Gratitude Journaling: The Suitable Solution for Stressed Scholars

College is a stressful time! Young adults are thrown into a new environment, often many miles from their home and are required to become functionally independent. With the pressures of academic success, the milieu of social challenges, and the financial burden of college life, college is often the time when people first experience mental health distress.

Depression is a major issue among U.S. college students. A survey by the World Health Organization in 2018 found that major depression had a lifetime prevalence of 28.7 % among first-year American college students (Auerbach 2018).

There are numerous potential options for mental health treatment, including counseling, therapy, and psychiatric prescriptions; however, these options are often inaccessible to students due to affordability. Further, many students do not consider themselves to be distressed, but simply want to remove the excess baggage gained from college life so they can become more productive and happier individuals.

Luckily there is an option that is affordable, independent, and science-backed — journaling!

The term journal refers to a form of personal writing that expresses perceptions, experiences, dreams, and creativity from the perspective of the self. The word comes from the French root word “jour,” meaning day, and it is often used to depict a form of habitual daily writing and reflection (Haertl 2008).

Positive affect journaling (PAJ), also known as gratitude journaling, is one of the most common forms of journaling used within clinical settings. With this form of journaling, one must regularly identify positive aspects of their life that can be attributed to an external source or actions outside of their control (Weiner 1985). With short 15 minutes sessions, only 3 times a week, PAJ was “associated with decreased mental distress and increased well-being relative to baseline” in general medical patients after 12 weeks (Smyth 2018).

Similar benefits have been displayed within college students. A study on first-year undergraduate students found students “who engaged in 3 weeks of daily reflective gratitude journaling showed significant gains in gratitude, adjustment to college life, satisfaction with life and positive affect” (Isik 2017).

So how do you get Started?

First, you must choose whether to type or handwrite your journals. Typing is faster, and thus allows journalists’ thoughts to almost flow onto the page. Writing by hand is slower, and thus forces journalists to slow down their thoughts. By hand is often considered the better option, and an informal study indicated that handwritten journals are more insightful and further explores thoughts and attitudes. Besides, it can be fun to pick out what will package your positive prose.

Prompts for gratitude journaling can be found throughout the internet: examples include “What are you thankful for; What did someone else do for you?” (Smyth 2018). While the specific prompts do not matter, according to the American Psychological Association, “the most effective entries will include specific details about the person(s), event(s), or thing(s) for which you are grateful.” Additionally, one must make sure that they are journaling consistently with a set period for journaling sessions.

It is important to note that gratitude journaling is not a fix-all for mental health issues. If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or dial 911 in case of emergency. Additional mental health information and resources can be found here.


Auerbach, R. P., Mortier, P., Bruffaerts, R., Alonso, J., Benjet, C., Cuijpers, P., Demyttenaere, K., Ebert, D. D., Green, J. G., Hasking, P., Murray, E., Nock, M. K., Pinder-Amaker, S., Sampson, N. A., Stein, D. J., Vilagut, G., Zaslavsky, A. M., Kessler, R. C., & WHO WMH-ICS Collaborators. (2018). WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project: Prevalence and distribution of mental disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 127(7), 623–638.

Haertl, Kristine. Haertl, K. H. (2008). Journaling as an Assessment Tool in Mental Health Occupational Therapy. 2008.

Işık, Şerife, and Bengü Ergüner-Tekinalp. “The Effects of Gratitude Journaling on Turkish First Year College Students’ College Adjustment, Life Satisfaction and Positive Affect.” International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, vol. 39, no. 2, June 2017, pp. 164–75,

Smyth, Joshua M et al. “Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial.” JMIR mental health vol. 5,4 e11290. 10 Dec. 2018, doi:10.2196/11290

Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological Review, 92, 548–573.

How To Start Reading Again

Do you tend to fill your shelves up with books that you never actually read? Do you wonder how you read so much more as a kid than you do now? Does the idea of cracking open a huge novel seem incredibly daunting?

Don’t worry! Lots of people feel this way. Adult life is incredibly busy and stressful, and many of us feel like we just don’t have the time or energy to keep up with our favorite hobbies, especially reading. Maybe watching Netflix just seems easier, or maybe you’ve always struggled with reading. Whatever the reason is, we’ve got some great tips that will hopefully give you the motivation you need to open up a book!

