Some people might shy away from the idea of keeping a journal – how can the activity most associated with heartbroken teenagers really benefit someone in their adult, everyday life? Well, you’d be surprised and whilst not all of us believe we have anything worth writing about, journaling can benefit nearly everyone.
You don’t have to be a closet novelist or have a life story worthy of an autobiography – the fact is we all have pressures, emotions and situations that can take some mental unravelling and keeping a journal can help us do just that.
Here are just a few of the reasons why I think journaling is invaluable.
It forces you to take time out
Committing to writing in a journal each day forces you to sit down and reflect. Whilst some people will always be more comfortable writing at a computer, I really favour traditional pen and paper. We spend so much time in front of our computers or televisions, with or around other people that there’s always something going on to distract us, so by resolving to spend half an hour each day to write in a journal we are purposefully taking ourselves away from all the noise that comes with life. If you really don’t like the idea of using a pen and paper find somewhere quiet and disconnect from the internet. Journaling is most beneficial when it is just you and your journal.
Need to say something about your boss you would never dream of saying to someone else? Maybe you and your partner have had a fight or the kids have been driving you up the wall. Your journal is somewhere that you can say everything you need to without inflicting it on others. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes we have to bite our tongues or walk away from a situation but when you keep a journal you are safe in the knowledge that you always have somewhere to say what you need to. Once you’ve written it down you can close your journal and walk away – with whatever was bothering you off loaded onto the page.
You gain perspective
On that note – quite often when we start to write things down we really begin to understand what is important to us. If we can identify what is troubling us we can begin to take some problem solving steps. What’s really important when we journal is to not just write about what’s happened in our days but also how we feel about what has happened. Sometimes we don’t even recognise what has caused us stress until we start to unravel it in this way. The flip side to this is that journaling can also help you identify what is making you happy – and from there you can make plans and goals that you may otherwise have overlooked.
It’s easily combined with practising gratitude
I’ve written a couple of times before about the practice of gratitude and how important I think it is but also how challenging it can be to work it into your everyday routine. The beauty of journaling is that you can combine it with taking time out to write down what you have been grateful for that day. Whilst some people will journal or write a gratitude list in the morning, both practices lend themselves to spending some time reflecting on and processing the day you’ve had. You may wish to keep a separate journal just for your gratitude notes but I prefer to use the one – every so often I can go back through and see what I was thankful for at different times!
Journaling evokes mindfulness
Another practice that comes hand in hand with journaling is the practice of mindfulness but unlike actively working it into your journaling routine, mindfulness often occurs naturally. This is because journaling really is the activity of sitting down and bringing your mind to attention, considering how you feel at that moment and actively acknowledging those feelings. We can so easily spend our time allowing our mind to passively linger on stressful events or situations but journaling helps engage our minds in a mindful way which in turn helps our mental well-being.
‘Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory’
With all the benefits that come from journaling, documenting daily life seems to have become a thing of the past. What makes life colourful is both the ups and the downs, and we all hope for more ups, but without the downs, we would find it much more difficult to really value positive times. Sometimes I go back through my journal and look at just how far I’ve come and I’m grateful that, even though it brings up some painful memories, I’ve documented my journey so far. Who would have thought that a simple pen and notepad would have such a positive effect!