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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


There’s something meditative about keeping a diary

Writing in a journal for just 20 minutes a day can help improve mental health.  LUIS RUIZ DOMINGUEZ/THE STATESMAN

“I’m trying out this new pen because Daniel recommended it. I’ve decided to make this my diary/notebook for 2018 – at least until I fill the pages. I broke up.”

Those are the opening words I wrote in my “Mindful Notebook,” a leather-bound notebook from Corso featuring mindfulness quotes at the top and a gratitude box at the bottom of each page. I don’t add to it every day, but I try to find time each week to write about what’s going on, what I’m thinking about, what I need to work on and what I’m grateful for.

As someone who is addicted to Facebook, Netflix and my cellphone, I can spend hours without looking up from “black mirror.” As a student with a part-time job, I always have something to be busy with and something to worry about. And this is all before adding hobbies, eating, exercise and my reading goals. Analog diary writing provides me a time and space to take a break and meditate about it all.

I’ve written previously about my appreciation for the internet. I’ve written about taking myself out of it and into nature. With all things there is a balance. There are incredible benefits that the internet affords (I don’t have to carry a Roget’s with me everywhere I go), but not everything needs to be internet-ized.

Analog got a lot of things right. Reading on a screen hurts my eyes, and nothing compares to the smell of a good book. While typing is great for writing stories and articles quickly, writing by hand gives you time to think out what you’re writing. Every stroke leaves a physical mark. There is no delete (unless you get those fancy microwavable notebooks); if you don’t like what you wrote you have to cover it with more ink. If you’re writing in pencil, the indent of the letters is still there.

You are also presented with a physical representation of your thoughts. As opposed to reading some unfathomable “3.67 GB of 15 GB used,” you see a stack of papers or a pile of bound books filled with scribbles gathering on your desk or bookshelves.

Whether you are religious, spiritual or think it’s all baloney, writing offers a truly meditative experience. You don’t have to worry that what you write will get out there. It isn’t hackable and you won’t accidentally hit the send on your draft of an angry email to your boss or professor. I was taught to write whatever comes to mind, no matter how crazy. I have sat down and written, “banana banana banana,” over and over again. You can write yourself out of a bad mood, and there are recorded physical benefits to writing regularly as well.

Journaling also allows you reminisce. In a bad mood? Go re-experience that awesome trip during winter break. Sit in your closet and read. Wear a blanket on your head. Cry when you read about the one who got away. High-five your past self that got accepted to college. See how innocent you were when you were happy about an ultimately bad situation. Remember that time you thought your life was over but really another door opened.

There are so many ways to journal. You can write it diary-style like I do. You can write letters to that imaginary friend you had. Buzzfeed has a whole series on bullet-journaling. Watercolor your mood. Because it’s all about your experience, there are infinite ways to be creative and customize your diary to you. Some people even write it out on Google docs or Microsoft Word, even though that would be too immediate to experience the internal benefits.

With everything fighting for our attention all the time, it’s an exercise in freedom to shut ourselves in, close off from everything and project ourselves onto paper. It’s important to have a place where we can let our minds run. Write it out.

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