Writing a journal may seem archaic, but studies have shown that getting busy with pen and paper has many benefits to our technology-obsessed, extremely online selves.
Journaling is good for your mental health
Professor James W. Pennebaker and his team at the University of Texas have conducted extensive research on the benefits of journaling.
Pennebaker wrote a research paper called Writing About Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process (published in 1997). In the article he observed: “For the past decade, an increasing number of studies have demonstrated that when individuals write about emotional experiences, significant physical and mental health improvements follow.”
These improvements included decreased anxiety, blood pressure, depression, muscle tension, pain and stress; enhanced lung and immune function; improved memory, sleep quality and social life; improved grades and work performance. Writing about emotional and even traumatic experiences helps us to get them out of our system and allow us to be released from their grip a little. Pennebaker states that “As the number of studies increased, it became clear that writing was a far more powerful tool for healing than anyone had ever imagined.”
The Traveler's Notebook From Midori, Japan is the Best Notebook Ever!
With so many notebooks on the market it's hard to figure out which one would connect with you. My personal recommendation for your journalling adventure is possibly the best notebook in the universe: the iconic original Traveler's Notebook cover in camel brown leather, produced by Midori, Japan.
It consists of a leather outer with a band system inside where you can add up to 3 different notebook styles (for example: lined, plain, diary, sticky notes, sketch paper.) Designed to be carried with you on your daily travels or further afield, the premium leather ages beautifully and is designed to last a lifetime.
Mine was stolen – it broke my heart to lose it.
My Gratitude Journal: Reasons to be Cheerful
Another way of using a journal is as a Gratitude journal, or a Things I Am Proud Of journal, both of which have benefits to everyday mental health. A Gratitude journal doesn’t need to be full of awe-inspiring moments, it can be as simple as seeing a nice sunset, having a good chat with a friend or having a really great cup of coffee.
As someone who struggles with their mental and physical health (I have C/PTSD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), I find that a Things I Am Proud Of journal can be really helpful. On my good days I can be proud of writing a good piece of poetry or reading some of my work at an open mic, whereas on bad days I can allow myself to be proud of those things that I might not give myself credit for normally – making it out of bed, getting showered and dressed, making sure the kids are up for school.
The important thing is that I met the challenge and got through it, and I know that on my really bad days getting out of bed is nothing short of an actual triumph.
And I have to admit, I do really like treating myself to nice notebooks to record my successes - and my gratitude; I keep another journal for this.
Recognising the tiny good things that happen on really difficult days, like a poppy growing from a crack in the pavement, a rainbow on a bleak day, or a favourite pair of fuzzy socks, really helps to keep me seeing the positive side of life.
Every Great Notebook Deserves a Great Pen
The pen that I use for all of this (and for more mundane things like the post-it-notes all over my desk reminding me of things I have to do, and nice things people have said to me – yes, I write those down too!) is an absolute beauty, bought for me by my lovely stepdaughter: The Brass Sport Ballpoint pen from Kaweco.
I love it for the way it feels in my hand, the weight and shape of it make it really pleasing to hold. I like how compact it is with the lid on and how it becomes a full-size pen when you put the lid on the other end. And I love it because it was an incredibly thoughtful present from someone that I love very much.
You can never have too many notebooks.
As Adrian Searle, Art Critic says about keeping notebooks, you need at least “One for dreams, one for writing down things you might otherwise forget, one for composing drafts and organising your thoughts: in the end, they all get mixed up, but that’s half the fun of keeping notebooks. You could use your phone, but it isn’t the same.”
Conveniently for Adrian, USTUDIO have a lovely set of three Moleskin notebooks, which will cover dreams, reminders and deep thoughts quite nicely…
Personally I have five notebooks on the go at the moment- I have a gratitude journal and a ‘things I am proud of’ journal (these are both small and pretty much fit in a pocket so there is no excuse for not writing in them).
Then in my newly acquired replacement for my beloved Traveler’s Notebook (which is, of course, another Traveler’s Notebook!) I use the three inserts for work notes, poetry and a general ‘stuff I am thinking about’ journal.Some of these I write in all the time, others I have to push myself to do, for example I wrote in my ‘things I am proud of’ journal today for the first time in quite a while as I have to really remind myself to celebrate when I’ve done something brave (in this case joining a poetry group and also going on a couple of massive rollercoasters with my children!)
This reminded me I should write in it more and keep on being proud of myself on bad days as well as good ones - its so easy to let it slip!
I’m down with the kids!
I recently read that TikTok has reported a surge of interest in stationery from Gen Z and Millenials, the hashtag #stationeryhauls has had over 300 million views. I think this shows an interest in the tactile and tangible nature of stationery in comparison to the digital alternative. As Adrian Searle said, you can use your phone instead of a journal but it just doesn’t feel the same.
A brand new, pristine notebook has the potential to capture your most captivating thoughts or even to become the first draft of your blockbuster novel, so a new notebook feels like a genuine thrill and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a really lovely notebook. USTUDIO Design’s selection is arty and cool, and not expensive. So if you’re a student or not earning much they are perfect.
A way to brighten your day
Stationery cheers us up. Whether it’s the pen of your dreams, the perfect notebook or a lovely weekly planner, you can treat yourself without breaking the bank. As Lucy Mangan says in The Guardian;
“After all, stationery still makes us feel better. In a recession, you can still find something to suit your pocket and cheer you up. A notebook still carries the promise that you will one day make your mark literally and metaphorically. And nostalgia too has us ever in its grip. Whenever I write in longhand these days I increasingly feel like I am helping to preserve an ancient skill.”
I’m with you on this Lucy. And once I get just the right notebook, there will be no stopping me!
USTUDIO have all the notebooks you’ll ever need. Well maybe. There are just so many lovely notebooks just looking for a home and, no, I’m not addicted, how dare you!
But on a serious note- using notebooks in the ways I have mentioned really can help with your mental health. So if, like me, you find yourself constantly fighting your own brain, maybe try journaling. Or keep a gratitude or ‘things I am proud of’ diary. Or try all three, it won’t hurt you and could help a lot. And please remember, you’re not alone. So many of us face battles with our mental health and are fighting through it, a word at a time.
Blog by Anna Maughan