The Benefits of Keeping a Journal

Something that I try to do everyday is make an entry in my journal. I have a very nice paper journal that I use some of the time and a digital journal that I use the rest of the time. I was going to first write about the benefits of journaling, but I realized that to really describe what I do, I need to explain the benefits of each of the types of journals that I use.

JournalsMy paper journal is particularly good if I’m writing right before bed. I don’t like bringing my phone or iPad into bed with me so a paper journal is perfect for this. A paper journal provides more intimacy, in my opinion, which can be important depending on the type of journaling you’re doing, as I’m going to explore later on.

I keep my digital journal using a program called DayOne. It’s a Mac / Apple specific tool with versions for my computer as well as my phone and iPad. There are three key benefits that I’ve found to using DayOne. I love that it easily allows me to include pictures in my entries. These can be photographs I’ve taken, including of an artifact from an event such as a program or ticket stub, or from another source. I can write entries on any of my devices. I can write full entries on my desktop computer or on my iPad (I have an external keyboard for it), but limit brief notes to entries I make with my phone. Finally, I can type far faster than I can write with a pen so if I’m really excited about something, typing an entry into DayOne may be my best option.

For me, there are four key benefits to keeping a journal:

  1. Recording memories of events from the day
  2. Getting ideas out of my head
  3. Getting emotions out of my head
  4. Reflecting on what’s working and what’s not in how I’m are currently doing things

Recording Memories

This is the “Dear Diary” kind of stuff I write in my journal (I never actually say “Dear Diary”). This includes what was good about the day and what was not so good. This is the stuff I want to remember or maybe forget about, but either way, I want to log it somewhere while the memories are fresh in my head. Depending on when I have time to write my entry I might use either my paper or DayOne journal.

Getting Ideas Our of My Head
Journals can be a great place to make some quick notes, with enough details, about an idea that’s kicking around in my head. This is the kind of thing that I want to get out of my head when it shows up. I don’t carry a journal around with me, but I do carry a pocket sized Moleskin notebook with me for capturing  to-dos that come up or quick ideas. I can add things to that that I want to write more about later in one of my journals or I can use the DayOne app on my phone. I can even use the voice recognition software that comes on my phone to dictate my brief entry. Later I can go back and expand on the entry.

Getting Emotions Out of My Head
Have you ever gotten really angry at someone and said something you wish you could take back? Or maybe you’re just carrying that anger around with you and it’s building up, distracting you, and ruining your day far more than it’s bothering the other person? I am absolutely guilty of both of these things. Writing out strong negative emotions can provide something of a release without saying something to someone else that you’ll regret later, or taking it out on a third-party who you aren’t even mad at. And if you’re feeling a lot of joy, then you should absolutely try to capture that in a journal to return to when you’re having a rough day. I’ll admit that when I’m angry I tend to type my entries into DayOne because I’m usually wound up and words are coming fast. When I’m really happy, I think I’m more likely to put pen to paper.

Reflecting On What’s Working, And What’s Not
I consider these blog posts as journal entries. I also write entries like this that are more personal and may have more or less details than what I put in those entries that become blog posts. I’m writing about what’s working for me, but also where I could be doing better. I’m logging my growth as a human being. This is another thing that’s good to look back on on rough days to show myself how far I’ve come. It’s also important to review such entries to see where I still have room to grow.

Journaling is one of the key things that I recommend to people who are trying to figure out personal or professional development. It’s important to keep an eye on where you’ve been and where you are when trying to figure out where you’re going. It’s also a great way to clear your head of good and bad ideas, and negative emotions that may cloud your judgement or stress your out. And as has long been seen as the main purpose for keeping a journal, it’s for recording your life for you to look back on.

Do you have a journaling practice? If not, what do you see as the barriers to getting started and maintaining it?

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