Can I ask you something?
Why do YOU keep a journal?
When I started thinking about it, I realized that my own reasons are complicated. I don’t have one single answer.
In retrospect, I can see that I got hooked on journaling when I was a kid because it was a safe space. My personal journals gave me a place where I could express thoughts and emotions that I couldn’t say out loud.
Beyond being a safe space, my writing journals also gave me a voice. I used to be quite shy and introverted. I can still have trouble articulating my thoughts in the moment. When I’m with a group of people, I often struggle to contribute. I don’t have the time I need to consider my thoughts and words before the conversation flows on in a different direction. I have so much to say. But I rarely have an audience that I’m in sync with.
Thankfully, I’ve always loved writing--or I’d never put any thoughts out into the world!
For a few years, as I attempted adulting (and failed miserably at it, ha), I hung onto my journaling rituals only by a thin thread. It was so hard to find the time! I kept a gratitude journal. It only took a few minutes every day to list ten things I was grateful for. I also had a vision board journal, which I updated very sporadically by sourcing and pasting in new images. No writing was required for that one.
Once I started journaling for SohoSpark, my love of journals and handwriting was rekindled. As I started journaling more often, I watched my work go off on different tangents. I realized that there are even more reasons why I keep plugging away in my lined journals. For starters, it helps me focus on the joy in my stories. It’s a way to revisit memories. It sparks my creativity.
Recently, the team at SohoSpark had an impromptu poll that asked this same question: Why do YOU journal? Most of the replies were very similar to my own. One thing I found very interesting, though, is that not ONE person referenced bullet journals or planners. No one said that they journal because it helps them stay organized. Instead, these are the reasons why you guys are journaling:
Destressing by Exploring Your Emotions
One of the best things about a personal journal is that it’s for your eyes only. When we write for an audience, we tend to edit ourselves. If it’s your intent to leave a written record of memories that’s a whole other ballgame (see below). But if you’re truly writing for yourself, a journal is a safe space where you can explore your feelings without fear of judgment.
This is one of the main reasons why I journal. Carrying around my deepest secrets can be a burden! These aren’t necessarily bad secrets. They’re just things that I’m not comfortable discussing with other people. It might be money or health worries; it might be grief bubbling up; it might be loneliness and wondering if a life partner exists for me. It might be about a disagreement with a friend or disenchantment with my job.
Getting these thoughts out of my head and exploring the emotions attached to them clears my mind and helps me put my worries aside for a little while. As I wrote in another piece, it’s a lot like talking to a therapist.
Finding Mental Clarity Through Brain Dumps
In addition to all the emotions we’ve got swirling around in our brains, we’ve also stuff crammed in there. Stuff like: I really need to do some weeding; I have to go to the bank tomorrow; I need to buy some salad fixings for supper tonight; a friend’s birthday is coming up; can I afford to buy that concert ticket; and when was the last time I went to the doctor?
All that clutter can make our minds sluggish and make it difficult for us to prioritize stuff. A brain dump is just the ticket. As Shelby at Little Coffee Fox points out, a brain dump is like spilling the contents of a purse onto a table. Just grab a piece of paper and spend 10-15 minutes jotting down all the random thoughts in your head. This doesn’t have to be neat or organized or grammatically correct. It just needs to get done.
Sometimes, it’s the act of getting our thoughts down on paper that helps. But sometimes, it helps to take things one step further and create a to-do list. You do you, cool cats. Whatever floats your boat and makes you happy is the way to go.
Gratitude is key to a joyful life. But gratitude is also about being mindful and recognizing those small everyday moments that we should be grateful for. It’s easy to be grateful for the big stuff, like winning a contest or landing a sought-after job. And, when we stop and think about it, it’s easy to come up with the routine stuff that we know we should be grateful for, like a safe place to sleep, our families, and our health.
But it’s harder to recognize the small stuff because we’re so caught up in the busyness of our world (including those screens we tend to keep our eyes glued to). We miss things like being grateful for that honeybee we see on that flower, for pollenizing our food sources. And we miss things like that toddler in a passing grocery cart that smiles at us, prompting us to smile back.
Keeping track of our grateful moments in a writing journal is an excellent way to remind ourselves to be mindful every day. And it’s also an excellent way to increase our joy, as I explain in a blog piece about gratitude journals.
Reframing Your Narrative
We all have stories. The words and perspective we choose to tell those stories affect their mood and impact. It doesn’t matter if we’re telling those stories to ourselves or others.
Let’s say you bought an ice cream cone and then bumped into someone and dropped your cold treat. You could frame that story with disappointment over a lost treat and embarrassment about a clumsy encounter with a stranger. Or, you could laugh it off and take the attitude of, “I didn’t need those calories today anyway!”
The way you tell your stories affects your attitude and your joy. A journal is a great place to explore other, more positive ways to tell your stories. For a more in-depth look at how to reframe your narrative, and how that can change your life, I’ve got a blog for that.
Supporting Your Mental Health
All of the above reasons to keep a journal are also things that can positively affect your mental health:
If your mental health could use a little boost (and whose couldn’t?), try journaling in any of these directions.
Fostering Creativity and Improving Writing Skills
In a terrific piece at Lifehacker, Alan Henry points out that writers can see extra benefits from keeping a journal. As he says:
Whether you write for income or just the joy of writing, improving your skills is always a good thing. Amirite?
Achieving Your Goals
Writing down your goals is the best way to make sure you achieve them. As I’ve written in another blog, you can max out your goals by using your journal to:
Manifesting Your Dreams with the Law of Attraction
If the key to manifesting your dreams is to visualize them, the perfect place to do that is in a journal. As Fiona MacKay Young points out over at her My Inspiration Journals blog, it’s important to visualize your dreams fully:
See them already accomplished. Feel how you will feel when the[y] have come into you[r] reality. Write withemotionandpassion about them. Always write in the positive. Instead of saying what youdon’t want orwon’t be doing, write about what youdo want andwill be doing.
And, as your dreams shift and change, it’s easy to revisit your journal and add new details.
Both the act of writing in your journal and rereading your past entries can help you manifest your goals with the Law of Attraction.
Recording your Memories
My journals are for me. I frequently flip through them to revisit my memories. It’s nice to have a record of the details of an event or moment so that I can relive that memory more fully. And because my journals are for my own eyes only, I’m more free about writing down my thoughts and feelings too.
Some people choose to use their personal diaries as a way to preserve their memories for their children or grandchildren. If that floats your boat, there’s no reason why you can’t do it.
Having Fun with Stationery
Sometimes, there’s no real deep or meaningful reason to write in a lined journal. Sometimes, we just like to try out new pens or paste in new *ahem* washi tape. And that’s okay too. A journal can be a terrific creative outlet--whether for writing or for dipping into our craftier sides.
What about you? Why do you journal? Drop me a note below and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
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A gardening journal is a valuable tool in figuring out what works best in your own garden. It will be most insightful if kept over several consecutive seasons. Because figuring out what works best takes a lifetime to fine-tune, really. Even long-time gardeners experiment with new varieties, struggle with newly-introduced pests, or need to adapt to changing weather patterns. Tracking things like your garden layout, important dates, seed/plant performance, weed control, and expenses can help you max out your garden's bounty.