What comes to mind when you think “journaling?” Maybe it’s handwritten pages of aesthetically pleasing, completely unattainable script, or the words “dear diary” at the start of every entry.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. (*Quick disclaimer: If you’re one of those gifted people with the incredible handwriting, or even someone who writes “dear diary,” more power to you. To each his own!)
I’m a writer, so I’m totally biased when it comes to journaling. You might think journaling isn’t for you, and I’m here to tell you why you’re wrong. (Gently, of course.)
These are my three reasons why you should join my camp and start journaling today. 😉
1. Journaling is about record keeping – about preserving memories.
2. Journaling is cathartic.
3. You can make your journal your own. (There is no one “right way”!)
Journaling is about record keeping – about preserving memories.
I think there’s something to be said for recording the ins/outs of daily life. Every single day, you’re learning and growing. Your journey is unique to you – how special is that?! It’s not something you want to forget. And maybe you think you WON’T forget – but trust me, you will. Details grow fuzzy over time, and personally, I think the details are the best part.
I started a journal in middle school – a composition book in which I numbered the pages, titled each of my entries, and taped small souvenirs (a name tag sticker from a school event, etc.). I kept this up for at least a year or so – I have 4 volumes of this middle school journal (4 handwritten composition books).
I’ve put them in storage, but whenever I’m cleaning my space and stumble across them, I always take a few minutes to flip through and reread what I’d written. And, let me tell you, it’s absolutely hilarious. It’s fascinating to read the thoughts of this younger self – I’ve preserved the personality of tween-age Brooke between the pages of these composition notebooks. I’m reminded of all the daily challenges of a middle-schooler, all the things I thought were important (emphasis on *thought*) and the irrelevant middle school gossip.
Maybe an even better example is the journal I kept last spring while I studied abroad in London. My dad introduced me to this awesome journaling app called DayOne, and I have entries for almost every single day I was abroad (4 months). Before I went overseas, I was convinced I’d keep a detailed log of all my adventures – in Microsoft Word or something similar. But of course, that didn’t happen, because I found that I hardly had the time to keep up with something so involved. The app was perfect, because I could access it anytime, anywhere, and I loved that I could attach pictures from my day with each entry. I’d crawl into bed at night after a really long day, plug in my phone to charge, and type out a quick entry before turning out the light to go to sleep.
Sometimes my entries were lengthy paragraphs. Sometimes I wrote quick bullet points – what I’d done that day from start to finish (Foyles Bookstore, Scholar of the Semester meeting, Intro to Theatre class, art party, fire alarm).
I can’t even tell you how thankful I am to have these entries. You’d think – and I was of the same mindset when I was there, in London – that something as significant as a study abroad experience would be difficult to forget. You’d think you’d remember everything. And I do – to an extent. Even when I was there, I’d sometimes forget by Friday where we’d eaten lunch on Monday.
The best part is, now, when I remember the big picture stuff but don’t remember the details of my day-to-day life, I get notifications from the app about entries that were written exactly one year ago. It’s so much fun to read them. Sometimes I’ll take a screenshot and text it to my roommates. One of my best friends visited me over spring break, and we’ve been reminiscing about her trip this past week because all the memories and pictures are resurfacing on my phone.
Journaling is cathartic.
And this is not just my opinion (but even if it was, you’d totally trust me, right?). Putting your thoughts to paper can be extremely therapeutic and calming. When I’m frustrated, angry, disappointed, anxious, sad, or even excited, it helps to write it down and explain *why.* It’s similar to confiding in a close friend. But, you know, without the baring-your-soul-to-another part. In other words, there’s the same result, but you have the added benefit of keeping your thoughts and emotions private.
Another benefit of recording your thoughts and emotions is that, like I stressed above, you can reference it later. I’m a huge proponent of learning from my past experiences. It would be so awesome if we faced particular challenges only once in our lives (i.e. friend drama, conflict at work, etc). But that’s just not realistic. So if you’re facing a challenge you’ve faced before, it could be really helpful to reference your past journal entries to see how you handled it then. Even if it doesn’t solve the problem, it may be reassuring to remind yourself that you’ve already faced this challenge once before and you came out the other side. Hence, cathartic.
Because I’ve decided to put myself out there in order to illustrate the illustrious benefits of journaling, I’ll share another embarrassing moment from the journal(s) of my middle school / high school years: I woke up one morning and was so, SO frustrated that I couldn’t find a pair of socks. And I wrote about said frustrations in ALL-CAPS. I think it helped (at the time, at least).
Make it your own.
This, I think, is the best part. Because journaling can be whatever you want it to be. Seriously. That’s what’s awesome about our digital age. We have infinite options! Here are several examples:
1. Classic – Pen and paper!
Find yourself a notebook (a spiral, a composition book, a Moleskin) and write every day. It’s very physical, it’s very personal. Old school. *This isn’t for everyone.* And that’s ok. I’ve already mentioned that I kept handwritten journals in middle school. When I learned to type faster than I could write, I transferred my journal to a Microsoft Word document.
2. Digital version – Microsoft Word Doc (or the word processor of your choice).
I’ve messed around with writing softwares such as Scrivener and Ulysses – both of these would be excellent journaling platforms. (Ulysses maybe more so than Scrivener – Ulysses is very, very simple to use. Very minimalist.)
3. Phone / computer app – I’d recommend DayOne.
I downloaded the phone app first, last spring when I traveled to London for study abroad. Whenever I’d open the app, I’d click the “+” sign to type a new entry. Entries are listed in reverse chronological order (most recent entry at the top). You can attach up to ten photos to each entry. (It’s easy to pull these photos from your photo gallery). Now, DayOne syncs to my computer. I can compose entries either directly on my computer or on my phone.
(Unfortunately, DayOne is a paid app.) Other journaling apps include Journey and Memento. (There are plenty more – do some research and find what’s best for you.) I’ve “pushed” DayOne only because it’s the app I have experience with.
4. Alternative – I’ve recently stumbled across Project Life, which is a more modern system for scrapbooking.
I tend to perceive scrapbooking and journaling as distinctly different mediums, but if you’re a very visual person, maybe they’re equivalent to you. I’m planning to write a post all about getting into Project Life, so I won’t give too much away, but know that it might be the perfect system for you if you’re interested in keeping a visual diary. Of course, your visual diary may be as simple as keeping a blank sketchbook, adding pictures or photographs or notes day by day.
Whatever you choose, be sure it’s something you can keep up. It’s so, so easy to walk away for a day or a week and feel so discouraged that you don’t go back. Prior to spring break, I was so swamped with schoolwork that I didn’t journal for a solid week and a half. I attempted to go back and fill in a few details, but ultimately I’m not going to worry about it if I missed something. You can only go forward. Just like anything else, a little bit goes a long way, and you’ll be thankful for it later.
If you’re interested, I’d be happy to write a separate blog post all about DayOne. I seriously love this app and I’d love to share more about how it works and its best features.
Do you journal? Do you have a system I might not have mentioned? I’d really love to hear about it. I’m obsessed with all-things record keeping. I love the idea of preserving precious memories. Leave a comment and let’s have a conversation 🙂