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Boost Your Teen’s Mood and Self-Esteem with Journaling

I started journaling when my grandfather gave me a diary on my 10th birthday. It felt good to write my thoughts and feelings in a safe place and to record my life events.

I continued to journal through high school and college, exploring the challenges of my life. I also started writing poetry, working over each line to find just the right way to express my heart. It was a cathartic process.

After graduate school, looking through all my poetry and journals, I realized they were physical representations of my inner life. For teens, journaling offers an especially inviting and effective tool.

Why Your Teen Should Journal

It is a safe release for their emotions

Journaling provides an outlet for the emotional highs and lows, overwhelm, and confusion that mark the normal teen growing phase. Holding our emotions in can manifest as stomach butterflies, chest pressure, tightness in the neck, headache, jaw clenching, light-headedness, and other symptoms. Because journaling involves physical movement, it helps dissipate these symptoms by releasing stress chemicals from the body.

It reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed

Writing our thoughts and feelings changes them from abstract to concrete—letters and words on paper or screen. That can make these feelings seem less overwhelming and help us feel more balanced. Teens, especially, benefit from journaling because their emotions tend to be more intense and fluctuate more often. Journaling can help them reground themselves.

It encourages self-discovery and self-awareness

Journaling offers a safe space for questioning, observing, and exploring likes and dislikes, passions and motivations, fears and apprehensions, dreams and desires.

It promotes a positive relationship with one’s authentic self

Writing only for oneself helps teens practice imperfection, self-acceptance, self-compassion, and assertiveness. It helps them build healthy self-esteem simply by allowing them to nurture themselves over and over again.

It can be soothing

When the writer is comfortable and lets go of judgment about what they’re expressing, the repetitive motion of hand and pen crossing the paper, or fingers tapping the keyboard, can have a self-soothing effect.

It is immediate

There is almost always paper or a screen close at hand, making journaling easily accessible to all teens. Emotions and thoughts can spill safely almost as soon as they’re experienced.

It can feel less intimidating than talking

Journaling can provide a first, less threatening, step to help teens address emotional issues they’re not yet ready to share verbally, either with family, friends, or a counselor.

It fosters social and emotional learning and growth

While writing in a journal, teens can develop coping skills, a sense of personal empowerment, and a healthy inner anchor to enhance maturation and carry them into adulthood.

The many benefits of journaling can help your teen work through complicated feelings and develop their sense of self. And don’t forget the benefits of journaling for yourself! As parents, it’s equally important to find outlets for our emotions and model those behaviors for our teens.

Lisa M. Schab, LCSW

Lisa Schab is an author and licensed clinical social worker with over 30 years experience. She’s based in the North Chicago suburbs and her latest workbook, Put Your Feelings Here: A Creative DBT Journal for Teens with Intense Emotions, is available on Amazon and through all major booksellers.

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