Why You Should Keep A Journal

Image by  Joel Montes de Oca , courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Image by Joel Montes de Oca, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

In today's busier-than-ever world, it is common to experience weeks, months, or years of life without realizing that time is flying by. The practice of keeping a journal can provide a log of your events throughout life as well as offer a cathartic release that comes from the act of recording your thoughts. Today's post will cover the benefits of journaling, various types of journals, journaling mediums, and how to start a journal.

I have kept a journal off and on since elementary school, although it wasn't until my years at university that I developed a more focused approach and found the inspiration to keep a regular journaling practice. I have found that my practice has generated many benefits for me, and no obvious negative side effects. In a sense, Think Wilder is an extension of my own personal journal in blog form. Without further ado, let's jump right into the main subject matter.

The Benefits of Journaling

Keep a record of life experiences and track your development: Writing about events that have already occurred gives you the chance to process them and find closure when it is needed. It's easy to get to the end of a month or year and have trouble recalling the events that happened. While it may be possible to look through photographs or another medium of record-keeping, I have found that writing a journal means that I will always have a record of the most important events that have occurred in my life. An additional benefit of record-keeping is that it is easier to identify the improvements that you have made over time.

Improve mental clarity, more effectively solve problems, and increase focus: It's easy to get caught up in thinking that has nothing to do with what you are trying to focus on, but it can be difficult to send those thoughts packing. By recording your thoughts in a journal, you are effectively transferring them from your head to the page. This helps clear the mind so that you can focus on the things that are important in your life, whether they are outstanding problems that need to be solved or a time-sensitive task at hand.

Inspire personal growth: If you are feeling stuck in a rut, finding it difficult to progress in life, I would highly recommend taking up a journaling practice. Consistently writing down our thoughts encourages self-development, because it gives us an opportunity to review our previous entries and identify times that we made mistakes. Once you identify a mistake, you are less likely to make that mistake in the future, and you can brainstorm alternative behaviors that more honestly reflect the person you want to become.

More fully connect with your values, emotions, and goals: It can be hard to be honest with ourselves concerning how we feel about relationships, work, or our true passions in life. Yet over time, you will find out what is truly important to you through your writing. It took many journal entries about my desire to keep up a regular writing practice before this blog was born, but through my experience with journaling I finally realized that I needed to get started with my writing projects instead of procrastinating any longer. I am sure that there are things that you want to improve on in your life, or work through your feelings on a tough issue, and journaling is a great way to facilitate that work.

Cultivate your creativity: Just like anything else, a journaling practice becomes better with time. In addition to becoming a better writer, you may also improve your abilities to process and communicate complex ideas, memorize important information, and brainstorm more effectively. I find that writing, or even thinking about what I will write later, helps me think of new ideas and projects to work on.

Types of Journals

There are several types of journals, which are not limited to those listed below. Use your imagination and think of specific types of journals that could help you on your path!

Food journal: Many of us are unaware of our dietary lifestyles. I know that I was before I started a food journal several years ago, and I was shocked to see what I was eating (and drinking!) on a regular basis. Keeping a food journal can be as simple as compiling a daily list of foods in a Fields Notes memo book, or you can take a more advanced approach, like using an application like MyFitnessPal to get a more thorough breakdown of your daily nutritional intake.

Work journal: A written record of your work performance can be a very useful thing. How often does a yearly performance review come around and leave you wondering, "What exactly did I do the past 12 months?" By keeping track of the day's events at the office, you will have a log of the things that went well, mistakes you made and how you addressed them, and successes worth highlighting in your next performance review or job interview. By recording your mistakes, you will be able to adapt so that you won't make the same mistake twice.

Dream journal: This type of journal is designed around capturing as many details about your dreams as you can remember upon first waking up. You can use the dream contents to look into their imagery and suggested meanings, or you could use them as inspiration for a new work of fiction! By writing down the contents of your dreams, you can review them later and see if there are any patterns that reoccur.

Gratitude journal: Sometimes we are so busy with all the things in our lives that we forget the good things that happen every day. A gratitude journal helps you focus on the positive aspects of life, which will shift your focus away from negative things and allow you to start appreciating even more positive things that you are grateful to have in your life.

Miscellaneous activities: All sorts of activities can benefit from keeping a log of their progress. Fitness, gardening, traveling, reading, meditation, and yoga are just a few to get you started. It can be helpful and extremely rewarding to see where you are headed and how far along you have come.

Journal Mediums

Journals were traditionally written on paper, but today's technologies have allowed additional mediums for you to record your thoughts. Some mediums will appeal to certain types of people, and other mediums will be attractive for the rest. I have firsthand experience with myriad journaling mediums, and will explore some of the options below.

Paper journals: If you like the feeling of physically writing down your thoughts, like I do, then a paper notebook may be the most appealing option for you. There's nothing quite like setting pen to paper, which gives you physical control over your writing, and there is no chance that your journal will disappear or be leaked when an online service shuts down or is compromised. However, there are no backups of paper journals, and it is possible that someone will find your journal in its hiding place and read it without your permission.

Digital journaling: Using a computer, tablet, or mobile phone to write your journal may appeal to you. Something as simple as Apple's Pages or Microsoft Word can be used, or you can try your hand at many journaling apps found online. Digital journals have the benefit of password protection, and people typically type faster on a keyboard than they can write by hand. I have tried many journaling apps and have come to the conclusion that I prefer paper journals, but your experience may be different.

Blogging: An extension of journaling, blogging is essentially a published online journal medium. This is a great option to reap the benefits of journaling, while providing an opportunity to make yourself heard all around the world. Keeping a public blog means that you have a wide audience, but this comes with the sacrifice of privacy. There are many different blogging platforms to choose from, but they all have one thing in common—the ability to share your message with the world.

How to Start A Journal

Getting started with journaling is pretty easy. You just need to pick a medium and journal type, and start writing! I would advise starting as soon as possible—even if you're not completely sure what you want to write about. One of the things that writing for many years has taught me is that you will gradually find your voice in your writing over time, but you will never find it if you don't get started. Now that you know the basics of journaling, I encourage you to start one as soon as possible!