Journaling has been continually recommended by mental health professionals as a productive and healthy means of navigating and managing one’s emotions, proven to help with managing stress and coping with anxiety, fear, and depression.
“Emotion journaling” is a practice through which individuals can work on improving their own emotional self-regulation and emotional intelligence by documenting their life experiences and the different emotional changes they experience as a result of these events on a daily basis. In doing so, individuals are able to work through their emotions in a private, personal, and productive manner, instead of allowing those emotions to wreak havoc in their interpersonal lives or through deleterious behavior. As journaling becomes part of a daily routine, the journal becomes an “emotion map” of sorts, providing valuable insight into any behavioral patterns that might be detrimental, identifying the individual’s emotional triggers, and overall a better understanding of the individual’s emotional self and how these emotions might be better managed in the future.
People of all ages can find solace in taking to pen and paper (or their iPhones or laptops!) to vent their stresses, though adolescents or people dealing with trauma may find it particularly useful. Young people encounter a number of stressors both physically and emotionally that are new to them, and having them learn to use writing as a way of expressing emotion amidst these sorts of stresses is teaching them a beneficial tool for releasing negative energy and maintaining a balanced temperament -- a valuable life skill that makes for better interpersonal relationships and less social conflict throughout life.
Emotion journaling is a productive tool in the classroom too, especially for instructors teaching courses in the realms of communication, general psychology, and sociology. This is a great activity to get students thinking more deeply about the roles emotions play in their own lives and relationships with other people, and how students might be noticing different psychological/emotional theories playing out in their own life experiences and emotional behaviors. Furthermore, daily writing allows students to exercise their narrative muscle in a space that is less formal and more fluid than normal essay writing. Try having your students do some emotion journaling for ten to fifteen minutes at the beginning of class, for example. To take this task to the next level, ask them to also evaluate how their own emotional experiences relate (or do not relate) to the material they’ve encountered in class.
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