10 Reasons to Keep a Journal

“Writing, expressing can heal us. It can focus, support, and enhance our lives and well-being. Whether we laugh or we cry, whether through sorrow or joy, we can understand more about ourselves, and each other, through keeping a journal, diary, or diaries.”

- Doreene Clement

Chinese Journal WritingEveryone has a story. Your experiences, your feelings, ideas, thoughts, and dreams all combine to form your life and your journey, which is your story. And a great way to keep a relative reflection of all those things that have happened in your life is to keep a journal or diary. A daily journal, a weekly journal, a month end summary journal, any or all these are ways you can keep track and record your experiences, your story.

Usually people resist keeping a journal because they think they aren’t good enough writers, that someone will read their innermost thoughts or that they have much more important things to do.

But instead of thinking of a journal as a diary – a book in which you merely relate the day’s events – think of it as a container for self reflection, self-expression and self exploration. Retelling the day’s events is less relevant than the act of expressing your thoughts. And writing down reflections about events experienced each day is an invaluable way to evaluate your performance, set higher standards of excellence and find new ways to solve difficult problems.

There’s nothing like putting pen to paper to instill you with a sense of optimism, anticipation and excitement about your goals or aspirations. The act of writing something down always makes it more real, more concrete than merely thinking it. When you commit to writing down your thoughts and experiences, you have put them into a solid form.

So, here are the benefits of keeping a journal:

1. Improve your health.

Researchers like James W. Pennebaker, M.D., professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and Joshua M. Smyth, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at North Dakota State University, are proving what journal writers have always known, journaling is good not only for the soul, but for the body as well. The first studies, examined healthy people and journaling. Researchers have found that people who write about their deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding upsetting events have stronger immunity and visit their doctors half as often.

More recently, exciting and innovative research appeared in the April 14th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The research, conducted by Joshua M. Smyth at the State University of New York at Stoneybrook, showed that writing about a stressful experience reduces physical symptoms in patients with chronic illnesses. The team monitored 112 patients with arthritis or asthma. The subjects were asked to write in a journal for 20 minutes three days in a row about either an emotionally stressful incident or their plans for the day. Of the group who expressed their anxiety on paper, 50% showed a large improvement in their disease after four months.

2. Reduce stress.

“When Michael, came home from Vietnam, he couldn’t talk about his experiences. For years, he kept his feelings and thoughts clenched in his heart like a fist. Then he started writing. At first, the words poured out in great waves of tears onto the pages of his journal. Over time, he began to notice how each sentence, and each page, brought greater release and distance from the pain he had borne in silence for so many years. Vietnam began to lose its power and stranglehold on him and his life. ”

Journaling has a proven benefit of reducing stress. Once you’ve journaled, you don’t carry as much of what you have written about within you. It is on the paper or in the computer. By journaling, you give yourself a powerful form of self-expression, and through that expression you can gain clarity, release, and relief. You will feel calmer and spiritually at ease after a journal-writing session.

3. Stronger relationships.

Writing about people you know will help you understand them better and put you in touch with your own feelings about them. Also be sure to give the benefits of journaling to your friends. They are great gifts.

4. Better organizational skills.

By structuring yourself to write regularly, you automatically develop stronger organization skills, such as list making and time management. Also journaling your goals and what you want to accomplish in your life, is an excellent tool to help you get those things done. You can even create a personal checklist of “things to do.”

Through journaling you can actually see and better understand what you want, what is important to you, and how you feel. And after organizing your thoughts you can create goals and resolutions to support what you are thinking and writing about.

5. Better focus.

While writing in a journal you create more awareness, and therefore more focus on the issues that are important to you. The routine and habit of journaling means making time for you. And when you set aside time for yourself, you can feel the benefit and gain from doing something specifically for yourself.

When you’re beset with a mind full of fuzzy, disconnected thoughts flitting here and there, writing about the event or issue will help bring focus and clarity. It will also help you decide on which action to take, or option to choose.

