Journaling is an exercise I have been doing religiously, every week for the past 5 years of my life. And I have to say, nothing beats the satisfaction and stress relief I feel after I’ve put my emotions on paper.
I used to spend my days tightly wound, backed up with anxiety and frustration with nowhere to let it out (except spontaneously in my loved ones’ faces…). I don’t think I need to explain to you that you can easily lose friends that way and that acting like a ticking time bomb can lead people to walk on eggshells around you.
Even after I started journaling, I wasn’t an ocean of calm, but over time I noticed all the little differences having a journal could make. I noticed how my mouth no longer run away from me, how I could think through my responses without getting emotionally riled up. I noticed that I smiled more and that people were, once again, actually having a good time in presence.
I’m not saying journaling is the ‘One True Key’ to all your personal issues, but it’ll do a good job of guiding you closer towards the place you need to be if you remain determined and ritualistic about it. Try first writing a little every morning. Nothing special, just a couple sentences. It can be about anything. Then, slowly build up momentum and confidence in your journaling and let your emotions fly on the page.
1. You Can Use It As A Creative Outlet
Creativity is key to any method of writing. And before you say, “I’m not a creative person” and be done with this article, I don’t mean you have to be Shakespeare to keep a journal. Creativity is simply another way of saying, you need to let go of your inhibitions.
Journaling is an opportunity for you to stop taking yourself too seriously, and to start having fun and exploring a more humorous side of yourself. If you’re struggling to begin your journal, try writing a string of nonsensical words down on the first page. It’ll make no sense, but it’ll get the ball rolling. Then, you can flip back to it 5 years later and smile over how it all began with a load of nonsense.
2. Exercise Your Memory
The practice of writing is a fantastic tool for anyone who wants to exercise their memory. Naturally, journaling falls into this category but has the double benefit of being emotionally stimulating.
For many people who take up journaling, what is written down is actual memory and life experience. And having a physical place to store these memories is a great way to compartmentalise your mind, symbolically remove stressful and experiences and burdens from your mind and free up room for more important memories.
3. Become More Articulate
Another great aspect of journaling is an increased vocabulary. Words that were once dying on the tip of your dammed tongue will start to flow like a river. You’ll start to build up a repertoire of words you’ve never used before but suddenly become necessary to truly express yourself meaningfully.
While I don’t have any actual science to go on with this point, only personal experience, I can’t take it any further than that. But for a start, try having a word of the day/week section in your journal and use as much as you can. See if you can spot a difference after a while.
4. Gain Confidence In Your Creative Writing Skills
Creative writing is one of those hobbies that so many people have, but are afraid to share with others because they don’t think it’s good enough. The simple methodology is, the more emotional substance you write, the better your creative writing becomes, the more confident you become in your skills.
This isn’t true of everyone of course. But that isn’t the whole point of journaling. We don’t journal to become the next Hemmingway or Keats. We do it because it feels good. The most effective way to improve your skills in creative writing is to write from the heart. I guarantee you, the more passion there is on you writing, the more it’ll show on the page.
5. Once It’s Written Down, It Becomes Real
Spoken word poet Shane Koyczan once spoke about how he was disturbed by what he wrote in his journals when he was younger, but that it was also comforting to see it written down, that it wasn’t his imagination.
Too often in life, we become used to brushing our more sinister emotions under the rug and pretending that we never felt them, to begin with. But that doesn’t mean they’ll disappear, they’ll still be there, buried and festering until one day you won’t be able to ignore it anymore.
Having logged evidence of how you feel or once felt is a great way to remind yourself that yes, those feelings were real, you did, in fact, think those horrible things about that one person that time. This can be a very painful process; you may feel shame and regret where you once felt justified and righteous. But that just means you’ve changed since then, you’ve learned to realise that smaller problems are worth losing your head over so much. You’ve achieved personal growth. Good job.
6. Learn To Understand Your Emotions On A More Intimate Level
Once you’ve realised that your ugly emotions weren’t fake and you can accept that this part of you exists, you’re less likely to let your emotions run away with you.
Getting ‘real’ with your journaling habits can be scary. We all naturally want our journals to be filled with bright happy memories- days at the beach, epic travel logs, love for family and friends galore. But that’s not real life. If you’re able to really splurge all your nitty-gritty feelings into your journal, you may find you’ll have more control of your emotions in everyday situations. This is especially helpful if you’re like me and have trouble keeping a lid on your temper.
The more honest you are with your journal, the more honest you can be with yourself, the more easily you’ll be able to comprehend your emotions.
7. Reduce Your Stress To Rubble
Stress can eat up a lot of your time and energy, and there’s no productivity when stress takes over. Expressing what’s causing you to become stressed through journaling can help you manage your stress levels in a healthy way that doesn’t end with you screaming your lungs off at someone close to you.
There’s no safer place to manage stress either, than in your own journal. Journals are non-judgmental, they won’t offer unwanted advice or remarks, they won’t diagnose you with imaginary symptoms, they’re just there for you to fill with thoughts.
8. You Become Your Own Confidant
Journals and diaries, much like close friends, are also secret keepers. They’re what you share very intimate details of yourself with and trust that there’ll still be love there once you’re done sharing. The difference between a friend and a journal, though, is that a journal is synonymic with you.
Keeping secrets in a journal is a way of trusting yourself with your own wellbeing while not keeping pent up inside. The act of writing down your deepest and darkest thoughts is meant to be a point of relief for you. Just as telling a friend a secret brings you that same relief., the trust between you and your journal will be just as important. As well as learning more about yourself, you can also learn to trust yourself through journaling.
9. Feel Healthy, Awake And Alive
Ever felt like you’ve had such a bad day that you become heavy, drowsy and exhausted? Me too. Everyone has.
Having the chance to write about the bad things that happen during your day give you a de-stressing outlet, a method of taking your bad day and shoving it into your journal and out of your body. Journaling arouses the practice of mindfulness and allows you to go over your history in a constructive manner. You might even realise that your day wasn’t as bad as you first thought once it’s written on the page. You’ll be able to isolate your pain and single out exactly what it was that set you off.
Understanding your pain is key to purifying your soul. So, think of journaling as a channel you can use to get to that level of identification.
10. Become More Comfortable With Yourself
The best thing about journaling is that it is a space for you and only you. Anyone who you let read your journal should feel honoured that you’re allowing them to see such a private part of yourself.
Sometimes it can be hard to start. That, I get. A blank page can be a very intimidating thing to be faced with. If you find yourself at a loss, just write the very first thing that comes into your head, and don’t worry if it sounds silly. You could even write a string of words that mean nothing at all, just so long as you get something on the page.
Learn things about yourself you never knew before by being completely honest in your journal. Learn to love yourself again. And no. You don’t need to win the Nobel prize in literature for your writing to be valid. Journaling is an exercise for your own personal joy, do it for you and you alone.