10 Great Reasons to Keep a Personal Journal

by Jacki Andre August 16, 2019

10 Great Reasons to Keep a Personal Journal

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.

Recognizing Gratitude

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:

  1. Destressing while exploring your emotions.
  2. Finding mental clarity through brain dumps.
  3. Recognizing gratitude.
  4. Reframing your narrative.

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:

You've likely heard that the best way to get better at writing is to just keep doing it. That's true, but the benefits go deeper than just crafting better sentences. For example, regular writing can help you learn to process and communicate complex ideas effectively. It can also help you memorize important information, and brainstorm new ideas. 

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:

  1. Visualize your goals, as a way to help manifest them.
  2. Create benchmarks to make daunting goals more manageable.
  3. Map out a plan that will measure your success. At what stage is your goal half achieved? When will it be fully realized?
  4. Keep yourself accountable.

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.

Photo by Alexa Williams on Unsplash

Jacki Andre
Jacki Andre

Jacki Andre has been journaling for over 30 years and still has her jam-packed Judy Blume Diary to prove it. Somewhere along the way, she started writing for reals, and is now a published author and Huffington Post blogger. In her spare time, Jacki supports dog rescue, advocates for disability rights, and educates other drivers via hand gestures about the importance of using turn signals. She keeps in shape by chasing joy (and her ‘80s teen idols) in earnest.

2 Responses

Peg armstrong
Peg armstrong

September 11, 2019

I agree with many of the reasons you list for keeping a journal. More than any of them, I write because I am a 10 yr widow, losing my love, best friend after 37 years. He did very suddenly. I write to make comments to him, even tho he doesn’t sit next to me any more. There is no one but my journal to listen to those every day things, some more important than others. I live alone with my cat, of late no near family. I reach out to my Dick.

Dale Buck
Dale Buck

September 11, 2019

I look at all the reasons listed and think, those are results of keeping a journal or diary but not really reasons. I’m 76 years of age and have been told by the medical establishment that I am ADD and hyperactive. Not exactly terms one uses with someone of my generation. I was just considered an energetic boy who was unusually curious. Now I hear “he’s pretty active for an old guy”, and “he really gets bored easily, must be his age.” So in many ways I can relate to the mental health commentary. However, my reason for beginning to journal dates back before any spoke of mental health other than to say “Uncle Buck is just crazy!” I was 10 years of age and struggling with concentration in school. My teacher saw a solution (she was way ahead of her time), she introduced me to books of any sort and had me write every day a paragraph about what I had read. This was my first introduction to finding a method to focus my attention. By the time I was 14 years, with encouragement from a High School English teacher, I began officially keeping a daily diary/journal. I now have boxes and boxes of books filled of my everyday existence. After 30+ years as an Army Officer, traveling around the world, and now residing comfortably on a farm, I sit in astonishment as to the life saving and life enhancement therapy that the journals have given me. I love the feel of the pen in my hand and the swirl of the serifs and curly-cues as I daily enter my deeds and thoughts of the moment. There is so much more than what one could post in 10 reasons. For me…it gave me a method of handling a mind that moved to a different type of beat than average. It allows me to live in the world of normality, and soothes me to sleep. Good Night!

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