6 Simple Reasons To Keep A Journal

August 5th, 2012 by LaRae Quy
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I have kept a journal since my college days. Journaling can be an extremely powerful activity—and I would recommend it as a daily pursuit.

Journaling can help you tap into your subconscious and your own inner wisdom (click to tweet). And this is where you will find your authentic voice—the one who knows who you really are, what you want, and how to get there. This is how you will develop a strong mind that can continue to lead in changing and volatile environments.

Journaling can be a scary process for some because it will expose your vulnerabilities as it peels back layers of your personality. It has been a truly transformative process for me and I know it has been for many others as well.

One of the reasons that journaling is so effective is that it forces you to slow down and become more grounded (click to tweet). You get so busy with life that you can no longer hear that inner voice. You still have the answers to your own questions but you don’t slow down enough for that voice to be heard. This is why different forms of meditation are so popular; your breathing slows, your shoulders relax, and your head begins to clear.

Journaling is a form of meditation because you must be present in the moment, getting in touch with that part of you who is wise and authentic. You let go of everything else in your life and just BE. I have found that target practice with my gun is also a form of meditation. It is a discipline of the mind because it requires the shooter to be present and to let go of errant thoughts and distractions. Both journaling and target practice require a single focus of thought.

Journaling can gently guide you toward a more positive attitude (click to tweet). Begin each session with this single sentence: “What am I grateful for today?” It’s amazing what happens when you direct your thoughts in a positive way. Asking specific questions as you write can also help you get clarity about what you want and help you set or keep your eye on your goals. Writing out thoughts can help give you direction during a major life transition when you need to sort out your feelings and thoughts.

Journaling helps you notice your feelings and gives you time to connect with your heart. I tend to think my way through an issue rather than feel my way through. Over the years, I’ve come to trust my mind over my heart. I firmly believe that the only way to be a more authentic person is to pay attention to the inner voice that is strongly connected to heart, mind, and gut instinct. One should not be dominant over the other and neither should one be shoved into a place of less importance.

Journaling helps you notice your feelings and connect with your heart so your mind does not dictate your behavior.

I have specific requirements for my journal. I buy flat bound notebooks that are thin so my hand rests well when writing. I don’t like ringed notebooks that impede handwriting across either page. I do not use computer journals because the act of writing helps me to disentangle my thoughts. I allow myself to wrestle through issues, process events, and interpret conversations. This helps me to understand the context in which these things are happening in my life. Life happens so quickly that, unless I journal, I don’t take the time to stop and reflect on where I’m heading.

My Journal Rules

I want to make sure the journaling process was as easy as possible, so I have no excuses. These are some of my rules that have worked very well for me:

  1. Set aside time. I keep my notebook where I have coffee in the morning. Since I’m a morning person, it’s logical that I write in my journal when my mind is rearing to go. There is no better way to start the morning than with a cup of strong black coffee and a fresh page in a journal. It becomes part of the morning routine, before email or the newspaper.
  2. Create a sacred space. It’s essential for me to create a space in which I can write, and think, in private—without distractions of dogs or people. If you have the space, it could be an entire room. For me, it’s a chair in my family room, and if my miniature Labradoodle, Gus, joins me, he knows to curl up on the other chair. I have friends who journal in their car while waiting to pick up their kids from school. A park bench would be perfect, or a coffee shop—anywhere you feel you can be alone with your thoughts.
  3. Eliminate distractions. Except for my Labradoodle puppy, I am alone when I journal. If I have the time, I spend a few minutes reading scripture before journaling. Even Gus is a blessing in this time of reflection if he jumps up on my lap. At first I’m angry he disturbs my quiet time. And then, he leans into me and looks up at me with adoring eyes. He doesn’t need to do anything except communicate to me that he loves me, and I realize that is how God wants us to show up. Gus doesn’t do anything to earn my love; he simply shows up, trustingly lays his head on my chest, and slips into a restful sleep. I am overwhelmed by how simple a good and fulfilled life can be.
  4. Start slowly. Journaling is not the place to solve the world’s problems, though it’s a great place to starting solving your own. Sentences do not have to be complete. In fact, bullet points are an excellent way to get started. You will be amazed at how much your life will improve by simply spending a few minutes a day the things that you are grateful for.
  5. Focus. One of the most important aspects of journaling is that is a tool that helps me recognize whether I’ve focused on the important stuff during the day, or whether I’ve wasted it on worrying about the stupid stuff that withers like dried grass and blows away.
  6. Get out of your own way. Don’t be the elephant in the room. Don’t be the one thing that is never discussed but cannot be avoided. Let your words flow onto the page without passing judgment on yourself or others. Don’t worry about censoring your thoughts and concerns. Remember that this journal is just for you—no one else will see it. Feel safe in putting the real you out there on paper. If you’re worried that your deep, dark secrets will be discovered, destroy your journal later on.

Life is a journey—perhaps the longest journey most of us will ever make. Journaling is a companion in that journey to help you toward personal growth, self-awareness, and empowerment. The best journeys are the one in which you find yourself.

How has journaling helped you on your life’s journey? What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from journaling? What suggestions can you offer to those who are interested in journaling?

