I don't remember when I started keeping a journal, or what prompted my first entry. It was, after all, literally decades ago. What I do remember, however, is that journaling helped keep me afloat during a very difficult adolescence and my tumultuous 20s.
There are lots of reasons for keeping a journal; they are as many and as varied as the people who keep them. Here are some of the reasons I keep a journal:
- The main reason I keep a journal is to get to know myself better and make friends with myself. By writing regularly, I connect with my own values, emotions, and desires. Just as I can't get to know someone I've just met without interacting with them, talking with them, and witnessing their stories, I can't get to know myself without that same level of communication and intimacy.
- Not only does a journal document personal growth, it can also facilitate that growth. I can talk through issues I might not want to share with even your closest friends. I can examine my strengths and weaknesses, and decide how to proceed.
- My journal is the perfect place for brainstorming, capturing ideas and problem-solving. It's easy to turn a problem over and look at it from all sides. I can slow down, let the ideas flow. I can work out the details, hone my ideas, and deal with objections in my journal before I share my ideas with anyone.
- According to Dave Allen of Getting Things Done fame, the human brain is a great thinking device, but not such a great storage device. The means that when we are filling it up with mental chatter, we are interfering with the brain's problem-solving abilities. I use my journal to store all that clutter. I get my thoughts and ideas out of my head and onto to paper – and I watch my creative thoughts soar!
- Journaling can be a great aid to decision making. Use it to record lists of pros & cons; use it to investigate outcomes. I use the journal to listen to both my heart and my head.
- Keeping a journal is a great way to practice habit, discipline, and commitment. It's painless and you can start small. For years, I journaled sporadically, just writing when I felt I needed to. And, I approached most of my life that way. But when I decided I wanted more structure and discipline in my life, I started small, with my journal. I committed to one page every day. Now I usually write three to five pages a day, over the course of two journaling sessions – and I rarely miss a session. What I've learned about discipline has crossed over into other aspects of my life.
- Sometimes personal growth happens at a snail's pace and it's easy to think nothing is changing internally. Journaling regularly can document that growth and change. When I read back over old journal entries, I am sometimes amazed by the thoughts and beliefs recorded there! Sometimes, I don't even recognize the woman who wrote it; it's difficult to imagine that I was ever that person.
- When I have a goal, I use my journal to plan and strategize my way to the finish line. This can save a lot of "fits and starts." I've had instances when I had what I thought was a brilliant goal. When I started examining it, though, and what it really meant to me, it became obvious that it was a great goal – for someone else. Now I regularly use my journal to examine my goals, plot my next steps, and to roughly outline how I might get to where I want to go.
- Finally, I use your journal to foster an "attitude of gratitude" by counting my blessings each day. This is, by far, one of the best parts of my day. at the end of my evening journaling time, I review my day and list at least ten things or people that I'm appreciative of. Sometimes it's a very specific blessing (The conversation I with the woman who waited on me at AAA, for example). Other times, it's something more general, like the internet, our heating system, or the weather. I love the way this one practice can elevate my mood!
Keeping a journal can be a very rewarding experience. I know of no other way to keep myself on an such an even keel, emotionally.
Did anything on this list inspire you to pick up a pen? I hope so!
Why do you journal? And if you don't, what's holding you back?