Passions and ObsessionsVideo

Do as BTS—Keep a journal
to fight pandemic anxiety

‘We can only beat our demons if we look them straight in the eye’

Early on, BTS have espoused journaling or writing their thoughts of gratitude and joys. This page opens Honasan's presentation.

Writing a journal—nothing to it, right? Just get a pen and one of those nicely bound blank or lined notebooks from the bookstore and put your thoughts and feelings into words. Using your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smart phone works, too. The point is to be honest, open, and fairly consistent with your entries so you can track your personal journey and see how much you’ve progressed.

As benign as it sounds, journaling, in fact, is now recognized as a legitimate form of therapy. According to a January 2020 article in Psychology Today, patients who kept a journal experienced a significant reduction in anxiety, depression, and even the frustration of living with symptoms of ADHD.

Still, the very idea of keeping a journal can be stressful and intimidating. There are truths to admit, painful emotions to face, and traumatic incidents to recall. And what if your grammar and spelling suck, or you can’t find the right words to express how you truly feel? Worst of all, what if someone reads it?

All these were addressed in And You’re Gonna Be Happy: Journaling For Mental Health, a webinar hosted by veteran writer, editor, and regular Alya B. Honasan specifically for the Titas of BTS.

Yes, the Titas of BTS (TOB), that group of titas born before 1992, the year BTS’ oldest member Kim Seokjin (a.k.a. Jin, a.k.a. “Worldwide Handsome, you know?”) was born.  Now a 3,500-plus-strong ARMY, TOB does more than fangirl over the globally successful South Korean boy band. “We want this group to be a vehicle for positive change to the community, just as BTS has been to the world,” say the members in their private Facebook page.

Indeed, as BTS has used its influence to promote positive messages like “Love Myself,” its anti-violence campaign in partnership with Unicef, and most recently #StopAsianHate, to address the blatant racism endured by Asians today, TOB has organized numerous initiatives around the boys’ birthdays. It bought school supplies for indigenous children on Jimin’s birthday last October 30, and provided aid to victims of Typhoon Ulysses when Jin turned 28 (international age) on December 4.

For the joint birthdays of j-hope (February 18) and Suga (March 9), TOB scheduled self-care webinars on makeup and journaling for mental health. The latter is particularly relevant, as Suga has wrestled with anxiety and depression in the early days of BTS. So too has TOB during the pandemic’s restrictive lockdowns. Listening to the boys’ music (and supporting each other in group chats) gave them the strength to deal with the stress of uncertain times.

“That sounds like a blessing from the guys,” says Honasan of the webinar’s title, a line from BTS’s hit Zero O’clock and the first of many references to the band.

To make journaling a less threatening experience, remind yourself: 1) Grammar and style don’t matter

After opening her presentation with individual pictures of the guys writing, she cites them in examples to illustrate the finer details of journaling.

“Date every entry to give it a sense of structure and earnestness. You can even situate it—A rainy Thursday afternoon, listened to Jin singing Abyss and it made me cry.”

“Journaling Style: The List—3 things I would tell RM if he was right in front of me.”

“Gratitude Journal—What are you thankful for? (SUGA!!!)

To make journaling a less threatening experience, remind yourself: 1) Grammar and style don’t matter. 2) There are no rules—just prompts to get you started, and parameters to help you develop a habit. 3) Nobody has to see what you’ve written unless you want someone to, so don’t hold back.

“It will work only if you’re authentic,” she says. “Don’t be self-conscious. Do not be afraid of the emotions. We can only beat our demons if we look them straight in the eye.”

In keeping with the there-are-no-rules rule, journaling doesn’t have to be written in “Dear Diary” prose. There’s the aforementioned List, the Sprint (structure-less, spontaneous thoughts and feelings at the moment—profanity is welcome), the Letter (address to the person who is causing you pain or anxiety), and the Scene (a detailed description of a painful situation).  You can also draw, if words escape you, and write in the language you’re most comfortable with.

Or you can do as BTS do and pen your thoughts in verse form. Rapping as his alter ego Agust D in the 2016 mixtape The Last, Suga recounts “the depression that takes over me/and all my self hatred,” as well as “The day I confronted myself/When I hid inside the bathroom/Because I was scared of people.”

It’s also used to express forgiveness, closure, gratitude, and hope

Fast forward to 2020 and Agust D sings a different tune, one of calm, peaceful acceptance. “I flow the way water flows/At the end there might be something/Special life, ordinary life, each in its own way/What’s good is good, in the end/What’s good is good.”

That’s journaling’s other purpose. Cathartic as it is, it’s also used to express forgiveness, closure, gratitude, and hope. Says the moderator of what to do with an old journal filled with sad and angry entries, “Look at it, read it, put it down, and thank God and the Universe that it’s over.”

Listen to Alya’s workshop “Keep Calm and Write: Journaling for Mental Health” on YouTube

About author


She is a freelance writer of lifestyle and copy editor of broadsheets and magazines. Not many know that she’s an ultramarathoner who became the first Filipina, and so far the only Filipina, to run across the US.

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