to you that day, you write down whatever pops into your head, often for a specified amount of time that you can figure out beforehand.

Writer Amber Lea Starfire noted that this is a great way to teach yourself that you don’t have to edit your words or your thoughts, and with the continuous, free-flow form of writing, you’ll find yourself letting out emotions you didn’t even know you had stored in you. 

As per Starfire, it helps you to find your natural rhythm, as well as your voice.

  1. Dream journal

If you’ve ever watched Sharkboy and Lavagirl and have heard the iconic “He ruined my dream journal!” line, then you probably already know what this is. 

Dream journals are a great way of keeping track of your dreams, especially if you’re the type who forgets what happened in them just a few minutes after waking up. 

You can do this by keeping your journal next to your bed, and then writing down everything you can as soon as you wake up, while all the information’s still fresh. 

It’s a great way to look back on the things you dreamed about so that you can research what it meant later on, which can be an avenue for you to better understand and analyze the things that you’re thinking about and why exactly you’re thinking about them. 

  1. Gratitude journal

If you’ve been feeling down lately, a gratitude journal may help to boost your spirits. Here, you write down everything that happened within the day that you’re grateful for. 

You can include achievements, people who made you happy or inspired you, activities you tried and enjoyed, cuisine you ate, and pretty much anything that made your day better, even if it was just for a little while.

A gratitude journal is a great thing to have when you often find yourself feeling sad, for the times when you think that you’re the unluckiest person alive. 

Whenever you’re having a bad day, you can look back on this journal to remember how beautiful life can be and to remind yourself that things will always get better, no matter what.

  1. Unsent letters

If you’re like me and you’re going through it right now, you may find yourself up late at night thinking about all the people you no longer speak to – those you’ve wronged as well as those who’ve wronged you. 

More than that, you might find yourself wanting to reach out to them, even though you know that doing so will be of no good to either of you. 

If you want to write to these people – or even to yourself – you can do so with the unsent letters form of journaling, wherein you can pour out your emotions as if sending a letter to the person of your choice, without never actually sending them. 

It’s a great way to release your emotions without having to deal with the regret of sending a text you know had no business being sent in the first place.

  1. Activity / hobby log

If you’re trying to keep track of a hobby that you’ve just started or are trying to maintain, you can keep a hobby log. 

For example, if you’re trying to fall in love with reading again, you can write down the number of pages you’ve read for the day, as well as the amount of time you spent reading, and the ideas or quotes that stood out while you were reading. 

You can also use this as a form of self-discipline: each day, you’re going to work on this particular activity for a certain number of minutes, and you hope to achieve this goal within that amount of time. 

No matter the hobby, it can help you to organize your day better and help you to remember that you can always set aside time to do what makes you happy.



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