Start listening to podcasts and audiobooks

Thanks to TikTok and other social media, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. This can make sitting down and focusing on books for long spans of time very difficult. Get back into the habit of focusing on longer narratives by listening to some podcasts or audiobooks while driving or working out. Spotify is a great place to find podcasts of all lengths and topics, and Audible has over 200,000 audiobooks to listen to.

Amazon Prime Day 2020: Save big on an Amazon Audible subscription

Try reading some graphic novels

If you find yourself struggling to focus on written words on a page, graphic novels are a great alternative to classic novels. These books showcase complex stories told through stunning art and are often much easier and quicker to read than regular books. Maus, Heartstopper, and Nimona are great first choices to read.


Go with genres you love

Not all reading has to feel academic! If you seem to get bored by most books you read, try choosing books based on your favorite movie genres. If you love horror movies, try some thrilling books by Stephen King or Gillian Flynn. If you love romantic comedies, try some novels by Rainbow Rowell or Casey McQuiston.

Different Types or Genres of Books With Examples | Genre of books, Book  genre labels, Book genres

Make reading feel like a treat

Reading should be fun and shouldn’t feel like a chore! Curl up in your favorite comfy spot with a pet, a snack, and a hot drink, or go out and have a reading adventure somewhere new. You can use reading as an excuse to get out of the house by reading at a coffee shop or at your favorite park. Try using reading as a reward at the end of stressful days, and try to stay consistent when working reading time into your schedule. The more you read, the more you will miss your reading time when you neglect it.

1,301,832 Reading Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Natalie Edwards | 2022

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Get Involved with McDaniel’s Writing Community

McDaniel has a plethora of opportunities to get involved with the writing community on the Hill. From poetry to news reporting, there is a spot for every writing-lover on campus.  

Contrast Literary Magazine: Contrast is the spot for everything creative writing. Join them for their weekly meetings to write, create art, and receive feedback from peers. They publish a yearly literary magazine, containing a gorgeous section of poetry, pose, and art. Submissions for the magazine, as well as applications for their editorial board, are open every spring.  

McDaniel Free Press: The Free Press is the College’s only student-run news publication. Covering five major sections (news, features, arts + culture, sports, and commentary), there is a large breadth of coverage possibilities. They put out multiple print issues throughout the school year, included the beloved April fools satirical issue called The Funion, as well as online content in between issues. The Free Press is always welcoming of talented new writers, photographers, question askers, and change seekers, so swing by their office in Hill Hall 111 to get involved!  

Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society: “STD” is the national English honors society focused on encouraging and promoting the study of literature throughout campus. To be eligible to join, students must have completed three or more literature courses with a B average or higher, are in the top thirty-five percent of their class, and have completed at least three semesters of college. That means you don’t even have to be an English major to be eligible! Sigma Tau Delta inducts new members every spring.  

McDaniel College Writing Center: Of course, this list could not be complete without including our beloved writing center. The writing center is ready to help you at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the finishing touches before you click ‘submit.’ The writing center also hosts a variety of writing workshops throughout the semester, so be sure to check out the events calendar to stay up to date! If you are interested in applying to be a tutor, applications open every fall.  

Ciara | Spring 2022

Five Podcasts to Help You Become a Better Writer

Over the past few years podcasts have become a source of entertainment as well as information for many people. With podcasts being accessible for many, they have allowed people to both broaden and deepen their interest among an assortment of topics, which includes writing. Writing centered podcasts actually have a fairly large listener base and there are many different types of writing based podcasts to listen to. No matter the kind of writing you’re interested in or skill you want to improve, there is probably a podcast out there that addresses it. Check out some of the podcasts below and be prepared to get hooked!

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

This podcast takes a look at a wide variety of writing topics with a different subject every week. Topics include grammar, punctuation, style, different types of writing, writing tips for success, and even writing history. Whether you are a seasoned writer or you are just starting to get into writing, this podcast will address topics that will connect you more to your writing and hopefully help to improve it.

Grammar Girl :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™
Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing podcast cover

The Creative Penn Podcast

This podcast is targeted towards those interested in becoming an author. Episodes are centered on being able to make a living out of your writing and how exactly a person can get to that point. They include interviews, and information on how to become and stay inspired as a writer, they look at creativity, publishing options for first time and experienced authors, marketing for writing, and the entrepreneurial side of being an author.

