Journals and diaries have always been painted as something of a fantasy. They are plot devices in movies or books, the instruments of blossoming writers or the vaults of people with far more interesting lives than everyone else. Journals and diaries are fun, but they’re not practical. Especially for those who have long since moved on from middle school.
Yet the studies done in support of this age-old practice have consistent results. Not only is journaling an unrivaled stress reliever, but it can help achieve goals and better your mind (and self).
Never Lose a Day
When you look back on your life, specific days stand out. That Christmas when your parents surprised you with a puppy. Or your fifteenth birthday when you threw that disastrous party. Or that one day that started off as ordinary but turned into The Best Day Ever.
But what about the days in between? Most people have lives that are nothing but a blur of days and weeks and even years. The important moments stand out, sure, but the rest fade into meaningless mush. Journaling can be a way to keep your life from melting between your fingers. To keep track of not only the big moments but the small ones, too, and see the larger picture those tiny instances add up to.
When you read back on the days you’ve chronicled, you will be surprised when you dig up memories you forgot you had. Feelings you forgot you felt. People you forgot you knew, blessings you forgot you received, and hardships you forgot you endured. It’s a way to put your life on pause for a little bit and reflect on all the ways God has worked.
Manage Your Feelings
Writing about your experiences, whether good or bad, is one of the best ways to help you manage your emotions. By forcing yourself to be introspective, you begin to connect with your thoughts and become more conscious of why you do the things you do and how they make you feel.
This can be a huge tool in conflict resolution. Instead of all your thoughts running around unchecked in your head, you have a safe space to write them down and make sense of them, without judgment. There is (hopefully) no one standing over your shoulder to spy on you as you write out your feelings, so you’re free to be honest with yourself—even if the truth is less than pleasant.
Learn About Yourself
Is the person you are now the person you want to be? Odds are, the answer is no. Almost everyone has goals they’re trying to achieve, and almost everyone is struggling to achieve them. Journaling can be a crucial factor in your success. It’s a way to write down your days, and then connect the events that happened to your emotions and values.
This reflection—and the process of writing it out—is one of the best tools to help you grow as a person. You’ll be able to look back and see how, exactly, God worked in your life. It’s a humbling experience to be able to read back on the strong desires you once had only to realize now, years later, God had fulfilled them all a hundredfold. Or, more often, how misguided you had been in your thoughts and how the Lord led you out. Journaling will help you find out who you had been, who you are and who you want to be.
Now you know you want to journal . . . but you’re having trouble figuring out where to begin. In the past, you may have started one only to abandon it days later, realizing that out of the five days you were supposed to be writing in it, you’d only written once.
The key to journaling is to not give up. At first, maybe you’ll only write when you’re angry or sad or happy. But gradually, if you incorporate it into your schedule enough, you’ll form a habit of writing every day. There’s no one to impress except yourself, so you don’t have to take care that your writing is beautiful or even makes sense. It’s yours and yours alone. Think of it as a time capsule, a way to preserve your memories and thoughts for future reference.
And remember: If you ever become famous, that journal will be gold.