The benefits of journalling for your mental health

When talking isn't enough, write it down

Are you stressed?

If I were to gather every Queen’s student into a room and ask them this question, I think I’d get a unanimous “yes” in response.

Stress is the body’s way of combatting challenges. Whether they’re physical, emotional or mental, students face difficulties every day. The university lifestyle and culture demands it.

While juggling many different tasks at once isn’t foreign to a student, it still takes a mental toll that I often feel too stressed to address. That’s when I turn to my journal. 

I started journaling as a way to document my first year at Queen’s. I wanted to remember every part of an inevitably memorable year in my life.

What started out as a fun project for the year turned into something much more important to my mental health than I’d anticipated. Without realizing, I was able to track my mental health through how I recounted different events and the emotions that those events brought about. I was able to see my own patterns, since similar feelings would often resurface. 

I saw that every time I came back to Queen’s from visiting my parents, I had an overwhelming surge of homesickness. But when I noticed this pattern, I could reassure myself the feeling wouldn’t last, no matter how bad I felt. I had physical proof on paper that I had gotten past the negative thoughts that consumed my head in that moment in the past. 

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the most obvious benefit of writing in a journal is it reduces stress. Journaling helps you identify exactly what’s wrong. You confront what’s causing you stress and can assess it through your writing.

While there are great mental health benefits to journaling, your physical health benefits as well. By reducing stress, you also decrease the physical toll that stress would’ve taken on your body.

Consistently writing in a journal created a firm outlet for my thoughts and emotions. It allowed me to have a space to validate my homesickness, excitement over new things and sadness over events I couldn’t control or things that overwhelmed me.

As I wrote more regularly, I realized how easily I could become overwhelmed, more often by social obligations as compared to academic ones. Journaling helped me see this tendency that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

I was then able to figure out different strategies for how to manage my feeling of being overwhelmed, such as calling my best friend for a pep talk or heading to the library for some quiet time to myself (and my readings).

But how do you start?

It doesn’t matter your medium, whether it be the Notes app on your phone or a pristine leather journal, the important part is that you write and write honestly.

This cannot be a lukewarm endeavor. If you don’t know how to start, try writing the most honest and clear sentence that your brain can muster and the rest will follow.

By being honest with your journal you can then be honest with yourself and your health. 

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