Why & How You Should Journal (If You Don't Already)
In the third grade, at a parent teacher conference, my teacher told my Dad that I needed to start keeping a journal to develop my writing skills. Great another homework assignment. If there was one thing to know about my parents it’d be that they take school very seriously -- as I’m learning a lot of immigrant parents do. It’s the center of the universe and if you don’t feel the same way, you better learn how to pretend early on.
Anyway, that very same evening we stopped at Staples and bought my first journal that would be the beginning of a new habit. Every day from then on, my Dad would ask me if I’d written -- there was no room for no in the equation.
Sometimes we look back at life and remember small things that were inconsequential at the time, but ultimately became the thread to your life’s tapestry. Here I am almost two decades later, still keeping a journal. Not only just that, but I went on to pursue a career in writing, and everything I’ve undertaken to date has involved the skill in some form.
Looking back. It’s as important to your life as moving forward is. My morning routine, now includes reading the journal entry from the day and year preceding, just to see where I was that day vs. where I am now. That one small reason is why I am a huge advocate for journal-keeping. We spend so much time in the day to day without realizing growth even if it’s right in front of us.
We spend so much time in the day-to-day without realizing growth even if it’s right in front of us.
Journaling allows you time to self-reflect and slow down, even in the ten minutes it takes you to fill a page. There are a variety of ways to do so as evidence by a resurgence of all different kinds of journals from bullets to prompts. This one activity, if done intentionally can be so impactful.
Introspection, mental health and self awareness go hand in hand. It’s identifying how you feel and why. This goes beyond just the emotions you experience. Introspection confronts your attitudes and habits. It’s the why behind your tendency to show up twenty minutes early to every event or even what you require from your relationships.
For me, it has even become a form of worship. There is something so intimately spiritual about looking within and valuing the things you find there that translates to a deeper love for God. It’s a love for Him because of his spirit within you and a love for yourself that pays homage to what He’s created.
There’s something so intimately spiritual about learning to value your true self that translates to a deeper love for God.
The blank pages of a journal are yours to fill however you’d like and in whichever way you need. If you’re unsure on how to get started here are three tips.
Step 1: Pick a Time and Sit Still
This is one of those habits that you’re just going to have to force yourself to do; half of the battle is committing to a time to actually sit down and journal. With so much going on everyday and the accompanying distractions, it’s hard to unplug enough to zone inward consistently. This is where scheduling works wonders.
Pick a time to journal everyday and stick to that time. While you’re in the moment try not to multitask. Allow yourself the time you deserve to really dig into your inner self. Give all of your attention to getting your thoughts out. It also helps to set aside a specific amount of time as well. I usually journal in the morning as part of my morning prayer routine. Once my fifteen minutes are up, I close out my last thought and move on to the next task.
Step 2: Write What Comes to Mind
The ultimate rule to this is that there are none. You decide what kinds of journaling work for you. Prompts? Doodles? Lists of random thoughts? Just write what comes to mind.
The beauty in journaling is that it is custom tailored to your needs. There are very few things in life that you get to say that about. For me, this means starting with a progress update of where I am, like a brain dump. Sometimes my journal entries are responses to sermons I’ve listened to or struggles in my faith walk or prayers or song lyrics or lists of intentions. There really are no rules. Journaling is your process. Write about anything.
Step 3: Allow Yourself Room to Be Honest
We’d all like to think that if there were one person in the entire world we could be completely vulnerable and honest with, it would be ourselves, but that isn’t always the case. There are times when I have to catch myself trying to pretty up a thought I’m writing because the truth about it stinks.
Don’t do that.
The only way to use journaling to grow is to address yourself in authenticity. Learn to first be honest with yourself and then be okay with that truth. The pages of a journal are a great place to start. Hiding from the truth doesn’t make it go away and your lack of self-awareness is a major disability. On the terrain of emotions and inner work, to get out of something means going through, not around. Use your journal as a road-map.
Learn to first be honest with yourself and then to be okay with that truth.
Journaling allows you to track your growth while developing a greater sense of self. To get the most out of it stick to a schedule and focus on being present, write what comes to mind and start in your truth.
Got any journaling tips of your own?