OPINION: The case for journaling

A person writes in a notebook, with electricity coming from the page and into their brain.
(Seohyeon Lee • The Student Life)

People often underestimate the magic of journaling. This sentiment is perfectly understandable — we are already so fed up with college writing assignments that writing any additional stuff down is not attractive but rather seems like an exhausting burden. However, journaling is actually the perfect activity for college students: I’m here to advocate for this means of writing, explain why it has the potential to be meaningful for students and reveal how it will help you grow. 

Journaling is a soothing experience for anyone, regardless of their age. Journaling helps us to organize our minds and trace our thoughts. The act of transforming dynamics in life into static phrases and sentences in a notebook is psychologically favorable — when I write, I feel that I am collecting emotions and beauties that might otherwise flee. Since journaling as a means of writing is free of instructions, you can write whatever length you deem appropriate. Sometimes, I only write one paragraph a week; other times, I write multiple pages at once. 

In addition, journaling is an act of reclaiming your own writing. In this sense, journaling is the perfect antithesis to college-level academic writing. To journal is to write for yourself, not for a teacher or for an editor; you are your only audience. As such, journaling allows you to write without having to consider how your words will be received. You can be completely open and genuine with yourself, about yourself.

College is a great place to take up journaling. When life is reduced to academics and socializing with peers and instructors, it’s surprisingly easy to lose our ability to self-reflect; even though we spend a decent amount of time thinking and learning, we admittedly only think and learn as a way of increasing our future utilitarian success. Journaling is grounding and brings us back to Earth. 

Journals serve as time capsules. Reading past journals allows you to revisit important memories and track changes in your life. Last Saturday evening, for example, I was flipping through my journal from the last three months. It was fascinating to learn again about things that intrigued me, confused me or excited me during my first few weeks of college. Reading about how breathtaking my first stargazing experience was invoked new streams of joy in me; in a similar vein, remembering the anxiety, fear and existential dread I frequently felt made me realize just how far I’ve come since the beginning of the school year nurturing a precious inner peace. As a journaler, you not only get to dig into who you are but also revisit those excavations and reflect on them. 

Some claim that social time brings them the same peace as journaling would. However, small talk and chatting online are discontinuous and fragmented communications. In terms of connecting with ourselves, these types of communications don’t hold value because we have no way to know whether or not we are presenting our true, authentic selves. 

In journaling, however, we are on the receiving end of our communication — we are our own conversation partner, free of external pressure of building your brand image or performative gimmicks on social media. Interaction with friends and journaling alone offer us very different emotional experiences. We should think of these two activities as filling two ends of a spectrum; find a way of allocating your time that strikes a good balance. 

To become a journaler doesn’t have to be some huge time commitment. You can write once a week or even once a month. Since it’s not an academic or extracurricular task, journaling doesn’t even need to be on your calendar or to-do list — just write spontaneously, whatever and whenever you are down to; whether it’s writing about the present or getting swept up in a flashback, you will gain tranquility and find some much-needed stability and peace.

So, let’s get journaling. 

Vivian Wang CM ’26 is from Wuhan, China. She is recently binge-listening to Lorde’s “Melodrama” album.

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