Learn about all the potential benefits mindful journaling offers to students.
Parents looking to make the most of their child’s educational experience may want to encourage the use of the mindfulness tool, journaling. Some of the benefits of journaling include reduction of anxiety, improved grades, students become more invested in studies, and journaling ultimately helps them decide how to attain a career path.
Some students may have kept a journal in years past, but mindful journaling is different than what they may be used to as it involves intentional practice and goal-setting to help them achieve desired goals in a structured and mindful way.
The Benefits of Journaling for Students
Before we discuss journaling tactics, it’s important to know why journaling is so effective. Here are just a few ways journaling can help you on your path to academic excellence.
- Journaling Can Help Students Decide on a Career Path: Young adults struggling to decide what career path to follow will find journaling a great tool for helping them uncover and understand their passions. The act of writing out thoughts about a chosen career can help them gain clarity about which jobs and activities speak to one’s heart, and which ones do not.
- Journaling Improves Mental Wellbeing: Because it is a slower medium than talking, journaling is known to reduce symptoms of panic and anxiety. The act of writing itself is stress-reducing too, meaning you will be benefiting from a soothing mental activity that may take your mind off your current troubles.
For students, this is critical. Being able to uncover, discern and deal with the emotional challenges they are experiencing as a result of their academic career is key to moving through schooling with ease and poise. In other words, when it comes to mental health, think of journaling as both a diagnostic tool and a coping mechanism: It can help students figure out what is not working for them right now, as well as help relieve the stress of the problems they are facing.
- Journaling Can Help Students Reach Goals: Goal-setting is an important life skill for everyone, students are no exception. Journals are great tools for setting, structuring, tracking, and achieving goals.
Setting Goals: The best goals are extremely clear and sufficiently narrow. Writing down exactly what one is attempting to do is the best way to measure progress against achieving that goal
Structuring Goals: When setting a goal, it is not simply writing out the end destination. Setting up checklists or benchmarks is a wonderful way to show the progress that is being made against the goal even before it is reached. In turn, this will keep up the motivation and directed toward the “north star,” or higher purpose
Tracking Goals: A good goal should always be tracked against a timeline. Why? Without a timeline, it can be easy to let your enthusiasm toward achieving your goal wane. Many goals go unachieved because we tell ourselves that we are still working on accomplishing them when the reality is that we’ve given up. Having deadlines and working towards them prevents delusional expectations.
Achieving Goals: Often in life, we all give ourselves new goals as soon as we accomplish our previous ones. While it’s important to be ambitious, it is equally important to recognize the work that went into achieving our original goals. Leave a place in the journal to celebrate the successful acquisition of a goal. This will leave feelings of confidence, motivation, and inspiration to continue reaching for new goals in the future.
- Journaling Can Improve Grades: While writing out feelings may not directly contribute to a higher grade point average, some studies show habitual journaling when applied and extrapolated generally to everyday life scenarios can improve grades among students.
This is also true of creative journaling and using journaling to express hopes, dreams, and ideas. Students who think this might be beneficial may consider using journaling as a learning tool to make connections between studies and life.
- Journaling Can Increase Physical Wellbeing: Journaling may be beneficial for physical health. Some studies show that journaling can improve aspects of your physical health such as lowering blood pressure, improving immune system response, increasing athletic abilities, and more.
For student-athletes, this might be reason enough to pick up journaling. One could even try and combine the mental aspects of journaling with the physical aspects of training, using entries to keep tabs on athletic progress, which can be a powerful motivator.
- Journaling Encourages a Mindful Approach to Life: Mindfulness is of growing importance among students for a variety of reasons, not least of which is because it can act as a coping device against the difficulties of academic life. Journaling encompasses a host of beneficial aspects of mindfulness: It helps us slow down, process life, take stock of all the good things around us and properly ground us for the future.
Journaling Exercises to Try
Now that we’ve established some of the helpful aspects of journaling as an educational tool, here are some ways students can use their journals to achieve goals and plans.
- Thankfulness Journaling: If mental wellbeing and mindfulness is a primary goal, consider starting a gratitude or thankfulness journal. The idea here is very simple: Use your entries as a way to list all of the beneficial and positive things in your life.
In addition to that, write down things you want for yourself in the future, then write down how it will feel once you have those things. This is a common belief modification practice that can improve your emotional wellbeing and restore your confidence in every part of your life.
- Pros-and-Cons Journaling: Having a tough time making decisions? One journaling exercise to try is a split-page pros-and-cons list. Most of us are familiar with this practice: Write down the benefits of a choice on one side of the page and the detriments of a choice on the other side.
While this is a common practice, modifying it for journaling can provide a myriad of benefits. Consider expanding upon the traditional pros-and-cons list by writing follow-up journals on how the decision panned out. This will help uncover patterns in the decision-making process and sharpen the ability to make quick decisions going forward.
- Idea Journaling: Idea journaling is ideal for creatives who want a place to store all of their wildest thoughts. Turn the journal into a master list of different ideas you have: ideas for business opportunities, grade improvement, athletic goals, social plans, creative thoughts, and more.
For added benefit, try relating your ideas to what you are currently studying in school. Doing so can help you continue to process things that have already been learned, leading to better memorization and application skills down the road.
- Middle-Split Journaling: Another journaling style is known as middle-split journaling. In this style, you split the page in half, write an idea on the left side and all of the details about that idea on the right side. This is best used as a studying tool or a memorization technique: Write down a concept that was learned in class on the left side and all the information you know about that concept on the right side.
With time and practice, journaling can soon become a study guide that can be referenced over and over again while preparing for difficult tests, midterms, finals, and more.
- Transferable Skills Journal: Last but not least, creating a transferable skills journal is a powerful way to make connections and increase understanding of both education and the larger world. The concept is simple: Take something learned in school and write an entry that applies the learnings to the real world. Ideally, a student will want to associate what they learned with some kind of transferable skill, something they can practice outside of the classroom.
For instance, maybe you learned about the stock market in an economics class. You could write down in your journal everything you learned and how you can apply that to a modest real-life stock portfolio you are about to set up.
Or, maybe in your psychology class you learned about the benefits of meditation and breathing exercises on the human mind. Using your journal to create your own mindfulness routine that incorporates meditation and breathing could be one way to apply what you have learned to your life.
For Better Academic Success, Start Journaling Now
Many students struggle academically because they don’t have a way to contextualize what they’re learning and integrate it into their own lives. Fortunately, journaling acts as an accessible tool that can bring together the disparate parts of academic life and help make sense of them.
If this article has been helpful to you, I highly recommend you pick up a journal and try one of the aforementioned exercises — who knows what you might learn?
Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years. Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!