If you know me well enough, you know I love to write and a huge part of my writing practice has been journaling. It allows me to get my own thoughts out of my mind. Processing, venting, celebrating – whatever the action – journaling gives me the channel to literally record my own life’s story. Throughout my years of journaling, I have found these reasons the best for why everyone should put pen to paper and start their own journaling journey.
1.) To remember. If there’s one simple reason to journal it is simply to keep a history of your life. I’m sure there are plenty of things we’d all like to forget – who wants to remember first crushes gone wrong, the moments you screwed up royally at work, or when we just simply embarrassed the hell out of ourselves? But I find that keeping a log of the good and the bad is a great way to remember all you’ve been through. It helps you capture moments that may otherwise escape your memory, but come back to remind you how truly great something was. Not to mention, it helps you capture just how you were feeling in those big moments. Journaling has helped me remember really special moments in my life that now I can cherish even more so, having them recorded. It can even show you how insignificant and trivial some of our greatest disappointments were, which can be another huge reason in itself.
2.) To grow. Remembering things from years ago can make you feel nostalgic, but it can also help you realize how far you’ve come. You see how much you’ve developed in maturity, and self-awareness. Things that would irritate me years ago seem to slide off my back today – don’t worry I still have a ton of growing to do with plenty of flaws to fix. As we grow, our tolerance for trivial strengthens and we aren’t bothered by the things that would bother us as kids. Simply put, journaling helps to track our life’s progress. There are journals dedicated solely to goal-setting and helping individuals track progress toward a particular resolution. But even just to have your own blank journal where you can capture your most intimate thoughts and emotions, helps you grow. Our own written records help us process our every day and look back to see how far we have come.
3.) To understand. Have you read a book or watched a film for the second time and noticed things that you didn’t the first time? Journaling provides that same vision, but for our own lives. I find looking back through journal entries allows us to better understand moments in our lives that we don’t have clarity on when we are living through them. Journaling allows us to understand the patterns of our own behavior, and know how to better handle future situations. Journaling can help us better understand our own selves – our motivations, behaviors, and values – by capturing our raw thoughts and emotions.
4.) To let go. I find journaling a cathartic experience. I am able to get my frustrations and fears onto paper. There have been countless times when people I’ve interacted with make me want to scream, but getting those frustrations written out seem a healthier, and overall is a better route to take – I checked, it definitely is! There’s an objectivity that comes with journaling that allows you to get your thoughts and emotions out and look back at things independently. You can sort through and better prioritize when to fight and when to just let go. I have found there have been countless things I have held onto until I allowed myself to journal about them. There’s something freeing about journaling that gives us all the permission to let go of things that are bogging down. It could simply be that writing it on a page and closing it and putting it away is the best form of dealing with certain experiences. Journaling gives us permission to let go of what just is no longer good for us.
5.) To heal. There’s no doubt that one of the most important reasons I have for journaling is the healing it brings. After any loss, rejection, disappointment, or overall negative experience I have had in my life, journaling has helped restore my faith, seek meaning, and appreciate the good still visible and present in my life. Journaling is like an inanimate therapist – you can get what is bothering, or quite possibly killing you, out and into a sacred, confidential space. While I have found some of the toughest moments of my life challenging to write about, doing so has been a catalyst for my own healing. Journaling breaks down the barriers of denial and helps lead you to acceptance in a quicker, gentler way.
6.) To stay grateful. I incorporated journaling into an experience called the Spiritual Exercises – a journey I went through my first year of graduate school. Rooted in the Jesuit credo, the Spiritual Exercises, and the daily examen accentuate the element of gratitude. As I journaled through the process, I was reminded on a daily basis of my own thankfulness. But you don’t need to go through a formal process like the Spiritual Exercises to understand this reason to journal. Looking back on all you record, you do find the meaning in the messes and the special moments alike. When going through some of my old journals, I’ve realized that I have captured moments that have helped me in times of loss, and also remind me of people and moments I can take for granted. Journaling keeps us close to the people and experiences that matter most because it constantly keeps us close to the memories that bond us to them.
7.) To follow-through. I find journaling to be particularly powerful for my own follow-through. Whether it was chasing a dream, working on a particular passion, or even ending a toxic experience, when it came to recording these in a journal, I was holding myself accountable. Hearing myself repeat when I knew I needed to leave a situation, helped me actually follow-through and leave. When it came to chasing my dreams, my journals act as my checklist for getting things done. Journaling helps us hold ourselves accountable because it is the vessel of true honesty and vulnerability. When we are writing in our own journal we are doing so for ourselves. It helps us be honest with ourselves. Where do we truly want to be? What do we deeply desire to do with our lives? Those questions help us actually follow through and act on the things. I found myself writing about things so often that I finally got sick of writing about it and decided to do something about it. Journaling pushes us to follow through on the actions we know we need to take.
8.) To be your best self. All in all, I think journaling helps us become the best versions of ourselves. Combine all the reasons above and they all form the justification for this reason. When adversity strikes, journaling can help us process. When we examine our journaling process it helps us understand ourselves better, and grow to become better people. When we have goals we want to meet or aspirations we want to achieve, journaling holds us accountable to reach those milestones. It helps keep gratitude at the center of our lives while helping lead us to acceptance when it could be much easier to retreat into the trenches of denial. Maybe most importantly, journaling allows us to write our own stories and to remember the good and the bad. From that, we truly have a blueprint on building and creating our best selves – and isn’t that the purpose of this great thing called “life”?
The best part is in order to journal, you don’t need to have any prior experience. There are no pre-requisites. Just pick up a pen and find your own groove. Journaling is entirely the experience you want it to be. You can pick up the pen and jot whatever comes to mind and the best part is, when you just let the writing come from within, you are already writing the best story possible – your own, raw, vulnerable, unedited version. So get yourself a journal, bask in these many benefits and live an even better life for yourself.