 

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11 Responses to “6 Simple Reasons To Keep A Journal”

  1. Journaling is a hugely valuable exercise, and I agree with your rules.

    In the 90′s, I joined a writer’s group that met once a week after work. We would put pen to paper for 15 to 20 minutes, no stopping, starting from a prompt by the leader. Afterwards, we had the option to read excerpts to the group. It was humbling and inspiring to hear the other voices.

    Good blogging reminds me of selectively excerpted stream of consciousness, partially edited but not honed to perfection. it’s good advice to get out of your own way.
    Stewart Noyce recently posted..Gross MarginMy Profile

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Hi Stewart

      So glad to see that you’ve stopped by and left a comment!

      Someone once said that journaling is putting your arm on the table and opening a vein . . . if we try to hone our thoughts to perfection, we’d never get around to writing anything.

      Your writing group sounds like a good exercise. I know you’ve written many wonderful stories for Will and Sarah . . .

      LaRae
      LaRae Quy recently posted..Pick Your Friends WiselyMy Profile

  2. Fokke says:

    I have tried journaling several times to no avail. I am a digital person. With Day One for Mac and iPad I finally got it started and a lot of things you mentioned ring a bell with me.
    Fokke recently posted..The Principle of the Path by Andy StanleyMy Profile

  3. This is useful post. I have tried journaling before. I must say it was challenging for me at first, as I have a very short attention span. Subsequently it got easier. I just had to get into the zone. I did it by findng a spot in the house that I always go to, to block out other distractions. I played an instrumental piece (from an iphone app called calm radio) and kept the volume low. Now, i am getting the hang of it…and better off because of it.

    So yes, I agree – Journaling is a form of meditation.

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Hi Saba

      Thanks for your suggestions on how to get into the right journaling zone! I hadn’t thought of music but that is an excellent idea. I also find using the same spot every day more welcoming that searching for new ones. And I start with a hot cup of coffee . . . seems like the perfect combination!

      Have a great weekend.

      LaRae

  4. This is useful post. I have tried journaling before. I must say it was challenging for me at first, as I have a very short attention span. Subsequently it got easier. I just had to get into the zone. I did it by findng a spot in the house that I always go to, to block out other distractions. I played an instrumental piece (from an iphone app called calm radio) and kept the volume low. Now, i am getting the hang of it…and better off because of it.

    So yes, I agree – Journaling is a form of meditation. :-)

  5. Thank you LaRae for an excellent post on the art of journaling. Your tips are perfect for the novice and the veteran journal writers because they are all geared towards encouraging and facilitating self awareness. I especially like your comment re accessing one’s unconscious, one’s true wisdom from within, and your point about NOT having judgement.

    A small tip…it’s useful to have a bottle or glass of water that one can drink before, during, and after making a journal entry. It hydrates and is also symbolic of the important “stop at the oasis iof relection”, that supports one’s writing.
    Thanks LaRae, EdC

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Hi Ed

      Welcome back from Honolulu!

      Great tip about the bottle of water . . . a metaphor on so many different levels! So glad that you liked the article . . . I continue to learn about journaling and ways it can unlock that part of my mind that’s not yet been excavated on a conscious level. Living is truly a lifetime of learning!

      Thanks for stopping by . . . see you on Twitter!

      LaRae

  6. Bell says:

    I tried journaling regularly a couple of times in my life. It didn’t work because I didn’t actually want to write every single day, especially when I felt there was nothing to say.

    But then I decided to keep a secret journal that I would never, ever show anyone — I even called it “confessions” — and I started writing in it with some frequency. I agree that journaling is a meditative experience and you should be alone when you do it. An honest conversation with yourself is best held in solitude.

    It’s odd, isn’t it, that the very nearness of another person somehow disturbs the flow of honest writing. Some part of you believes (albeit irrationally) that they can hear or sense your thoughts.

    Blogging renewed my impulse to journal. One of the reasons I kept giving up was, I was holding myself to strict time standards and, at the same time, wasn’t using journaling as you suggest. I was trying to hide from myself, to stay within the comfort zone.
    Bell recently posted..I Am Beyond Brilliant: Will My Novel Write Itself?My Profile

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Hi Jamie

      I’ve thought a lot about why writing in my journal really needs to be done in private while other types of writing is OK in the presence of others. For me, I think it’s more about the fact that I’m searching for ways to make myself complete. It’s a very intimate process and one of those journeys that cannot be shared.

      Bullet points are a great way to get started on an entry. Since no one else will see it, it doesn’t matter whether it makes sense or is grammatically correct . . . it simply reflects who I am at the moment and how I feel. I can’t tell you how many times that has been a lifeline for me in the past . . . to read an entry where I was as confused then as I am now, but that is where the patterns of behavior start to emerge. I see how I got through the difficulty, or didn’t, or where I could have done so with more grace and meaning . . .

      Learn from the past, don’t stay in it. Thanks for your comments. As always, it’s good to hear from you.

      LaRae
      LaRae Quy recently posted..6 Simple Reasons To Keep A JournalMy Profile

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