My best friend recently passed away. Coping with her passing, I’ve noticed an increase in intrusive/sticky thoughts.

In my search for coping mechanisms, I rediscovered the effectiveness of journaling—a practice I’ve found success with in the past.

I know journaling can be a hard habit to create, yet it’s a valuable tool that can benefit both our personal lives and our work with students.

Today, I want to share a simple method that can be used by you and your students to create this habit.

Let’s jump right in!


The Scientific Benefits of Journalling

From a Cambridge University Press study, here are just some of the evidence-based health and social benefits that make journaling such a valuable tool for both personal growth and our work with students.

  • Health outcomes
    • Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor 
    • Improved immune system functioning 
    • Reduced blood pressure 
    • Improved lung function 
    • Improved liver function 
    • Fewer days in hospital 
    • Improved mood/affect 
    • Feeling of greater psychological well-being 
    • Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations
    • Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms
  • Social and behavioral outcomes
    • Reduced absenteeism from work 
    • Quicker re-employment after job loss 
    • Improved working memory 
    • Improved sporting performance 
    • Higher students’ grade point average 
    • Altered social and linguistic behavior


The Method: “Plus | Minus | Grow” Journal

The method stems from my teaching days where I used a similar format to communicate student progress. 

Our report cards included descriptive written comments covering student learning strengths, areas for growth, and ways to support learning.

I found it seamlessly translated into a self-reflective tool at the end of assignments. Now I use it as a quick and easy journaling method. 

Here is the science behind each section…


+ Plus: What went well?

In this section, I like to write down 3-5 things that I am grateful for from the last week. 

Gratitude, beyond a fleeting emotion, has tangible benefits backed by social science research

Engaging in gratitude practices has been shown to enhance mental well-being, boost self-esteem, and foster greater life satisfaction. Studies indicate that these practices can lead to sustained happiness and reduced depression, highlighting the enduring impact of gratitude on individual health and happiness.


– Minus: What could have gone better?

In this section, I like to write about what maybe didn’t go so well.

Expressive writing has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health for people of all ages. 

Research shows that writing about traumatic, stressful, or emotional events can lead to a decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms, improvements in working memory, and overall enhanced psychological well-being. It can even reduce math anxiety!


↑ Grow: What actions will I take to grow?

In this section, I like to think about what I have just written and reflect on how I can use my learnings to grow. 

Research shows reflection is a skill essential for both successful learning and effective decision-making. Time spent on self-reflection creates a chance to learn more about ourselves and what we need to grow personally and professionally. Furthermore, in a study of English teachers in Iran, researchers found that teachers who spent more time reflecting on the day’s activities were less likely to experience burnout.

As I used to tell my students all the time, you do not learn from experience, you learn from reflecting on experience!



I like to do this on Friday afternoon at the end of my workday. Then re-read it before I start my week on Monday. Whatever went well or made you feel happy goes in the first column, what could be improved goes in the middle column, and action steps for growth (based on your reflections) go in the final column. 

I do it as a quick exercise, no need to analyze or rank things. 

Plus Minus Grow Journal Example


That’s it!

This method is quick (5 min), accessible (use any medium), and adaptable (do it daily, weekly, after an assignment and/or at the end of a semester).

Let me know how it goes!

Sarah Mae
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Sarah Mae | The educatorRESET

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Sarah Mae | Educator & Education Advocate | educatorRESET

Hi–I’m Sarah Mae. I help educators maintain a healthy work-life balance throughout the school year and teach their students to do the same.

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“Plus Minus Grow” Journal

“Plus Minus Grow” Journal

The method stems from my teaching days where I used a similar format to communicate student progress. I found it seamlessly translated into a self-reflective tool at the end of assignments. Now I use it as a quick and easy journalling method.

Sarah Mae | The educatorRESET

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