Have you ever kept a journal—when you were traveling, as a way to record important events of your life, or as a tool for working through a difficult time? There are many reasons to keep a journal. If you’re a student, journaling can help you not only be more successful in class, but also have more confidence to take on life’s challenges. In this post, we discuss the benefits of journaling as well as different types of journals that can help you succeed in school.
10 Benefits of Journaling
The advantages of journaling range from helping you reduce stress to propelling you forward in your pursuit of personal and academic growth.
1. Improves Mental Health
The act of taking pen to paper can help you relax, manage anxiety, cope with depression,1 and enjoy one of life’s pleasures (writing). By getting your thoughts down on paper, you can gain a deeper understanding of the causes of your own internal conflicts, while you also explore the external challenges you’re facing. Your problems, fears, and concerns will come to the surface so you can start to address them and visualize solutions.
Humor is a healer, too. Writing down the events of your life in a funny way, or recording amusing overheard bits of dialogue, can help you feel less anxious, since laughter can relieve stress.
2. Encourages Self-Confidence
Journaling can boost your self-confidence in a few ways. If you journal to keep your thoughts and schedule organized, you may find that being prepared reduces anxiety. Properly managing your time so that you can consistently check off those boxes on your to-do list can help reinforce for yourself that you’re a capable, intelligent student.
If you use your journal as a place to actively practice positive self-talk and combat negative thoughts, you may find that being kind to yourself also improves your overall relationship with yourself.
3. Boosts Emotional Intelligence
Journaling can help you make sense of how you’re feeling about a certain person or situation that is troubling or inspiring you. It can also help you understand your triggers. The process of writing down your thoughts as honestly and with as little judgment as possible allows for self-discovery. When you get to know yourself better, you develop a deeper understanding of your reactions, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as what environments help you thrive.
4. Helps with Achieving Goals
The physical act of writing down a goal can make it feel more real and can motivate you to achieve it. You can use your journal to not only craft specific goals, but also to monitor your progress as you take steps toward accomplishing those goals.
Writing SMART goals can help you achieve more. To set a SMART goal, write down how your goal meets the following the criteria:
- Specific: Make your goal as clear as possible.
- Measurable: Set milestones and benchmarks.
- Achievable: Ensure that your goal can be accomplished.
- Relevant: Ask yourself how achieving this goal will benefit you.
- Time-bound: Set a timeframe.
Use your journal to keep track of where you are in the process of achieving your goals and to troubleshoot any challenges that arise in the process.
5. Inspires Creativity
Writing a journal is a great way to channel your creative energy into expressing yourself, reducing anxiety, and solving problems.2
If you’re the type of person who constantly has ideas coming to them, a journal is a great place to jot those down quickly so you don’t forget. You can revisit your notes later and write a more detailed entry around your idea.
If you’re looking for inspiration, you can try stream-of-consciousness writing or using thought-provoking prompts to help ignite creativity. Some artists keep a visual journal, sketching or painting images from their imagination or real life.
6. Boosts Memory
Research has shown that writing information down by hand is an effective way to commit ideas to memory. As a student, you will need to memorize information to pass your exams. Consider integrating journaling into your life as a way to improve your memory.
Also, if you record your thoughts, you can easily return to your notes and be reminded of insights and goals that may have otherwise faded from your memory.
7. Enhances Critical Thinking Skills
Journaling can help boost critical thinking skills. A study published in the Journal of Nursing Education noted that both students and faculty found reflective journaling to be helpful for developing critical thinking skills.
8. Heightens Academic Performance
Researchers reported that students who completed learning journals—where they related learned concepts to real-world applications and life experiences—performed better on exams. Students have also self-reported that expressive writing led to a higher grade point average.
9. Improves Physical Health
Expressive writing has been shown to provide significant benefits for individuals with a variety of medical problems. Self-reported physical health outcomes of expressive writing have included improved liver function, reduced blood pressure, improved immune system functioning, and improved athletic performance.3 It’s evident that journaling can not only improve mental health, but also physical health.
10. Strengthens Communication and Writing Skills
Writing down your ideas forces you to organize your thoughts. It can help you communicate better both on paper and verbally, as there is a strong connection between writing and speaking.4 Journaling can also improve your ability to write well, particularly by improving your voice and vocabulary.5
Types of Journals Students Can Use for Growth
There are many different types of journals you can keep. Depending on your personal goals and how you like to work, you may find one particular format that feels right to you. You can combine methods or create a new one entirely. Below are several types of journals you can use for personal and academic growth.
- Bullet journal: Focusing on bulleted lists is a great method to use for personal organization and tracking progress. Use this journal to make to-do lists, brainstorm about projects, and record goals.
- Transfer journal: Write down concepts or information that you are learning in class and explore how you could draw on these (“transfer” them) in the future.
- 5 Ws journal: When you’re learning new information, or even trying to understand a real-life situation you’re in, it can be helpful to break the information down by the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why). This can help you organize the information and even commit it to memory.
- Gratitude journal: Being a student can be stressful at times. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s good to remember what you’re grateful for.
- Double-entry journal: Write down a concept or phrase on the left-hand side of a notebook page and record your thoughts about or reactions to that idea on the right-hand side.
- Question journal: Record questions you have about class material or internal questions that you hope to answer about yourself. Return to these pages as you explore and discover answers.
- Reading journal: Keep notes about your readings for class or about books you’re reading for pleasure. Write down ideas that stick out to you and information you want to remember. Writing down your thoughts and perspectives can help you remember what you read so that you can draw on this information in the future.
- Idea journal: Use your journal as a place to “brain dump.” Write down whatever you’re thinking or feeling so that you can better process your thoughts and emotions. Letting the words out in a stream-of-consciousness flow can help clear your head.
Check out the visual below to find more types of journals, as well as prompts to help you get started.
- University of Rochester Medical Center, “Journaling for Mental Health”: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
- TeachThought, “The Significant Benefits Of Creativity In The Classroom,” Nov. 15, 2019: https://www.teachthought.com/learning/innovation-imagination-12-benefits-creativity/
- Baikie et al., “Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing,” Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, Sept. 2005: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/emotional-and-physical-health-benefits-of-expressive-writing/ED2976A61F5DE56B46F07A1CE9EA9F9F/core-reader
- Anastasia Belyh, “8 Ways to Stop Thinking About Journaling and Actually Start Journaling,” Cleverism, Sept. 24, 2019: https://www.cleverism.com/start-journaling/
- Basma Issa Ahmad Alsaleem, “The Effect of “WhatsApp” Electronic Dialogue Journaling on Improving Writing Vocabulary Word Choice and Voice of EFL Undergraduate Saudi Students,” 21st Century Academic Forum, 2014: http://www.21caf.org/uploads/1/3/5/2/13527682/alsaleem-hrd-conference_proceedings.pdf