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SAWANT: Journaling helps us find clarity, inner peace

Column: Sincerely Rue

Journaling is a key method of self-care that helps us through challenges, keeps us on track to meet goals and allows us to see our accomplishments clearly.  – Photo by Thought Catalog / Unsplash

Practicing self-care is a good habit to develop. We all have our own ways of maintaining our mental health and doing things for ourselves that make us happy. One of my favorite self-care techniques is journaling.

While on the surface, it may simply seem as if journaling is nothing, but by writing a detailed account of your day in a diary (which it can be if you want it to be), this creative outlet also offers so much more.

Journaling's foremost benefit is that it can help you stay on track to meet your goals. While some people choose to make vision boards of their goals, others may opt to make lists. I love making lists as you can add on to them and check items off as you reach an achievement. Unquestionably, there is nothing more satisfying than checking items off a list.

These goals do not even need to be reasonable or immediately realistic — you may chart into dream territory if you wish. Sometimes, it is necessary to let the mind roam and fantasize about what life could be like. In fact, practicality may have no room in your journal, at all!

I usually like to make multiple lists: one list contains short-term goals, another contains long-term goals and one other list will house all of my outlandish goals that may make no sense but are fun to dream about. I have found that tracking goals on paper gives me more motivation to work on them. I also enjoy making a list of the crazier ones allows my brain to use its imagination, which can be a nice break after using it all day in class and studying for finals.

Another benefit of keeping a journal is that you can work through difficult conversations or simply admit things that you might never say aloud to another person. Sometimes we go through events or have experiences that affect us profoundly, and we may not be ready to talk about them for a while, much less to someone we know. We may end up bottling up our emotions or burying them deep under surface-level thoughts, which is an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Instead, writing your experience or your feelings in a journal effectively transfers some of that energy out of your mind and onto the paper. The feeling of doing so is comparable to finishing a massive research paper. To finally compose all of the knowledge in your head onto paper is relieving — you no longer need to carry it around with you in your mind, trying to figure out how to make sense of everything. Once it is in front of you, it is out of you.

The same principle goes for journaling. Instead of carrying around the things that trouble us, it is freeing to just write about them so that our minds are unburdened. Writing our thoughts out — and if we want, reading them — puts our situations into perspective, and we can begin to heal or process the matter.

It is essential to also write about the things that make you happy. Exciting events, chance encounters, happy memories, funny jokes. Especially when you go back to read what you have already written, it serves as a good reminder that the bad in life comes with its share of good. It is also interesting to see what life was like before and use it to reflect on where you find yourself at the moment.

If you seem to find yourself in an inspirational rut, whether you are an author, a songwriter or just feel like you are lacking some element of adventure in your everyday routine, journaling can help. It is a great space to free think and brainstorm ideas for anything that could be on your mind. Sometimes writing down your ideas and being able to see them materialize in front of you stimulates the mind to make connections.

You can also use your journal as a habit tracker to keep yourself on track to maintaining habits you would like to normalize. Examples include tracking workouts, meals, water intake, study time or practice for different skills and hobbies. Tracking them with pen and paper also may motivate you to keep working at maintaining these habits since you are actually seeing your maintenance and growth physically in front of you. After all, who does not need some psychological motivation every now and then?

I could go on about the different ways you could use your journal and how it will benefit you, but suffice it to say no matter how you use it, you may find that you will enjoy it. In fact, the main reason people journal is to reduce their levels of stress and anxiety and track their growth.

In whatever way you choose to use a journal, be sure that to maximize the benefit you will reap: Allow your brain to roam and never restrict your writing. You may find that your best thoughts occur this way.

Rujuta Sawant is a Rutgers Business School junior majoring in business analytics and information technology and minoring in political science. Her column, "Sincerely Rue," runs on alternate Mondays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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