Keeping a journal helps students de-stress

By Breeda Bennett-Jones

I still write out my essays on paper.

Some people find it strange that I rely on a method that seems archaic, restricting and tedious, as opposed to typing out words on a computer. Modern society is so reliant on technology that it’s easy to go days without picking up a pen. In today’s mechanical world, what’s the use in writing things down if they won’t be backed up in the Cloud or posted on Twitter?

As a seasoned journal writer, fanatic organizer and stationery enthusiast, I can confidently say that keeping a daily journal is one of the most influential things I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine my life without constantly putting pen to paper.

Students should try writing about their lives. (Flickr)

Keeping a journal relieves stress. Unlike class assignments, which have a set prompt, a fixed word count and an ever-impending due date, journaling is completely open-ended. When I write, the rigid structure of coursework melts away. If academic writing is like navigating the ocean’s unforgiving currents, journaling is like drifting soundlessly on a lake. The latter demands careful planning and expertise, while the former requires nothing. One I must control, the other controls me.

Journaling makes me feel more connected to humanity. Whenever I sit down to write, I can’t help but think about someone who was once in my position — sitting down and recording their thoughts — when they developed an idea that would change the world forever. J.K. Rowling drafted “Harry Potter” on napkins and scraps of paper. Henry David Thoreau discovered the meaning of life by isolating himself in a cabin at Walden Pond and writing in a journal. Perhaps Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech was once scribbled down on a notepad. I feel that if I follow in the footsteps of those who propel humankind forward, I might make a difference, too.

I must admit, lately my journal hasn’t been the creative playground I intended it to be. At the moment, it’s filled with almost nothing but lists, daily schedules and essay outlines. Though college stress takes an enormous toll on the creative process, I use this to my advantage. Journaling is a great way to organize your life. If you struggle to get things done, I highly suggest keeping a record of your assignments, completed tasks and to-do lists.

I’ve leaned more heavily into the practice of keeping my personal information off the internet in light of recent hacking news. Almost a year ago, Russian hackers were hard at work creating fake Facebook profiles and funneling money into corrosive, right-wing Facebook ads. This May, North Korea crippled the British National Health Service in the highest-profile global web attack in history, according to The Guardian. There is no avoiding the internet, but having a space to call my own with no risk of hacking is reassuring.

It’s satisfying to see my life and thoughts laid out on pages covered with my own handwriting. Flipping through the finished pages, printing the start and end date on the cover and stacking the books on a shelf in my closet gives me a sense of accomplishment that I don’t really get from anything else. It gives me pride to see my recorded ideas, thoughts and even old shopping lists compiled and organized neatly. In such a crazy world, journaling makes me feel like I have everything under control.

I implore you to pick up a notebook and start writing. A poem by Ron Koertge titled, “Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?” reads, “Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave your house or apartment. Go out into the world. It’s all right to carry a notebook but a cheap one is best, with pages the color of weak tea and on the front a kitten or a spaceship.” I write in a black leather Moleskine with a black ballpoint pen. Find one you like, make it your own and start creating something meaningful.

Students share opinions around campus
“Do you think it is important to keep a journal?”

John Aitken, a junior psychology major. (Brielle Bryan/Opinions Editor)

“Yeah, definitely. I’ve kept a journal since freshman year. It helps to make things clear.”

Angela Rambert, a sophomore public health major. (Brielle Bryan/Opinions Editor)

“Yeah, it can be helpful to some people who want to write down what they’re feeling.”