Ever since I can remember, I’ve kept a journal. In 2nd grade, my teacher had me jot things down daily as a way to improve my writing and storytelling. In 4th grade, my journal was a mix of photos and writing. Junior high journals turned into secret notebooks shared between friends to hash out crushes, breakups, day-to-day musings, and of course, what our favorite Lipsmackers lip gloss happened to be that week.
High school is when I started to take journaling more seriously. I filled pages with lists I wanted to remember forever, like Things That Make Me Happy and My Favorite Movies, and I had one journal filled with quotes of all kinds. I’ll be honest: most pages were my scribbled thoughts about boys. But other pages were my mind’s outlet after a friend’s death in 2002. This journal was by my side through college, where entries chronicled more boys, road trip adventures, career aspirations, and eventual life after college. It was a place to put my dreams in writing, reflect on the “problems” I thought I had, and work out how my mind would process all the things.
Sure, to most, journaling seems like a way to just record your day, just a cure for boredom, or a hobby just for introverted weirdos (which I am). And sure, technically you could just write about your day in a ‘surface-deep’ kind of way, and you could just do it when you’re bored. But really, I think journaling can change your life (and also not turn you into an introverted weirdo, I promise).
It creates conscientious, intentional moments of thought. When writing, your mind is forced to focus on that one task. There is no screen scrolling, no swiping left, no mindless getaways. You think your thoughts, and you write them down. Even five minutes of intentional focus can refresh and revive a cluttered mind.
It relieves stress and calms anxiety. Journaling creates a safe space for your anxiety to escape through your pen. Even if it’s just scribbling on a page like a 3 year old, or other alternative journals, like Wreck This Journal, giving yourself an outlet and focus off of the stress and anxiety will help slow your heart rate, normalize your breathing, and lower your blood pressure.
It ignites self-reflection. When the first two things list above are in sync, this third benefit happens naturally. A calm, stress-free, and focused mind is a clear mind. And when you can clearly and intentionally focus on your thoughts, it’s natural that one will begin to self-reflect. Unfortunately, this is also the step where I think most people quit journaling. That’s because it’s a real, in-your-face, take-accountability-for-yourself moment, and most can’t handle it. I encourage you to push through the awkwardness, ignore the part of your mind telling you not to embrace your emotion, and write it all down. Even the embarrassing, shameful, and crazy stuff you never want anyone to know.
It leaves a priceless gift for your future self. Though journaling has immediate benefits, like the three I’ve mentioned, writing down your thoughts is an extraordinary way for your future self to connect with your past self. It is a great tool to encourage gratitude, self-adjustment, and simply remind you of some incredible moments in your life you may have forgotten. When I look back at my high school and college journal, I roll my eyes at the things I thought were world-stopping, like the boys that didn’t call, the ever important question of whether Ross and Rachel really were on a break. (Were they??)
Today, I still keep a journal. I have dreams that my future children, grandchildren, and whoever else, will read it and have explicit access into my heart, soul, and mind, even when I’m gone.
When I read back through my entries, I’m in awe of myself for how far I’ve come, and how I’ve managed to rise out of the ashes, stronger for having gone through whatever it was—whether it was a break-up, a failed college course, an engagement, or a really disgusting flavored Lipsmackers lipgloss.
Journaling truly changed my life. I challenge you to see what it does for yours.
Have you ever kept a journal? What benefits did you experience?
Posted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager