Journaling through the pandemic

Photo courtesy of The Writing Cooperative

Four years ago I made a decision on a whim to try out journaling, not knowing then that it would later become a decision I thank my past self for on a daily basis. I didn’t quite realize how important journaling had become to me and my mental health until I returned home in March due to the pandemic.

At first, it was a struggle to motivate myself to journal- it felt so self-indulgent and purposeless in a global crisis. But as it has become a larger part of my life, I’ve realized the quiet power of such a simple habit.

There’s something so genuinely remarkable about being able to capture who you are at a moment in time. Even if no one else hears about my thoughts during the day, at least I can validate those emotions, get them out of my brain and into the universe, simply by writing them.

I give them a physical and tangible form that allows them to exist. My journals tell me that I am a product of all these experiences and emotions and failures and success and even if no one else knows that, at least I do.

There are two main reasons I journal. One is to document moments in my life. My journals contain photos, old ticket stubs, birthday cards, maps from travels, to-do lists, old candy wrappers, lists of songs I like and as of lately, updates about how COVID-19 has changed my daily life.

Some days I write one or two lines that list everything I did that day, but there are also days I ramble for pages about an assignment that’s stressing me out, or a certain experience I want to remember in the future or a dream I had.

To have a space where there are no rules, no end goal and no potential to be graded is so needed, especially for students who often base their self-worth on academic success.

The second reason I journal is to grow and accept. There’s mistakes I’ve made, fears I’ve had and challenges I’ve faced that seem to have repeated themselves over and over again in the past few years. I’ve begun to be more reflective on why I act and think the way I do and how to improve (or accept!) aspects of myself I often critique.

There is so much flexibility with journaling and I would encourage everyone to try, in some form, to express themselves and their own story on a regular basis. It doesn’t even have to be in words.

While I would argue that my simplistic use of pen and paper is the easiest method, it could be a digital journal in a Word document, an art journal or even on apps that provide daily prompts.

If you are looking for scientific evidence there are actual benefits to this, there have been countless studies proving the long-lasting benefits journaling daily has on both physical and mental health.

Consistent journaling can reduce stress and its physical effects, such as high blood pressure. It can be a therapeutic activity for those who have experienced trauma in their lives. It can boost your immune system and help improve your emotional well-being and clarity.

I know journaling is not for everyone and there are even days I skip it because I don’t feel the need to. It is entriely alright to not write everyday. We are going through a pandemic after all. What is important is to record the moments that you think will be interesting to read in the future. You have the opportunity to write about history through your eyes. It may not be the best way to reflect and grow for some, but I would urge everyone to at least try it out and see how you like it.

Sometimes the benefits of journaling are only fully realized when looking back on how you perceived yourself in the past so that you can be better equipped for the future. Now could be the perfect time to start.
It takes as little as ten or fifteen minutes a day to take advantage of these benefits.

Journaling has helped me immensely recently and although I might not know who you are reading this, I’ve got a feeling it could help you too.