People should use journaling to process emotions, document personal growth


Wendy Zhu

In just a few months, I’ll officially be a high school senior. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs over these past few years, but if there’s one thing I wish I did more throughout high school, it would have to be journaling. When I say journaling, however, I don’t necessarily mean bullet journaling. Instead, my journal reads more like a diary and acts as an emotional outlet. Though I have the utmost respect for those who use their journals to plan out the week or design intricate spreads filled with calligraphy, I’ve personally found that I prefer to use my journal for expressive writing, or simply putting my thoughts and emotions into words. 

I’m incredibly lucky to have amazing friends and family who are always there for me, but there are times when I just need a space for myself, where I can let out everything I’m thinking and feeling. Trust me, it always feels better putting those things down on paper instead of keeping them bottled up, and expressive writing has been proven to improve psychological wellbeing. In this day and age, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with life, so journaling lets me maintain my balance and keep myself in tune with how I’m feeling. 

Additionally, my journal entries that detail positive memories allow me to revisit some of my best days. Maybe I’m just an overly sentimental person, but I love reading about happy times and remembering how I felt or what I did, and when I’m going through a rough patch, it keeps me optimistic for all the good days that have yet to come. However, that’s not to say I don’t like reading about some of my less than perfect moments. In fact, my journal entries also serve as a reminder that I was able to get through all of my worst days. While it’s not always easy to process difficult emotions and write about them, doing so helps me learn and grow.

In some ways, going through old journal entries is almost like going through old yearbooks: reading about my past crushes is just as cringe-inducing as looking at past versions of myself (who let me look like that in seventh grade?), but it’s also incredibly rewarding, not to mention entertaining, to see how much I’ve changed over time. Journaling has been a very eye-opening experience, as it’s taught me that there are times when I need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. From some of my past entries, for example, I’ve learned that things that seem earth-shattering right now may not even matter in a few months or weeks. 

It can be hard to just sit down and reflect in a world that’s constantly moving, but I really encourage you to find some time to check in with yourself. The beauty of journaling is that it’s completely customizable for each person, and it’s a very simple yet rewarding task. I can guarantee that no matter how busy you are, you can probably put aside at least five minutes in your day to jot some thoughts down, but you can spend however much or little time you want on it. Journaling is also incredibly cheap: all you need is a writing utensil and a journal, neither of which needs to be anything fancy. 

It’s important to remember, however, that journaling shouldn’t feel like a chore. Instead, it should feel cathartic. Journal entries don’t have to be particularly long, and by no means do you need to journal daily—just do it as often as you can. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect, either. Remember, this is for you, not for anyone else. Do yourself a favor and start journaling, expressive writing, whatever you want to call it—you can thank me later.

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Wendy Zhu at [email protected]