You might already know that journaling is a great outlet. It’s recommended for anyone, from children to adults, who wants to relax, become more grateful, and get to know themselves better. If you have a teenager who is struggling with stress, strong emotions, or other similar issues, encourage them to start writing in a journal. Here’s a list of five benefits that they can experience from doing this.
1. Journaling Helps Reduce Stress Levels
Journaling is a great way to relieve stress. Today’s teens are under more stress than some adults; not only do they have school and extracurricular activities, but many of them also have part-time jobs, volunteer obligations, and a host of personal difficulties, including family issues and friend drama. Taking some time each day to write in a journal can help a teen keep his or her stress levels manageable.
There are a few ways this happens.
First, journaling requires the person to stop what they are doing and focus on what is happening at that moment. Putting down their smartphone and forgetting about school work or personal issues is a break that all people need from time to time.
Second, journaling allows teens to write down their many thoughts, effectively getting them out of their head and making room for new ones. If you’ve ever felt less overwhelmed once you wrote down everything you needed to, you understand this phenomenon.
2. Journaling Can Raise a Teen’s Knowledge of Self
Busy teens often go from activity to activity without taking a lot of time for self-reflection along the way. They might feel pressured by peers and family members to follow the same belief system and to accept the status quo. Only when a teen sits down, puts away the constant pull of electronics, and puts pen to paper do they really have the time to reflect and write down their thoughts.
When your teen goes back and re-reads what they’ve written, they might be surprised at how much insight that had at that particular point in time. Over time, your teen will be spending time with him- or herself and getting to know what kind of person they are growing up to be.
3. Journaling Can Help Teens Process Strong Emotions
There’s no doubt about it: Adolescence is rife with strong emotions. It can be difficult for teenagers to handle and process these emotions, and sometimes they lead to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Taking some time to write down what they’re feeling and processing those feelings can help your teen get through difficult feelings.
Your teen might also be able to notice some patterns when it comes to these emotions. For example, if they notice that they’re often writing about their sadness during the winter and that sadness lifts once the days begin to lengthen again, they might realize that their moods are affected by the seasons. This is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. He or she might also notice that they feel angry and irritable when they need to participate in a social function; in this case, they might have a bit of social anxiety.
Encourage your teen to look back over his or her journal entries to see if any patterns emerge. A mental health professional might be able to help them make sense of these patterns and give treatment options for any issues that arise.
4. Journaling Can Raise a Teen’s Grades
Although you might not realize it, any writing practice can raise a person’s vocabulary, syntax, spelling, and general language usage. This can, in turn, lead to better grades. If your teen doesn’t like English class, journaling might be just what the doctor, or, more accurately, teacher, ordered.
Spelling and punctuation don’t count when someone is writing in a private journal, of course, but your teen might begin to make the effort to make his or her thoughts more clear to look back on later. Also, as they learn grammar rules in school, they might unwittingly practice them when writing in their journal.
5. Journaling Can Help a Teen Solve Problems
While thinking through problems can help you learn to solve them, there are some issues that really require the right side of the brain to solve well. This is because the right side of the brain is associated with creativity. Writing in a journal can help unleash that creativity, and this different way of thinking about events and situations can lead to problem-solving prowess.
You have probably experienced something similar if you’ve ever been in a brainstorming session. That’s one way journaling can be used to boost brain power when it comes to solving a problem. Encourage your teen to write down anything that comes to mind that might possibly help solve whatever problem they’re navigating. Tell them not to judge or edit in the beginning stages; just write down any thoughts that crop up. A little later, your teen can look back with fresh eyes to see what might make sense. His or her problem-solving skills might surprise you!
Doodling, drawing, and other creative pursuits can have the same effect. Some teens enjoy Zentangling, which is an exercise in mindfulness that allows the creative brain to take over. If your adolescent would like to try it, encourage him or her to write down any solutions that come to mind during the process.
Whether your teen is looking for help achieving their goals, new problem-solving skills, a way to learn more about themselves, or an effective method to fight stress, journaling is a great practice to begin during the adolescent years. It can be a treasured hobby for decades, and one day, your middle-aged or elderly teen might choose to look back and read the journals they kept throughout their life. Remember, also, that it’s never too late to start journaling! If your teen is hesitant, buy yourself a journal, too, and see if you reap the same benefits.
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Founder and Executive Director of Paradigm Treatment Centers, who has been a respected leader in the field of adolescent mental health for more than 20 years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, his Master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, his Doctoral degree from Pacific University’s APA approved Clinical Psychology program, and completed his training at the University of California, San Diego’s APA approved psychology internship program.
Dr. Nalin has provided training and mentoring to students entering the field of psychology at institutions of learning including Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology, UCSD, Pacific University, and Santa Monica College. He was also instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
Dr. Nalin has appeared as an expert on shows ranging from CBS News and Larry King, to CNN, The Today Show and MTV. He was also featured in an Anti-Drug Campaign for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Dr. Nalin is a Diplomate of the National Institute of Sports Professionals and a Certified Sports Psychologist as well as a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist. He lectures and conducts workshops nationally on the issues of teen mental health, substance abuse prevention, and innovative adolescence treatment.
In 2017 Dr. Nalin was awarded The Sigmund Freud Foundation and Sigmund Freud University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his work with youth in the field of mental health over the course of his career.