I was depressed all day yesterday. I didn’t seem to have the energy to accomplish anything productive. Instead, despite all of the stuff at my fingertips, I sat and glanced around social media all day, bored. Lying in my bed last night, as I replayed the day in my brain, I felt guilty to discover I had wasted the whole day. I then began to reflect about moments in my life when I felt most fulfilled and gratified. What would I have done differently on those days if I could go back in time?
I pulled out my journal and scribbled down my ideas. I felt a lot better after writing them out. I realized I hadn’t touched my diary for months, despite the fact that I used to write in it every day. I’d been missing the sense of clarity that journaling provides.
When you hear the word “journaling,” you might imagine a young person lying in bed with their feet waving lazily in the air, writing in a diary about their crush. For adults, the word carries that connotation: it’s for young people trying to figure out who they are while dealing with stress and middle school drama. While journaling can be beneficial for such goals, it is not limited to “youngsters”—it is for anyone who can write!
Simply put, journaling is the act of thinking about and writing down your life. That is all there is to it. Nothing else is required. Despite its simplicity, the daily journal has played an important role in the lives of many accomplished individuals.
Journaling is, as you might assume, a favorite practice of many writers. From Mark Twain to Virginia Woolf, Francis Bacon to Joan Didion, John Cheever to Vladimir Nabokov, there is something for everyone. Any of these artists might always be found with a journal in their hands. Susan Sontag famously said that she “formed herself” in her journal.
Why have so many of history’s greatest thinkers spent so much time writing in journals? What are the advantages?
The power of journaling
Getting thoughts out of one’s head and into paper can be beneficial to almost anyone. Personally, there are many more advantages of journaling than I have time to discuss here, but I’ll highlight a few that I think should be talked about.
1) Journaling allows you to gain fresh insights from past experiences.
Reading your previous journal entries is a little like rereading a favorite novel. You notice new sentences and see the past in a fresh light. This time, however, you’re re-reading your own life story.
2) Journaling allows you to track your personal development.
When you write down one line about what went good today, you’ll have something to look at when you’re down. It’s easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come when you’re having a poor day. It’s simpler to preserve a sense of perspective with a journal, though. You can see how much you’ve evolved over the months and years by looking at your prior entries.
3) Journaling can help you with your recovery.
Writing down our thoughts, feelings, and activities in a diary helps us to develop and retain our sense of self, as well as solidify our identity. It enables us to reflect on our past experiences and uncover our true selves. Keeping a journal allows you to build and reflect on the story of your life, including all of the decisions you’ve made and the memories that have shaped who you are today.
4) Keeping a journal helps you remember things better.
Time will alter your appearance without your knowledge, but it will also alter your ideas without your knowledge. As we acquire experience, our beliefs alter slowly, and diary entries have the capacity to freeze your thoughts in time. Seeing an old photo of oneself might be fascinating because it reminds you of how you used to look, but reading an old diary post may be even more startling because it reminds you of how you used to think.