I started journaling consistently around the middle of 8th grade when things started to get really bad. I had just switched schools and didn't really have any friends, so i was lonely and depressed and didn't feel like i had anyone to talk to about it, because who talks to their parents about this stuff? I sure didn't; it made me feel like a burden.
So i turned to a journal. One of the many cool things about journaling is that as long as you have something to write with ( a pen, pencil, burned stick, fountain pen with the blood of your enemies) and something to write on (paper, tablet, an ancient scroll), you can journal. For me, i had an empty spiral bound notebook and a pen (not as exciting as writing on an ancient scroll, but it works nonetheless). My first entry was poetic, angsty, and sad, and it was about depression. I wrote about how it feels like a black hole or quicksand, sucking me under the surface (i know that's not how quicksand works, but i was in 8th grade). Looking back at it, it's pretty depressing. The last line says, “maybe living isn't for everyone. Maybe just surviving will be my always.”
Thinking back now, i wish i could've known how bad it was going to get. At that point i had thought about suicide, but never would have gone through with it.
Journaling through all my mental health struggles has been really good for me. There are definitely benefits to consistently writing in a journal- especially when you are open and honest your feelings, which, even though it's just a piece of paper (or an ancient scroll), it can be hard to open up. I remember when i first wrote about having a crush on a girl, i was terrified. What if someone read it? Now that it was out of me and on paper, i couldn't even deny it to myself anymore.
It also allows you to see how far you've come. There were times where when i wrote, the whole time i was thinking it would be the last time i would ever write in my journal because i was for sure i wouldn't make it to the next day. When i look back at those entries, I feel accomplished and proud that i made it.
Journaling gives you an outlet to vent without bothering people, which is especially helpful when you have social anxiety. I don't like to talk about my feelings to anyone because it makes me feel like a burden, but writing in my journal kind of has the same effect.
I know what a lot of you are thinking: “There’s nothing exciting about me or my life!”
This is bull crap. BULL. CRAP. Get that stupid idea out of your brain. Everyone has something to share. Everyone has their own stories and experiences to write down. Plus, who are you trying to impress? Journaling is for YOU. That stuff about ‘writing for future generations’ is all good and valid, but at the end of the day your journal is for you only. If you feel like sharing what’s in your journal, that's fine, but remember that it’s for you.
I think some people, especially parents, think that keeping secrets is bad, and a journal means keeping secrets. It’s okay to have secrets sometimes. First of all, know what things to share and what things not to. There is certain information that needs to be shared, especially when it comes to your safety and well being, but there are some things that you can keep to yourself. Like, you can keep the secret that your best friend’s new haircut makes her look like she’s 20 years older than she really is.
That’s quality Journal material.
Let’s talk sciency real quick. Some studies show that journaling regularly can increase IQ levels and aid your emotional intelligence, which is your ability to perceive and manage your emotions. It can also boost memory and comprehension as well as increase mindfulness. There are so many other benefits like that, but I’m done with talking sciency.
Another important thing to note is that journaling isn't just writing. There are many forms of journaling, such as bullet journaling, smashbooking, and plain old writing in a notebook about the day. I do all three.
So maybe you want to start journaling. Where do you begin? It's not that hard to start. Here's a list of some basic things to get you started.
The most basic of journaling- you need a notebook. It can be a fancy journal from Michaels or a cheap composition notebook from Walmart (Sometimes those are more fun because you can decorate it however you want). My blogging journal is a composition notebook decorated with aesthetically pleasing pictures.
A pen/ pencil/ marker, etc.
-How will you write without something to write with? Another journaling basic. I used to use gel pens because they're fun to write with.
Ideas and Experiences
-Like i said before, even if you think your life is boring, it’s not. We all have experiences to share. Write about anything. Write about what you're learning in school or the funny thing your kid said to you today. The possibilities are literally endless. I love to look back at the moments I’ve written down in my journal- the things i wouldn't have remembered if I hadn't written them down.
--Capture and save the memories! Write about what the picture means to you and why you took it. It can become like a scrapbook.
-Colored pencils, fun pens, scrapbook paper, etc.
--For decoration, of course.
Instead of writing on paper, do it digitally.
-Pro’s: You can take your smartphone everywhere easier than a traditional journal. If you use Google Drive, you can have it on all your devices at the same time. It can be pretty convenient.
-Con’s: Let’s say your phone glitches and erases everything. You've just lost your journal (I literally have nightmares about this- I have 100+ poems I wrote on Google Drive and I’m terrified that I’ll lose them).
To get you started, here are some prompts I pulled of the wonderful internet:
Write a letter to someone (but don't send it)
Use Colorful Markers Or Pens And Write Out All The Things That Make You Happy
Promises to yourself
Debrief therapy sessions
If I could talk to my teenage self, the one thing I would say is…
I couldn’t imagine living without…
When I’m in pain — physical or emotional — the kindest thing I can do for myself is…
Name what is enough for you.
I really wish others knew this about me…
What is your most treasured possession and why?
Choose 3 photos of yourself across your lifetime and write a post about how you feel looking at them, where you were, what you were doing, what you were like, etc.
If you could run away where would you go? Would you go?
How do you want to be remembered?
Create a list- it could be about anything.
There are a ton more online. Just search ‘Journaling Prompts’ and you’ll find something. You could even create a journaling jar full of prompts to pull out when you don't know what to write about.
I could probably talk about journaling for the entire day because I’m so passionate about it, but I’ll stop now.
Thanks for reading!