Journaling: Gen Z’s latest form of self-expression and therapy

Categorised as bibliotherapy, psychologist Maria Simanjuntak states that journaling can help one to gain insight from what they write — especially about themselves.


New hobby: Journaling has gained popularity in recent years. (Unsplash/Estee Janssens) (Unsplash/Estee Janssens)

July 19, 2022

JAKARTA – Journaling is on the rise in Indonesia with zoomers and others getting into it for reasons that include mental health, creative expression and aesthetics.

While jotting down one’s feelings onto paper or “journaling” has been around for a long time, in Indonesia, the term has gained more popularity in recent years, finding a new mostly younger audience along the way. These days, journaling also refers to writing important lessons or ideas, tracking one’s moods from day to day, and recording memorable moments in life.

“Journaling refers to a wide [range of activities],” said Fifi Theresiani, 24, the owner of Paperie Lab, a stationery and custom journal store. “Journaling can include scheduling or perhaps recording one’s lessons or gratitude.”

According to Maria Jane Simanjuntak, a clinical psychologist and a lecturer at Pembangunan Jaya University, journaling is a recommended form of therapy.

“Journaling serves as a bridge between the patient and the therapist. It is a form of activity that acts as a medium for an individual’s treatment process. Journaling can also be used as a way for someone to ‘talk’ to themselves,” Maria said.

Categorized as bibliotherapy, Maria adds that journaling, in general, can help someone to gain insight from what they write — especially about themselves.

Apart from being part of the healing process where it acts as a medium to let out some feelings and emotions, as well as a means to relieve stress, Fifi said that journaling also has other benefits such as schedule arrangement. These benefits gain attention from different journaling enthusiasts who find that journaling can be utilized in multiple ways.

Riding the waves: Fifi started Paperie Lab by selling one-of-a-kind planners and journals. (Courtesy of Paperie Lab) (Courtesy of Paperie Lab/Courtesy of Paperie Lab)


Journaling’s many faces

There are several types of journaling, including reflective, daily, art, gratitude and bullet journaling, among others. Reflective journaling is the practice of writing down and reflecting on emotions, feelings and experiences. For some people, it can be therapeutic and help them to know themselves better. This type of journaling is the most common among hobbyists.

“During the pandemic, we launched the gratitude journal product. This journal has a set of questions to help the owner really get to know about themselves and be grateful for anything every day so that users can continue to think positively, especially during the pandemic,” said Fifi.

Gratitude journaling can also be done without having those questions printed down previously in the journal by writing down things they are grateful for, which can later serve as a self-reminder in the future.

However, it is also important to note that one should not self-diagnose or choose one’s own type of journaling as a treatment without consulting professionals if there is a concern about psychological issues.

“If someone feels like journaling is not an effective way, they should reach out to the professionals. Journaling methods in treatment should be done step by step under the supervision of professionals and can’t be handled carelessly by themselves even though it might look easy,” Maria said.

In the field of psychology, the types of journaling should be customized according to someone’s cognitive type and their current condition as a way of treatment. One individual might not have the same type of journaling as another, even though the two have similar personalities or symptoms.

“For example, when we’re treating a patient with depression, we should never immediately suggest that they should do gratitude journaling without looking into their current condition because they may have certain different characteristics,” said Maria.

“There will be times when their way of thinking might change from one situation to another and that’s why the type of journaling depends on someone’s current condition, and not solely on their personalities.”

Real benefits, real value

Fifi believes that journaling is highly beneficial as people “will be able to absorb information or learn something more effectively if they are in a good mood”.

According to Fifi, through her years of journaling, she discovered that the hobby also helps her become more productive because it allows her to list everything she needs to do, prioritize what is most important, and be more mindful and grateful for what she has done.

For Christie Melea, a pianist and piano teacher, journaling helps her against loneliness and reduces her stress level.

“I’ve been writing a personal journal for maybe about six years,” she said. “I started because I felt I couldn’t walk alone. I felt the need to write down my emotions and feelings.

“[My journals are written as if I am] having a conversation with God. I tell Him what happened today, how I feel today, what I learned and how I am grateful for today, for the precious moments that happened today.”

Although journaling can now be done digitally, many people still choose to stick with paper and ink. Christie is one of these old-schoolers. She asserts that committing the ink to the paper helps people memorize things more effectively.

In addition, she continued, for those who prefer paper and ink, writing on paper has “a different feel” than scribbling on gadgets. The tendency of overexposure to gadgets is also one of the reasons why people like Christie still stick with the old-school method.

She said journaling on paper is her quick “getaway” from the digital world.

“A journal can [also serve as] a record of our growth. For example, when we look at our journal last year, we were struggling at one point, and it turns out [today] we have unconsciously passed [that lowest point],” said Christie.

“It is important that [hobbyists] spread this good habit so that [more] people can also feel the peace [they] feel through journaling.”


Therapeutic: Christie Melea writes in her journal as if she’s talking to the Almighty, helping her to combat loneliness and reducing her stress level. (Courtesy of Christie Melea) (Courtesy of Christie Melea/Courtesy of Christie Melea)

Business opportunities

Journaling enthusiasts use a variety of tools, from basic stationery such as pens, markers and highlighters, to supplementary decorations such as glitter and stickers. They may also write quotes, to-do lists, or any other notes in their journals with an aesthetic touch to them.

This leads to journaling being closely related to stationary collecting, as using different and unique stationery types helps journaling enthusiasts boost their mood while writing — which is particularly true for visual learners, as colors are essential in setting the mood during their learning process.

The intricacies of journaling and the varying tools it may employ also mean that there is a market to exploit for savvy entrepreneurs and hobbyists alike. This is precisely the case for Fifi. In her fifth semester, she has successfully turned her hobby into a healthy, if not thriving, business.

Fifi, who learned the fundamentals of product design as a student of visual design and communication, then launched Paperie Lab and started her business by selling one-of-a-kind planners and journals. She also created some functional templates where people can begin journaling easily with the provided templates.

“In the beginning, we sold [schedule] planners, then we developed our products according to the needs of our customers,” said Fifi.

Fifi also developed her products to suit the needs of her more niche customers — some of the Paperie Lab’s products include study planners, wedding planners and baby keepsake journals. Her Paperie Lab has managed to sell more than 20,000 planners or journal books.

However, this does not mean that the hobby requires a lot of money. Despite being a visual person whose mood can be influenced by colors and shapes, Christie said that one can always resort to the basics that come at reasonable prices.

“In my opinion, pens and markers are not a waste of money if they can make us more excited,” she said.

“It doesn’t need to be expensive, nor does it need a lot of variety to it. Just buy a few colors that make us more excited, [choose] easy-to-use pens. If you run out, just buy the ink. And the budget can be adjusted to our abilities, the choices are very diverse, especially in online shops.”

scroll to top