9 Fantastic Reasons to Keep a Journal

There are many benefits of journaling, an age-old tradition dating back to 10th Century Japan. Many people keep a diary, recording daily events and personal thoughts. There have been numerous famous journal writers over time, such as Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf and Samuel Pepys to name but a few. Various successful figures have kept journals, providing a fascinating insight into their world, including Oscar Wilde who said, 

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is the moving, thought-provoking work of a young Jewish girl, who was forced to hide during the Second World War. Along with her family, she hid behind a bookcase in a small secret annexe for more than 2 years. While there, without much sunlight, food or entertainment, she kept a handwritten journal. She wrote down her thoughts and telling observations, giving the reader an excellent insight into the life of a Jew in Germany at this time. Although she wrote the diary for personal reasons, it was later published with the help of her surviving father.

For Anne, keeping a personal diary gave her a release from the daily fears she felt and an outlet for her teenage frustrations. This is one of the most popular reasons for keeping a journal.

There are many ways to keep a diary, including the use of a writing journal, recording on an audio device or typing up notes on a computer. Reasons for keeping a journal vary and a handwritten diary in particular has many benefits, such as those explored below.

Stress Reduction

Writing a journal, especially by hand, helps you to sort out your thoughts and emotions. By writing them down, it is possible to release pent-up tension and let go of negativity. When you later read the words, you will find that you can rationalise your thoughts and feelings better and feel a lot more positive about events that have occurred.

Writing down your thoughts can lead to a calmer outlook on life and many therapists prescribe journal writing as a stress-reducing tool. The art of writing brings joy to so many in life, and keeping a journal is a good way of doing that for anyone struggling for creative ideas.

Manage Depression

By writing down your problems and concerns, you can prioritize them and start to work on solutions. Things may not seem so bad once you read them back, but if they do you have something to work from. Anne Frank found her diary to be a huge help during her difficult experience, writing,

“When I write, I can shake off all my cares”.

Writing your thoughts down by hand can be incredibly therapeutic to sufferers of depression, as well as stress and anxiety. If you start to notice triggers from reading the words you write, you can work hard on controlling them. It may be that time spent with a particular person, relationship troubles, or even an illness brings on a bout of depression.

Many people may feel more comfortable with this method, rather than telling every innermost thought to a complete stranger in therapy. A diary is a private affair and you can be completely honest in it.

Know Yourself

Recording your thoughts and feelings in a personal diary can lead to an increase in self-confidence and self-knowledge. You can identify your own values and reveal hidden depths. The best part of all, is that you can do this without facing judgement from anyone else. Writing down what you really think, rather than what you think you ought to think, can be a great way to know (and come to terms with) who you really are.

Sometimes writing helps you identify your own thoughts on a matter. Joan Didion reflected this by saying, 

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down."

There are many different styles of writing a journal, including treating it as a dear friend, as Anne Frank did. She called her diary Kitty and ‘told’ it of all her most confidential thoughts. This offers the writer an important relationship that may be missing in their life, which can fill a void and provide comfort in the loneliest of times.

Personal Growth

You can express yourself freely and explore your innermost desires. Writing down what you really want out of life can help you to go out there and get it. By writing these wishes down, you can really clarify what is important to you.

Seeing your hopes and dreams in writing makes them seem more real, meaning you can then work towards achieving them. You can use your writing journal to aid in the planning of this, even setting ideal deadlines and jotting down milestones that you hit along the way. This structured approach to life will provide more focus and give you a great sense of achievement when you reach those goals.

Some people use a personal journal to explore their spirituality, writing down their thoughts and beliefs in private. In today’s society, many people do not wish to share these innermost thoughts and so a diary can provide the perfect audience.

Whether it is your career, spirituality or even your family goals, a personal journal can give you the means to identify and achieve what it is you really want. As Susan Sontag, an American writer and political activist said, 

“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.”

Stimulate Creativity

Writing of any kind can help to unlock your creative juices, with journal writing being an excellent way of keeping your mind stimulated. Writing down events can help you discover your own writing style, as well as mastering the art of storytelling.

