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From Doodles to Diaries: Navigating Life Through Journaling

Hello reader! I’m Sofia, a twenty-one-year-old bachelor’s student with a passion for Neuroscience.

Ever owned a diary? Sceptical about having one?

Let me share how I stumbled upon journaling, where thoughts find a home, and self-discovery transforms into a puzzle of words on each page.

I’ve lost count of the number of unfinished diaries that lie in my childhood bedroom. My journey as a journaler began at the ripe age of five. The truly interesting ones barely made it to the fifth page.

Fast forward to thirteen, and my journals start getting more and more interesting. When middle school started, I decided that writing in my diary looked cool, so I embraced it.

Is there a difference between a journal and a diary? Personally, I think "journaling" just has a better ring to it. Check out this video to see what Greg from 'The Diary of a Wimpy Kid' thinks!

The more I wrote, the better I felt. Maybe that's what's so mysterious about journaling, the peculiar sense of release. That’s the magic of writing, suddenly the pen takes on a life of its own, and things you didn't even know you were thinking appear on paper. There's a moment of surprise you experience when you finally get to read what you wrote. Once you let go of the reins of your thoughts and feelings, your brain allows you to put them out into the world. Confusions and worries suddenly clearer.

Once I passed the age of fourteen or fifteen, I stopped writing. Life events, teenage peer pressure, and a new cellphone made me forget how much I enjoyed journaling.

Then, when I was eighteen, the pandemic hit and despite its challenges (I know it’s not a popular opinion), I found the "locked in your house with nothing to do" thing strangely beautiful. Granted, it was thanks to my privilege and the safety of my family and friends. I chose to resurrect my journaling habit.

That moment opened the door to a new and fun way to spend time with myself. At first, it was just a "so I can reminisce when I'm old" thing, but it quickly became much more than that. In the beginning, my entries were more descriptive of what I was doing, who I had met, and the places I had been. Then it became the possibility to confront my own thoughts. Suddenly, I felt like two people: the Sofia pouring her heart out, unfiltered, and the Sofia reading it, analysing, discussing, processing, and feeling all the written emotions in a more detached and aware manner.

Image source British Library/PA via The Guardian

During my bachelor's degree, a friend of mine started sharing her journal with me, opening up her magical world of words and drawings. It allowed me to see her in a new light. I started to know her better and empathise with her experiences. I started to take inspiration from her emotional freedom and found new ways to do something with mine. The stigma of the "secret little private diary" disappeared. I began sharing my thoughts with close friends.

The more I journaled, the more it became an indicator of my own well-being. Still now, when I catch myself not writing for a few days, I know something's up. Maybe I can’t pinpoint it, but I can sense it. It's like when your friends go silent for a while, you start to worry. In this case, my diary is my friend. Might sound off to some, but to me, it’s anything but sad. When that happens, I try not to be too hard on myself but still try to put down something, even if it’s as mundane as what I had for breakfast. Gradually, the words flow again, and I start feeling better.

Living abroad for the past few years has meant finding new ways to connect with my closest friends back home. Voice calls are fantastic, but sometimes they're not enough. Journaling has helped with this too. To the question "How are you?" I sometimes just read them a journal entry. This way, they can step into my shoes and understand what I’m going through. It's a very bonding experience.

On the other hand, not all thoughts I have I want to share, even with my closest friends. Being able to express them without necessarily having to tell someone else helps with not repressing feelings, and slowly processing them and then dealing with them more constructively.

Being a Neuroscience student, I find the science behind it particularly interesting. There’s plenty of literature on how mindful journaling improves well-being. One study found that positive affect journaling three times a week improved mental distress levels, anxiety and perceived stress over only three months, imagine what can happen if it is sustained over a longer period of time. Another article makes an interesting point about the value of journaling; the author notes that the meditative act of journaling, by creating a space for vulnerability and self-awareness, is, in a way, a form of art, as it’s accompanied by the attention to detail we seem to lose in our day-to-day life.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that journaling has transformed my life. Intrusive thoughts can now be stored somewhere, without hijacking my day. Worries can be written down, giving me space to take a break. Writing letters to my feelings, like "Dear Mister Envy," has made me grateful for them instead of afraid, and gratitude is such a strong antidote to depression.

In moments of discomfort, reading back old entries make my day start with a smile. Seeing how much we grow gives me hope and makes me eager to see what the next page will be about. Sure, there are countless mindful practices that enhance mental health, but which one can you do snug in your bed? Journaling.

For beginners, I highly recommend the MUJI 0.38 pen. Once you start with it, there’s not turning back. Trust me, there is no such thing as journaling with an annoying pen.

1 Comment

Civillains corpion
Civillains corpion
4 days ago

I have lost count of the dordle number of unfinished journals that are now stored in the bedroom where I spent my youth. When I was only five years old, I started keeping a notebook for the first time. The ones that were actually engaging were only able to make it to the fifth page.

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