Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Bernard Shaw, Elie Wiesel, Ronald Reagan and Oprah are only a small fraction of a long list of notable public people who have kept a personal journal. Based on this long list and their unique successes, one can’t help but wonder if the practice of journaling aided in some way, or if it was a coincidental variable that should be paid no-mind.
While not everyone who keeps a journal will become the next celebrity talk-show host or United States President, I am confident that there is great value in choosing to incorporate this simple, yet rich habit to one’s daily routine.
As someone who has been journaling (or keeping a diary) since I was a young girl, there was only a short duration in my mid-twenties when I did not maintain this ritual, and I must say that when I resumed journaling about five years ago, I quickly was reminded of why I hope to never give it up again.
Here are a few benefits of regular journaling that I have found to be most worth the extra effort at the end, beginning or whenever time allows throughout the day.
1. A Catalog of Inspiration
As a blogger, writer and someone who is always looking for inspiration, keeping my journal nearby allows me to write down quotes I hear, recipes I want to try, books I want to read, films I want to see or ideas that pop into my head at random times. While initially I may think I will never forget these bursts of light bulb moments, I have learned from experience that if I don’t write them down, I will forget them, and I always kick myself for not recording it the moment it occurs. For example, while watching Lincoln in the theater last month, I had my journal and pen ready to write down any quote that piqued my interest or spoke to me, and as you might imagine, there were a few – this was just one of them. You really never know when inspiration will strike, so have a means to capture it when it does.
2. A Record of Events, Thoughts, Questions, etc
Much like a diary, a journal provides a place to record events in your life, your feelings at different moments in your life and questions you have about your life. What I love most about including these three items in my journal is when I reflect back after a year or two has passed. To hear my voice, observe what I was fearful or elated about and notice questions that I now have answers to is a very powerful reminder that each of us is the curator of our own lives, and while in the moment it may seem nothing is improving or changing, with time change does occur.
3. Relieve Tension
Before letting your frustrations out on an innocent store clerk or supportive family member or friend and then having to deal with the guilt of your mismanaged frustration, write down your fears, reasons for anger or disgust and anything else that may have caused you to have a bad day in your journal. While putting your feelings down on page may not remedy the problem entirely, it will at least give you time to sort through what is really upsetting you, take a deep breath and resolve what ever is upsetting you constructively.
4. Provide Self-Counseling
Along the same lines of benefit #3, often by regularly journaling we can, upon reflection, notice certain trends or triggers that we may not be aware of in the present moment. That is why it is a good idea to keep journals once they are full. Also, the journal is always a good listener, and while it is a blessing to have a trusted friend you can talk to, to always be filling their ear with your worries may get tiresome, so allow your journal to carry some of the weight.
5. Prevention to Ward off Ingratitude
Just as journals are a wonderful tool to cathartically rid yourself of negative emotions, they are also useful for recording reasons to be grateful. Keeping a gratitude journal as Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests in her book Simple Abundance, helps us to remain present and remind ourselves of all that is going well.
6. An Aid in Staying Focused
Whether it is New Year’s, my birthday, or the beginning of the school year, I will be writing down goals for myself and then regularly checking in on my progress as I move forward. By writing my goals in my journal, and then referring back to what I have written regularly, I assist myself in staying on track and focused. And upon completion, reflecting on my accomplishments is a wonderful reminder and confidence booster as I go about setting new goals, which attests to the fact that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to.
Maybe you already practice journaling, or maybe you were like me and used to engage regularly but have recently stepping away from the habit due to a busy schedule. Wherever you find yourself, here are a few things that may help you get back into practice:
- Buy a beautiful journal or one that inspires you to fill the pages
- Treat yourself to a quality pen or writing utensil
- Create a ritual that is something you look forward to when you sit down to write. Perhaps a scrumptious cup of tea could be poured to accompany your writing, nibbling on a truffle, sitting in a cozy chair or snuggling up in bed with your favorite plush pillow to prop up your journal while you write. Whatever speaks to you or encourages you to write freely, welcome it into your daily routine as well.
- Don’t be judgmental of yourself or what you write. The journal is simply for your benefit and no one else’s. Consider this a sketch or a rough draft and try to allow your authentic self, interests, curiosities and thoughts flow freely.