I have kept a journal as long as I can remember. Writing down ideas, thoughts, memories, goals, and to-do lists has always seemed important to me, although I can’t recall being taught to keep records per se. And my journals have changed forms over the years. All the way from the mini diary with a lock my brothers would steal and break into to the nondescript notebook I take with me everywhere.
The dictionary says keeping a journal means recording daily events. I find this basic definition comforting because it means anyone can do it. In fact, you’re probably already journaling without realizing it. Do you really never mark something in your calendar, or take notes at an interesting lecture? Have you never made yourself a grocery list or written down a great idea? These are all ways to journal.
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about keeping a journal—people calling it self-indulgent, narcissistic, and even a waste of time. If you’re on the anti-journal bandwagon I understand. But as someone who has seen nothing but positive consequences from years of writing things down I want to present five reasons, from my experience, why you should reconsider.
1.You become more observant. One of the most interesting benefits I’ve noticed from keeping a journal is it trains you to notice what’s around you. When you know you’re going to write about it you begin to see the world with new eyes. You pick out colours, sounds, and smells. You reflect on the meaning of what you’re looking at rather than pass it by unnoticed.
2.You become more organized. Writing things down helps you not only organize your life but your thoughts. Feel overwhelmed? Stressed out? Confused? Write about it. Take the time to make a plan. Break down your to-do list into manageable tasks, organize your day into hours, or write out your grocery list. Even simple tasks like these can be a stress reliever and help you be productive.
3.You become more goal-oriented. When you keep a journal you’re more likely to notice when you’re not moving forward in life. Once you recognize this you can take control of your personal development. Setting goals is great but if you have no means to track your progress you’re apt to give up. By keeping a record of your progress you gain momentum to continue. Not only does it help you prioritize and set goals, it gives you progress you can actually measure.
4.You become more self-aware. Keeping a journal is not a group activity. It’s time spent away from distractions reflecting on your life, your day, and your relationships. Keeping a journal is an opportunity to spend time asking God to show you areas you can improve in, or ways you can become more like Him. It can be an important time of growing in self-awareness and maturity.
5.You become a better communicator. The more you write the better you are at articulating your thoughts and feelings. And the better you can communicate with yourself, the better you’ll be at communicating with others. Good communication skills are one of those things you’ll always need.
Keeping a journal doesn’t have to be a basic activity. Sure some days are quiet and action-free but you don’t have to focus on that. Did you have an idea for something new? Write it down! How about inspiration for a new recipe? Might as well sketch it out so you don’t forget. Did you solve a problem you couldn’t the day before? What’s wrong with making note of your accomplishment and genius solution?
Whether it’s a daily log or a few notes jotted when you’re inspired, keeping a journal can be a great way to know yourself better, see God’s hand in your life, and keep your stress level down. Why not give it a try?