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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

9 Fine Reasons to Keep a Journal (and how to help kids do it too)



Gratitude Journal
A Gratitude Journal
can improve your well being
more than winning a million
dollars in the lottery.
Why not start one today?
(Photo credit: limevelyn)
Journaling is on my habit list every day. I keep 2 kinds of journals daily:

  • Narrative journal. Observations on life. God's blessings. Questions I'm seeking to answer.
  • Joy Journal. I aim to write 20 things a day I'm thankful for. Research studies have shown that keeping a 5 minute a day gratitude journal will "increase your long term well being" more than winning a million dollars in the lottery. I started my joy journal this spring break as my eye was bandaged from skin cancer surgery. (See 11 ways to be positive when spring break isn't all you planned.)
At first I just kept a journal because I think I'm just made to write. It is what I do. But I've been journaling now for 37 years and have shelves of them and a notebook in Evernote and I'd like to share with you the ways that keeping a journal have improved my life.

Keeping a daily journal has helped me:

1. Add meaning to the moments.

There are times I look at my children when my heart overflows. I capture those emotions like a picture on the page of my journal. Other times, I'm frustrated, those pictures are there too. Life is a beautiful wonderful gift and it shouldn't be squandered.

My son is graduating this year. It has been a joy to read my entries from when he was born. The prayers I prayed in writing when I found out I was pregnant with him. The struggles that we've come through together. My journal is a gift I gave to myself. Sometimes two sentences tell me all I need to know about a period of my life and blank dates scream out in sadness for the lost meaning.

2. Process emotions.

When his wife died, CS Lewis wrote:

“What would H. think of this terrible little notebook to which I come back and back? Are these jottings morbid? ...But what am I to do? I must have some drug, and reading isn’t a strong enough drug now.”
When we lost everything when our  pecan grove went under water in 1994 and as I became a stay at home Mom, I was full of emotions. Many advocate journaling because of the catharsis, or cleansing effect it has on your heart and life. I agree. Journaling keeps me emotionally healthy.

3. Capture thoughts.

It isn't always time to write, but it is always time to capture thoughts that you may want to write about later. I have a fantastic post drafted up on a stray page after I played paint ball the first time (when I turned 40.) I still read it and will at some point write it. I remember the event like it was yesterday because I captured it in ink.

I use vJournal that links to Evernote to journal daily. It creates a notebook by year and each note is a day. I snap pictures, add thoughts, put down things I need to do and review these as part of the daily review. 

4. Gain clarity.

When you're struggling and capture thoughts, you can gain great clarity by reading back through the days. The self-awareness I gain from looking back at moments and stressors helps me clearly make decisions. 

Why do I always mention that person when I'm upset? Why does that always bother me? In an emotional lather, what we think are our problems often aren't. As I goal set, scanning through the previous year helps me act with intention and purpose. Journals help you be more self-aware.

5. Leave a Legacy.

I have special journals for each of my children. During times in their lives, I've gone into the journals and told them how I feel at that moment. When you're struggling with the tough teenage years or the terrible two's, telling your child that you loved them through it all is very affirming. 

My Mom has a journal for me that she's been keeping all my life. I'll get it one day. I'll do the same for my children. I want the last thing they get from me to be the words that I love them. In a legacy journal, you live on. I do tell them those things today but often, the words are missed amidst busy-ness.

6. Remember.

There are things we all want to remember. For me, I want to remember the times when God has spoken very clearly to me on a matter I've been praying about. We all have important moments that we want to remember and use your journal for that, whatever they are whether they are dreams, Bible verses, or funny things that happen.

7. Develop your voice

My voice wasn't developed on this blog, but in my journal over 37 years. There are times I played with words, rewrote things and tinkered. Journaling helps you find your voice and lets you write what you think without the pressure of anyone looking.

8. To Create.

Journals are a great place to play "what if." I ponder on great leaders and ask questions about life. I write poetry and sketch silly things. I draft outlines for books I haven't written yet. My journal is a playground for my mind.

9. To Release.

When I can't sleep because I keep replaying something or keep thinking about something, I grab my journal, head to the den, and write it down. Moments after getting the upset-ness on a page (usually combined with written prayers), I'm sleeping like I was hit with a brick. ;-)


Journaling has so many benefits. You may not be a fantastic writer but your life will be improved if you journal. 

How can teachers encourage journaling and respect privacy?

I had a teacher in middle school who taught me all of the beauty and excitement of journaling with daily prompts. The feedback she gave me encouraged me to write. Of course, there are things you won't write when you know a teacher is watching and she let us fold back pages that we wanted to keep private as long as she could see that some text was peeking out of the left margin, she would respect that. 

I would love to know how you journal and teach journaling in the comments. 

Thank you, I read every comment. Sometimes when you comment the first time, there is a delay in posting it, but I review these and will approve you. This is to prevent spam.


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