Where better to practice your skills than in private? This can help to boost your self-confidence in your own abilities, as well as providing an insight into how your mind actually works.

Some of the most popular and important works of literature are journals, either factual or fictitious. Frankenstein is a beautiful book, written by Mary Shelley and based on a ghost story she told at a social gathering one night. The novel is written in the style of letters and journal entries from various characters, giving their most innermost thoughts and fears, as well as describing events. This type of book is known as an epistolary novel and can be a very powerful way to tell a story.

Write Your Life Story

Many people simply choose to use a writing journal as a means of capturing their life stories, whether this is for themselves only or a wider audience. Numerous mature people decide to write their memoirs, ensuring that a piece of them is left behind for loved ones to cherish when they are gone. This can provide some comfort to those left behind, for in the words of Jean Costeau, a French writer and playwright, 

“After the writer’s death, reading his journal is like receiving a long letter.”

Life story diaries can be absolutely fascinating and the diary of Samuel Pepys is one that illustrates British life in the 1600s so well. He was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament, with his extraordinary diary being celebrated as one of the best of all time. Historians have used his dairy as a valuable source of information about London life at that time, including important events such as the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. It also gives a great insight into the minds of men at that time.

Whether your diary provides only insight into your own life, or also into society in general, you can be sure that it will make an interesting read for someone.

Meditation

This is the practice of training the mind or inducing a mode of consciousness, to realize either a benefit or a feeling of contentment. Many people visualize sitting with your eyes closed in complete silence but this need not be the case. Writing your thoughts down can help you to focus your mind and reach a level of contentment in your own life.

Exploring the mind through writing is known as proprioceptive writing and can be a very powerful tool. It can focus awareness, unburden the mind and allow you to connect more deeply with your spiritual self. Some writers use this method to unlock their closed mind, when faced with writer’s block.

Boost Your Memory

Writing a diary has been proven to improve your memory, due to the presence of a special relationship between the hand and brain. Writing down your thoughts gives them a more tangible presence, which in turn strengthens past-thoughts and encourages a better memory.

The physical process of having to write down what you think, makes your brain work harder, thus exercising it. Doing this regularly provides an excellent cognitive workout, which in turn leads to a greater memory.

Learn

A learning diary is one that is kept over a period of time, with the main purpose of teaching something. For example, keeping a diary of your experiences may provide an insight for future generations to learn from.

A student may also use one of these to reflect upon what he/she has learned. The diary will summarize, analyse and comment on course content. The best way to do this is to use your own voice, rather than copy down what the lecturer has dictated. This can lead to a greater understanding and knowledge.

Conclusion

When keeping a handwritten diary, it is a good idea to use materials that make the overall experience more pleasurable. This enhances your enjoyment and the benefits that you get. A personal journal can be kept in a book and some even come with a lock, which are particularly popular with teenage girls.

If you prefer neatness and structure, then a lined journal is a good choice. This will make the content easier to read back too. This sort of structure will help with anyone using journal writing as a way of bringing a sense of calm into their life.

Having a special book to write in adds more importance to the content. A beautiful leather journal can give you a lovely warm feeling as you write in it and reading it back will feel just heavenly. This would be a lovely idea for someone writing their memoirs as a gift. What could be lovelier than reading about a loved one’s life in a luxurious leather or particularly beautiful book?

It is important to make time for writing in your journal. It is often easy to get swept up in the chaos of modern life, with little thought going into making time for yourself. A journal is an excellent way of doing this and it forces you to relax. As discussed previously, sitting down to write your thoughts de-clutters your mind and helps to relieve stress. If you write in your journal before bed each night, you can clear your mind and improve your sleep pattern.

Having a set time and place to write creates some structure in your life and can help to focus the mind. Trying to write your journal while commuting to work on a packed train each morning, probably won’t result in a particularly thoughtful or complete entry.

However you choose to keep your journal, you can be sure that you will benefit greatly from doing so. It is an intimately private experience and can bring about great comfort and joy in your life.


Photo credit:  Ganamex  via Foter.com  CC BY-NC

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