By Amanda Tonoli
One of the best discoveries I have found in my four stressful college years is the art of writing in a journal — journaling.
It has been my shoulder to cry on, my outlet when I need to use every curse word I’ve ever thought of in my entire life and, most importantly, my judgment-free zone to write down every crazy idea to pop into my head. I laughed at people in high school that told me I should keep one — I wasn’t going to be a teen from a cheesy Disney Channel show. I totally had my life together.
About four mental breakdowns into my first semester, a friend bought me a journal and told me to just try it. It didn’t make me suddenly normal, free from emotional catastrophes and outbursts, but I did feel a strange sense of relief getting it all out of my system and down on this silly notebook page.
In “The Health Benefits of Journaling,” published on psychcentral.com in 2006, Maud Purcell discusses the benefits of keeping a journal, from recording what may eventually be important life events to journaling’s positive impact on physical and psychological well-being.
This art of writing in a journal goes back to ancient times where the wisdom of our ancestors was recorded.
“Journaling — or keeping letters or diaries — is an ancient tradition, one that dates back to at least 10th century Japan,” Purcell said. “Successful people throughout history have kept journals. Presidents have maintained them for posterity; other famous figures for their own purposes.”
Throughout their journaling days, they recorded their greatness, but I wonder if they knew they were doing so — intending merely to record their life both in its extraordinary and ordinary moments.
Beyond keeping record that could be vastly important one day — because everyone wants to know what a sailor’s mouth a columnist at Youngstown State University had — keeping a journal has shown significant impacts on one’s mental and physical health.
Purcell notes that writing has shown to help asthma and even arthritis when it comes to the physical benefits. Mentally, it allows you to access your left — analytical and rational — brain and free your right, or creative, brain.
“In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you,” Purcell said.
This objective and private way to release your emotions on paper and analyze why you feel the way you do is freeing, just like the way you are to write your journal according to Purcell— free of structure, direction and judgment.
“The most important rule of all is that there are no rules,” Purcell said.
That’s one of the most freeing things about keeping a journal: there are no rules. There’s no one to tell me what I’m feeling is wrong or stupid. There’s no one to comment on my irrational thoughts. It is completely for me.