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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Give journaling a shot

Published: September 28, 2012
Section: Opinions

According to Wired News, in January 2002, about 41,000 people created new blogs using popular blog host, Blogger. My first inspiration to write down my thoughts came from a friend who had been doing the same for some time. She has filled so many books over the years that she has to devote more than one shelf to house them all. I began writing in a journal a little over a year ago and thus far have only accumulated a measly few pages. In comparison to my friend’s intense journaling, I felt a little bit like a failure. But while she solely keeps her thoughts in a tangible notebook, my thoughts often times find their home on the computer.

In September 2002, The New York Times reported that blog host LiveJournal was gaining 1,100 bloggers per day. In 2008, Wired stated that nine blogs were created every minute, with 2.3 content updates posted every second. In July of 2006, it was estimated that the U.S. blog population had grown to around 12 million American adults. While online journaling or even journaling on a word document is a more modern reincarnation of traditional journaling, it has its benefits. It not only saves time if typing fast is one of your skills, but it also allows your memories, thoughts and ideas to become portable.

With so many people deciding to write down their thoughts, one has to question why it is so beneficial. Many people believe that it alleviates stress and helps us come to terms with the hardships in our lives. Others believe that journaling allows us to process the events of the day in a healthy way, especially in a world so filled with screens, web pages and browsers. And with so many studies proving that television and computer screens cause insomnia, a few minutes to unwind before bed by writing in a notebook is a gift. It is also believed that journaling can strengthen our bodies. Psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin contends that regular journaling can strengthen T-lymphocytes, or immune cells.

In an article in The Atlantic regarding journaling, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile discussed a study that analyzed thousands of daily entries from the diaries of more than 200 professionals. This research showed that by keeping track of daily challenges, successes, and other experiences, the professionals could enhance their creativity and motivation. She also discussed some tips and tricks to getting started. Amabile focuses on the idea that anyone can do it, and it doesn’t matter how, as long as you get the words out onto the medium. She states, “Find a medium that you know you’re going to enjoy using … Anything that you think will be easy for you to keep … Give yourself one or two minutes just to refresh yourself, then reflect on the say and see what stands out from your work day, anything that you want to capture, and then capture it, in any form that seems to fit whatever it is that you’re trying to keep for yourself. And it is for yourself.” Amabile even recommends using an app to keep track of your journaling. She recommends journaling at the same time every day, or even once a week for 15 to 20 minutes. She also recommends writing down a few things that you are grateful for, and something that happened during that day or week that made you happy.

Every couple of days as I have written down my thoughts, I know that I have felt less stress and less anxiety. The best part, however, is having those memories to look back on. College is flying by already, and holding onto the best parts and putting them in print for years to come is a wonderful opportunity. For college students especially, under the weight of pre-med tracks, chemistry labs and all those extracurriculars Brandeisians love to brag about, we need an outlet to unwind at the end of a long day. As we quietly work away at our papers and munch on our Einstein bagels and lox, we deserve a break from the busy world and a space to call our own. It’s also nice to document experiences in a place we can go back and read about later. Finding pages and moments from travels abroad, vacations with family and happy nights with friends are gifts at the end of a long, hard day.

So give journaling a shot. Grab a book from the campus store, maybe a package of pencils, and write down anything and everything that comes into your head. Who knows, maybe in 10 years you’ll be thankful you did.