6. Better solutions for your problems.

Writing about problems gives your right brain food for creative problem solving. It’s amazing what happens when the creative part of your nature starts working on a problem – you’ll soon find solutions bubbling up from your subconscious mind.

7. Know yourself better.

Writing can help clarify your thoughts, your emotions, and your reactions to certain people or situations. In addition, as you read back through past journals, you’ll have ample evidence of the things that make you happy and those that are distressful.

Journaling is a great tool for self-discovery that will help you build self confidence and self knowledge. While writing in your journal you will find yourself identifying the values for which you stand. You will also get to know your processes – how you think, learn, create and use intuition.

8. Personal growth.

Journaling is a vehicle for expressing and creating. It will improve your congruency and integrity and will move you towards wholeness and growth – to who you really are.

9. Enhances intuition and creativity.

While writing in the pages of your journal you will find your inner voice awakening. Journaling will help you in the interpretation of your symbols and dreams, and will increase your memory of events.

10. Captures “Life’s Story.”

A journal is a catalog of your memories. Over time, your memories become an irreplaceable treasure that can be looked at years from now, by you, or, if you wish, by others.

By journaling you will capture not only your life, but the lives of all the people that surrounds you. You are also creating a record, and with that record in hand it is easier to see patterns, changes, and shifts in your life.

So, now you decided to start keeping a journal? James Pennebaker, the author of Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, has some first-timer diary keeper’s tips for you:

Find a time and place to write where you won’t be disturbed. Ideally, pick a time at the end of your work day or before you go to bed.

Promise yourself that you will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day at least hree or four consecutive days.

Once you begin writing, write continuously. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar.

Don’t censor what you write. Write just for yourself

By the way if you are faced with ‘blank page syndrome’ and don’t know where to start, try writing about:

Something that you are thinking or worrying about too much
Something that you have dreamed recently
Something that you have been avoiding
The best thing that happened today

And remember, journal writing has the lowest risk factor imaginable, mentally as well as financially, providing you with the gentlest and safest of therapies. No expertise required, no minimum time required, and you don’t lose the benefits if you miss a time period.

Start Writing Your Journal!

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22 Comments

  • Tom Bailey says:

    That was a very comprehensive list of reasons to journal and a couple of them are ideas that I had not thought of before. Great list.

  • Ririan says:

    Tom Thank you!

    And remember, a journal is a path to your heart and it’s a great way to empower yourself! So, keep writing. :)

  • Matt says:

    Hi Ririan!

    First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on the fabulous work I have been seeing around here at Ririan’s Project. I’ve been keeping track of your articles since you were still blogging on Blogger.

    Second of all, I wanted you to know that I have used this article as an inspiration for a post I have recently written back at my website. I left you a message at the bottom of it so you could receive the credits for your words. You probably won’t understand much I wrote ’cause it has been written in portuguese, but you are welcome to take a look at it, ok?

    Hope you don’t mind. And if you have something against my article, please let me know.

    Again, congratulations.
    Matt

  • Loster says:

    Yes, Journalling is very powerful. I have never really been able to understand exactly why but it is true that every session of journalling leaves you calmer and more in control. I often begin sessions bound up with a problem and finish it calm with some kind of resolution. I turn to my journal in times of anguish… and it’s always there for me… and always listens without judgement.

    I thought about starting to write specific journal entries called ‘problem solving meditations’ because when you focus, really focus, on a problem in a writing session, emotion loses it’s grip on you and after a few pages you gain a heightened perspective. There is some kind of journalling ‘zone’ you get into… and your best ideas and most spiritual/philosophical viewpoint come rushing out. Something like a state of flow. It has always made me realise how the state I spend most of the hours of my days in is one of confusion, chaos and reactionary egofullness.

    Yes, become a journalist!

  • I so believe that writing heals and reveals that I have developed a new program: The Writing Practice Prescription for Retooling Life After Hurt and Loss.

