Jenny Patton, senior lecturer in the English department, worked with many a successful student in her first- and second-year writing courses. But that success came at a cost. “Many were dealing with overloaded course schedules, work responsibilities, student loan debt worries, unemployed or sick parents, and uncertainty about the future. Several students missed classes; the overachievers came with hacking coughs,” Patton said of her overworked students. “While I referred students to the counseling center and other OSU resources, I felt there was more I could do.”
That desire led Patton to assign her students five-minute writing prompts every other week to help them reduce their anxiety levels. Student testimonies and research from the Universities of Texas and Chicago confirmed what Jenny already suspected: journal writing helps reduce anxiety and benefits the immune system.
Student responses were immediate and encouraging. One student who had suffered from insomnia for six weeks reported that, after her journal session, she slept through the night. Another said that her journaling lead her to decide on a major—something she had stressed over for half a year. In surveys, undergraduates reported a 20% decrease in stress after sessions. The journals proved to be a huge success.
Things are still in their early stages, but in the future, Patton hopes to promote wellness on a larger scale. “In the coming year, I hope to conduct more research, write an academic article about my findings, and continue to work toward my Wellness Coach certification through the Mayo Clinic,” Patton says. She also has a blog—Journaling with Jenny—that she updates weekly with journal prompts, so everyone has a chance to experience journaling the way Patton’s students do. You can find it here.
By Kory Smith