The Creative Penn Podcast: Writing, Publishing, Book Marketing, Making A  Living With Your Writing | The Creative Penn
The Creative Penn Podcast cover

So You Want to be a Writer

This podcast is for anyone that might be interested in the world of writing and publishing. Host Valerie Khoo goes in depth on different writing strategies and techniques to use and attempts to discover when and how popular authors got their big break. In doing this, many guest stars who are well known in writing and publishing are interviewed on the show and their secrets to success and happiness are shared.

So You Want to be a Writer | Podcasts on Audible |
So You Want to be a Writer cover

A Way With Words

In this podcast run by National Public Radio (NPR), language is the focus. This program analyzes and traces language throughout history focusing on its connection to family origin and culture. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett debate language and consider the variation and development of both old and new language. It is full of fun and interesting stories and great information that connects to everyday use of language.

A Way With Words | New Hampshire Public Radio
A Way With Words podcast cover

The Writing Life

Known as “a podcast for anyone who writes,” this show takes on a variety of writing focused topics. Created by the UK’s National Centre for Writing, this podcast seeks to introduce writers of all levels to the journeys of experienced writers as they talk through their early careers, experiences with self-publication, working in publishing, and looking at developing one’s technique. Featured guests include authors like Margaret Atwood, Sara Collins, and many more.

The Writing Life | Podcasts on Audible |
The Writing Life podcast cover

These five podcasts are just a small representation of all the writing focused podcasts that are out there. Whether you are looking to become a published author, want to work on the business side of writing and publishing, or just write in your spare time, these podcasts are sure to help provide you with some inspiration and great tips to use in the future.

Micaela | 2022

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What Happened to Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom and dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful nasty ways.” 

Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief 

One of my favorite book series growing up was Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I very vividly remember finding The Sea of Monsters in our mini 4th-grade library and reading the whole thing in less than a week. Upon learning that it was the second book, I immediately begged my mom to buy the first book and every book thereafter.  

I had a very different reaction when I learned of the movie. Still full of wonder from reading the book for the first time, I watched the movie and left feeling astonished… How could such a good book turn into such a bad movie? With Disney announcing they will be turning the first book into a show for Disney Plus, we will be going down memory lane and discussing what went wrong and if anything went right.  

1. Tweens to Teens

In the books, Percy and Annabeth were twelve while Grover was twelve passing. The story of twelve-year-old Percy was about a young boy struggling through childhood and wanting to find a place to belong. He was a character that the target audience could project themselves onto. After all, doesn’t everyone in middle school want something better? Percy’s youth also creates a fascinating contrast between a scrawny twelve-year-old boy and centuries-old monsters. He was a child fighting monsters that adults fear. He was forced to grow up and fight for survival. By making Percy sixteen, we lessen this impact. The audience’s view of Percy is changed from a pre-teen overcoming his fear to yet another teenage YA protagonist going on a heroic journey.   

2. Slow Burn to Whirlwind Romance 

In the books, it took Percy and Annabeth around five years to develop a romantic relationship while it took the movie around half an hour. The movie version of Percy and Annabeth had a small rivalry during their first meeting and subtle romantic nods by the middle of their quest. This quick progression erases the fact that they were enemies and best friends way before they were a couple. In the book, the entire quest showed how they overcame their parent’s rivalry. Instead of a son of Poseidon and a daughter of Athena, they progressed to simply being Percy and Annabeth.  

3. Look at Luke 

As a consequence of aging up the main trio, there was no longer an obvious age gap with Luke. In contrast to the twelve-year-old protagonists, Luke was originally portrayed as a more mature and experienced seventeen-year-old. He was portrayed as the cool older brother figure. He was one of Percy’s first friends. He looked out for Percy and was well-loved by the entire camp. This relationship was diminished in the movie because they looked the same age. Without this relationship, his betrayal, in the end, did not have the same impact and was less unexpected.  

4. Grover’s Personality Shift 

Another character that underwent a transformation was Grover. The only two similarities between the book Grover and the movie Grover were that they were friends with Percy and that they were satyrs. Everything else was drastically different. They were two characters that had opposite personalities. Book Grover was very shy and anxious while movie Grover seemed to be the embodiment of confidence. This shifted his dynamic with Percy. The book pair had Percy sticking up for Grover and trying to look out for him while the movie pair had Grover showing Percy the ropes. There’s nothing wrong with the movie Grover’s character- except that it wasn’t Grover. 

5. Was It Even the Same Quest? 

While the movie was technically called Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, it could very well have been named The Pearl Finder since that took up most of the plot. In the books, Percy was given three pearls as a gift from Poseidon. In the movie, they were created by Persephone and Percy had to go and fetch all of them. This created a whole new focus that took away from the main quest.  

