I’ve been journaling regularly for the past ten years or so. Sometimes very consistently. Sometimes not quite as consistent. I’ve journaled at other times in my life as well. But never as regularly as I have in the past ten years. Many times it was a struggle to get myself to write anything down, and I would go for days or months without journal entries. But even though I would go through these long stretches without journaling, I never gave up on the idea of doing it. I believed journaling was a good thing and that I would eventually get back to it. And I always, eventually did get back to it.
When I first started journaling, I was afraid to actually put down my most intimate thoughts on paper (or in a journaling app). I was afraid someone might find my journal and read it without my permission and my most intimate thoughts would be exposed to some stranger. So I would journal but hold back on fully expressing my thoughts. I soon realized that this wasn’t as effective or as useful as just freely letting my thoughts flow. So I put aside my fears and determined that I would secure my journal as best as I can to protect my privacy and go ahead and journal fully and unbridled and receive the benefit that comes from freely expressing myself through writing.
While there are many benefits one can receive through journaling. Here are the four main benefits I get from it:
- Keeping a journal enables me to see things in perspective by seeing things over time. As I revisit the journal entries I’ve made over the years, it’s interesting to see how some past events that occurred in my life that seemed so tragic, don’t seem so tragic anymore as I look back on them. I see them from a much broader perspective.
- Keeping a journal helps me to become more self aware. It helps me to get to know myself better. It’s very helpful to freely write down what I’m thinking and feeling or what I was thinking and feeling earlier in the day. And to write down what may have been the catalyst to those thoughts and feelings. By writing my thoughts down, I can take more time to examine them and reckon with them and get to understand my thoughts and myself better. I can come back later and review the thoughts I’ve written down and see if I’m still thinking or feeling the same way and ask myself questions to better understand what caused me to think or feel that way. When I look back over my journal entries, I may be able to see patterns in how I have done things over time. Some patterns I may want to continue. Some patterns, I may need to break. Journaling helps me to have continual times of introspection.
- I find journaling to be therapeutic and sometimes even cathartic. I find release in writing or typing down how I’m feeling. Some researchers say you receive greater benefit from actually using pen and paper to write down your thoughts rather than typing them on a device. While this may be true, the convenience of being able to use an app on my cell phone or computer for journaling just can’t be dismissed. If I had to do my journaling with pen and paper, I doubt that I would journal as frequently or consistently as I do using an app. For me, using an app is much more practical. And there is so much more I can do with my journal entries later, such as a sophisticated search, that I would never be able to do with handwritten journal entries.
- When I journal, I create a historical record of significant events in my life. It’s nice to be able to look back in my journal and see the date I had the first interview for that very important job I wanted. Or see what I did to celebrate my milestone birthdays and how I felt and what I was thinking as I reached those milestones. It’s nice to be able to look back in my journal and see when I first began thinking about changing careers or perhaps when I first started having panic attacks. I find it helpful to look back at my journal and see when significant events occurred in my life.
I’m sure there are other good reasons to journal, but these are the top four for me. If you don’t journal or keep a diary, I encourage you to try it. You can receive great benefit from it. You might have a hard time getting started or a hard time staying consistent. But that’s ok. Just keep at it. If you stop for a while, don’t despair. Just try to pick it up again later. You can do it.
Do you journal? How does it help you?