5 Great Reasons to Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal is a great idea for everyone, regardless of age. I always tried to keep one--at age 12, 20, and really anytime I saw a great notebook that I could purchase! But, honestly, it wasn't until I began to take care of my mental health better, nearing 40, that I decided to routinely jot down my thoughts. I journal during the day (I have an app on my phone for certain triggers that make me want to quickly jot down a few lines for reflection later) and a book by my bedside for end-of-day reflection. I also journal first thing in the morning to set some goals for the day. There are so many benefits gained from taking a few minutes each day to record your thoughts.
Here are a few things I've discovered about myself...
Keep a record of your life for yourself. How many times have you tried to remember when some particular incident in your past actually happened? Was it 1994 or 1995? Do you remember the facts differently from others that were involved? Who's actually right? How did our emotions that day impact the objective memory (or...is there even an objective memory? We know that emotions impact how we "save" a memory...just watch Inside Out!) If you keep a journal, you'll have all the dates and facts right there. More importantly, you'll be given the opportunity to see how your life has progressed. As we get older, every day seems to blend into the next. We get up, go to work, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, and repeat for 40 years. Just the act of recording will encourage you to live a life you deem worthy of recording--legitimately, I sometimes wonder "well, this day sucked" after reflecting on a pretty boring day. One day, I wrote just about the work I completed, dinner I made, and shows I watched. The next day? I took a friend up on a walk on my lunch break...it prompted great conversation over a walk around campus, but also prompted some thoughts to write about later. You might add more fun and adventure to your life, just so you can write about it! It's possible you might want to pass your journals on to your children, if you choose to have them, at some point. Wouldn't you like to read about your parents or grandparents?
If you have children, you can record the lives of your children. Imagine how great it would be to keep a journal while your child is growing up and then give it to her later in life? You'll record everything that happened during the years when they are too young to keep a journal themselves. It will also be a great reminder for you.
Journals are great for processing feelings. Things are always a little clearer when we get them out of our heads and down on paper. Everything is a little more objective and realistic. I usually start my journal entry with "how was I feeling and where was it coming from?" Journaling allows me to take ownership of my feelings, a connect feelings to thoughts I had during the day.
Work towards your goals with a journal. As I mentioned, I do quickly journal in the morning to make sure I have at least one goal for the day. A significant part of reaching goals is recording progress and prioritization. By writing about your goals each day, you can continually reaffirm your goals are worth achieving. How often have you set a goal and then forgotten all about it after a few days or a couple of weeks? If you write it down in a journal, there's less chance that will happen. Record the progress you are making towards your goals. Make notes about new ideas to move closer to your goals. When you achieve a goal, you'll be able to look back and remember how great it felt to accomplish it. The next goal will be even easier.
A journal may reduce the amount of stress in your life. Although I found it a bit stressful to even remember to journal, journaling forces you to unplug and focus your mind in the moment. Sometimes the best thing for a stressed mind is to turn off the computer and sit quietly with your thoughts. When you record your challenges, your brain starts looking for solutions. Having a solution to a challenge relieves stress!
Consider keeping a journal for yourself. It might take a bit of time to get started, and, at first, you might feel like you have nothing to write about. But, start with "Today, I felt..." and go from there. See journaling as a reflective tool. And, a pen and notebook are the only items required!