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Journaling is a good way to get a handle on what's troubling you

Many teens face stresses and pressures that they need help working through.

Whether they are dealing with mental health issues, meeting society’s high standards, family conflicts, relationship problems or health conditions, teens may turn to outside sources for assistance and advice.

Some go to therapists or counselors; some turn to peers or parents.

But many don’t see that the process of working through many issues begins with themselves. Often teens don’t see that they are responsible for many of their own problems, and that they are the only ones who can truly fix them.

A good way to start that process is with a journal.

Recent studies have shown that journaling about stressful events can significantly improve physical and emotional health and well-being.

Research shows that journaling can ease stress, reduce blood pressure and improve the immune system, mental state, memory, liver function and social comfort. It also can boost your self-esteem and strengthen your communication skills.

Journaling at least once a day can get you one step closer to the happy and healthy lifestyle you deserve. And all it takes is a pen and paper.

Kristin Dunlap, a counselor at the Dale Association in Lockport, thinks journaling can play an important role in mental health and general well-being.

"Doing anything consistently for your mental health or general well-being is very positive," she says. "First, it helps the individual develop a new way to process thoughts, feelings and ideas. The hardest part is the consistency, but once mastered it is one of the keys to success."

Dunlap has seen first-hand the positive effects journaling.

"Journaling gives a person the ability to express their feelings, ideas and experiences in a different manner that is not verbal; they can also do it by themselves, which helps foster some independence from the therapeutic relationship," she says.

"Journaling is also a safe place emotionally and physically to express things that can be traumatic and difficult to verbalize," she continues. "This is essential for people who are not comfortable talking, but need somewhere to share and express themselves."

Dunlap says she highly recommends journaling to anyone, and especially to most people with mental health issues, because it is something that can be done anywhere, anytime and in many forms.

There is much evidence-based research that supports the benefits of journaling.

Even some of our heroes have used journaling to cope. Albert Einstein used his journal to log his travel experiences. Mark Twain wrote about his personal experiences and people in his journal, he even touched on politics and religion.

Lady Gaga is known to document her life as a pop star in her journals. Gaga’s journal is said to include her "thoughts, feelings, sketches, pictures and letters."

Jessica Simpson also writes in a journal, or diary, as she calls it. Simpson has been quoted as saying that "writing in a diary is very therapeutic. There is a lot about heartbreak, there is a lot about perseverance. I used it as inspiration for my album." She goes to say how much of an "awesome experience" journaling is for her.

Journaling is not like typical writing – you can be as eccentric and as spontaneous as you like or as bland and calm as you wish. Don’t think of it as writing a poem or an essay, think of it as the note app on your cellphone. You can use your journal to write down random thoughts, feelings, things you want to remember – your journal is that and more.

Journaling does not just help with health. It can give you a log so that you have everything that has ever happened or that you ever felt, all in one spot.

You can later look back at it for perspective and advice, to see what you could have done better, and to realize how much you have grown.

Journaling is an easy and inexpensive system that can be very effective for people of all ages. All it takes is paper, a pen and some determination.

If you or someone you know is struggling, have them consider journaling, you could change someone’s life for the better.

As C.S. Lewis said, "You can make anything by writing." Use journaling to make your life into what you want it to be.

Skye Khan is a sophomore at Nardin Academy.


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