    It’s time to “think out of the pill box.” Pills are fine, but deep worries and hurt that take up residence inside the body, soul, and heart don’t fully respond to the chemical alterations induced by pharmacological input. A deeper awareness and drive to heal through knowledge, acceptance, and forgiveness are needed. Journal writing that is directed, expressive, and autobiographical written freely in the manner Dr. Pennebaker outlines has been shown in numerous studies to improve health and wellbeing in many.

    Write on!

    Ellen Taliaferro, MD
    Author of WellWriting for Health After Trauma and Abuse

  • Alexander says:

    Fantastic article!

    Check out Penzu.com for the best way to keep a private journal on the web!

    Easy to use. Secure. Fun!

    Try it out!
    -A

  • Smith says:

    I keep a Journal for 3 years, but I never know it has so many benefits. I currently use Forever Journal for Journal writing. Unlike a paper journal which can be found and read, this system protects your intimate writings with powerful encryption technology. You can find it on http://www.sharewarecheap.com/Forever-Journal_software_588.html

  • Laura says:

    I loved this article. I have kept journals on and off over past years, but now I’m going to try to write every day. Thanks!

  • Karpacz says:

    Nice Blog! Very good Blog!

  • AH says:

    Thanks for this. I really am for keeping a journal.I’ve kept one for as long as I can remember. I have strange habits when it comes to journaling. I prefer recording my life’s journey using pen and paper, discuss lesson learnt on a blog, and venting my frustrations by sending an email to a special email that I opened just for me. You can visit me on:
    http://ignore-inc.blogspot.com

  • Valerie says:

    Hi. This is my first visit to your site. I really like this article. I have recently started teaching a journaling class at a prison. I’ll be making copies of this article for the class. You have some great stuff here. Thank you.

  • its a nice reason of keeping a journal ^_^ :D
    thanks for the reason

  • angelique says:

    Yes. I keep a journal, i’ve been keeping one now for about 3 years… since 2007. It feels good to write and just let it all out sometimes. I tell you it beats telling your life story via status on facebook or tweets on twitter. I mean why would you want people to know all of your buisness and everything going on in your life? Thats stupid, and you have no privacy. So if i want to express my feelings, emotions, or just talk about my day, i do it in the privacy of my journal.

  • emma says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this article. I love writing in my journal. I find that its such a lovely release from all of the stress of the day and it helps me to decide what to do next in a tricky situation. After I’ve finished writing about the day and the troubles it can bring I feel so relaxed and happy to get what was worring me off my chest.
    Great article I think people should write more! Thanks!

  • Jasmine Watson says:

    i write in a private diary it keeps me in a good mood even when i’m in a bad one. It helps me reduce the stress i’m always under. So yes it helps me alot. :)

  • Anna says:

    To be honest, I think this article has a serious point. I’ve been keeping a journal/diary for a few months now and I’m realizing that I have changed. Before, I went through a few dramatic experiences in my opinion and I was so scared and sad back then… I thought I’d have to hide my real self forever! But then I started to write. I learned so much about myself, and reading my past entries, I know I’ve grown emotionally :) Also, it helped me so much when I was under stress and bottling all my emotions and stuff. Now I no longer feel as though I’m holding an uncontrollable lion over my head… :)
    So whoever reading this; I recommend you start a diary/journal too; it really helps the soul :)

  • Nikki says:

    It think for me it is very important

  • ann minal says:

    thanks for the brain waves

  • i cant say says:

    I want to start to keep a Journal bc i just be soooooooooo stress lately.I am only 14 and I be through depression twice already . and it scare me I might get it again . plus I went through it by myself no 1 knew even me at that time I didn’t realize it. In my mind just for full of bad memories and I like a file in my head won’t go away. so I think if I start a journal I might have time for other things. but should I get 1 with a lock on it or not

  • i cant say says:

    Sorry what I meant to say is my mind is full of bad memories and its like a file in my head that won’t go away

  • GoodNightJournal says:

    Very good information! hope this article inspire more people to write a journal. I wanna introduce you a website that people can have their online journal for free. http://www.GoodNightJournal.com

  • john cassidy says:

    hi,its just a question about if it better to write a journal using pen and paper or type it on a pc ,or does it matter ?

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