Additionally, the existence of the pearls as a quick getaway for Percy, Annabeth, and Sally characterized Hades differently as well. Sally uses a pearl to leave in the movie while she was voluntarily returned by Hades in the books. The plot twist in the book was that Hades just wanted to be left alone while Ares was the problematic god attempting to stir up a war. The movies cut Ares completely and stuck with the stereotype of the god of the underworld being the villain of the story. 


Overall, if the movie did not have the words ‘Percy Jackson’ in the title it might have been better since it was almost unrecognizable from the source material. From wildly different characters and characterization to a completely different quest, this movie was a wild ride from start to finish. Still not convinced? I would say ask Rick Riordan, the author, since I know he would agree with me. However, this isn’t possible since he’s confessed to never even watching it after reading the script.  

Interested in what Rick Riordan has to say? Click here to read his letter to the producers!

Jyoti Duwady, Fall 2021 

Works Cited 

Haguenauer, Esther. “Percy Jackson: Everything That Went Wrong with the Movies.” ScreenRant, 13 July 2020,  

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. Papyros, 2010. 

New Zealand Book Recommendations

Painting of New Chums beach, New Zealand
Image by Caz Novak in Pacifica collection “New Chums Beach”

Books are a way for people to learn about other’s perspectives and experiences in life. I have found that people do not often enough read books from other countries and make an effort to find books other than what we get given in class. I have spent most of my life in New Zealand and found it to be full of culture and great books. Here are some that I have enjoyed and others I plan to read. All photos and descriptions and photos are from Goodreads.

The God Boy by Ian Cover cover
The God Boy by Ian Cross

The God Boy by Ian Cross

“Set in a small town in New Zealand, the story is told through the eyes of a gauche thirteen-year-old boy called Jimmy Sullivan. It is the haunting tale of a young boy growing up in a catholic household, seeing things he shouldn’t and struggling to cope. The book appears to be domestic in scope and provincial in vision, but by the end of the novel, the reader has encountered murder, and witnessed the warping of a promising mind and the destruction of a family.” 

Read more about God Boy on Goodreads.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme cover
The Bone People by Keri Hulme

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

“In a tower on the New Zealand coast lives Kerewin Holmes: part Maori, part European, asexual and aromantic, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality.” 

Read more about The Bone People on Goodreads.

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera cover
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

“Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary ‘whale rider.’ In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild—and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, Kahu will do anything to save them—even the impossible.” The Whale Rider was made into a movie in 2002 that is well known in New Zealand.

Read more about The Whale Rider on Goodreads.

Tu by Patricia Grace cover
Tu by Patricia Grace

Tu by Patricia Grace

“In this new novel acclaimed Maori novelist Patricia Grace visits the often terrifying and complex world faced by men of the Maori Battalion in Italy during World War II. Tu is proud of his name–the Maori god of war. But for the returned soldier there’s a shadow over his own war experience in Italy. Three brothers went to war, but only one returned–Tu is the sole survivor.” 

Read more about Tu on Goodreads.

Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump cover
Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump

Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump

“A tale of raw adventure as Uncle Hec and Ricky use all their skills to survive in the hard world of precipitous hills and impassable forest. It uncovers the slow maturing of love and trust between two loners in a hard world.” There is now a New Zealand movie based on the book called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” directed by Taika Waititi that was released in 2016.

Read more about Wild Pork and Watercress on Goodreads.

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff cover
Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

“Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff’s harrowing vision of his country’s indigenous people two hundred years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the rich textures of Maori tradition and the wounds left by its absence, Once Were Warriors is a masterpiece of unblinking realism, irresistible energy, and great sorrow.” Once Were Warriors was also made into a famous New Zealand movie in 1994.

Read more about Once Were Warriors on Goodreads.

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield cover
The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

“The fifteen stories featured, many of them set in her native New Zealand, vary in length and tone from the opening story, “At the Bay, ” a vivid impressionistic evocation of family life, to the short, sharp sketch “Mrs. Brill, ” in which a lonely woman’s precarious sense of self is brutally destroyed when she overhears two young lovers mocking her. Sensitive revelations of human behavior, these stories reveal Mansfield’s supreme talent as an innovator who freed the story from its conventions and gave it a new strength and prestige.” 

Read more about The Garden Party and Other Stories on Goodreads.  

Ella Tomkins | 2021

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