The Benefits of Keeping a Journal: A Soul-Nurturing Practice
When we talk about journaling, we’re talking about one of those old-school journals made of paper, in which you write with a pen, pencil, or an assortment of colored markers. Many of us have grown accustomed to communicating solely through text, but keeping a paper-based journal is actually very nurturing to the soul, and can be a long-term record of your thoughts and emotions far after your computer has died and your Cloud storage has been compromised.
There are numerous benefits to journaling that go far beyond greater hand-eye coordination and improved penmanship. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
1. Stress Release
In our hectic daily lives, it seems as though we’re constantly in motion. From the moment we wake to the moment we fall asleep, life is a huge flurry of activity: personal care, commuting to work, dealing with the job, commuting home, cooking, cleaning, family time, lather/rinse/repeat.
Dedicating a few minutes each day to sitting down and writing in your journal—even if it’s just half a page or so—allows you to be entirely in the moment as you collect your thoughts and commit them to paper. When you write something out by hand, your breathing automatically slows and regulates itself, you’re forced to be quite still so your pen doesn’t skid all over the place, and your thoughts aren’t allowed to wander away from the task at hand. You might be amazed at what a few minutes of stillness can do to alleviate your stress levels and help your overall sense of well-being.
2. Idea Catcher and Inspiration Notebook
Brilliant ideas and moments of inspiration tend to come out of nowhere, and if we don’t write them down when they arise, we run the risk of forgetting about them. If you keep a journal with you at all times, you can jot down these ideas as they spring up—even if it’s just a sentence or drawing that captures the essence of what popped into your head.
Keeping the journal by your bed at night is also perfect for the ideas or images that may appear in your dreams. Socrates, Hildegard von Bingen, Michelangelo, Dali, and Charlotte Bronte are just a few famous people whose works were inspired by dreams; who knows what yours might manifest as if you manage to keep track of them?
3. It’s a Judgment-Free Zone
You can write whatever you like, and no one is going to judge you for it. This is a sacred space for you to pour out your deepest, darkest secrets, woes, fears, joys, and more, safe in the knowledge that it’s all absolutely okay. Getting it all out on paper might even bring some clarity and focus to things that have been bothering you, thus allowing you to work through them. You might come to major epiphanies, or even just gather the strength to approach others with things that may need to be acknowledged aloud.
4. You Can “Scream” in Text, and Nobody Needs to Hear You
A journal can be the ideal place to vent all the frustrations that you’re forced to hold back from yelling about for the sake of others. Is your boss driving you insane? Write down the idiotic things they did to irk you today, and then slam the book shut. Did your kids do something truly reprehensible, but you had to play the part of the tolerant, patient parent and not rip their hair out? Write it all down: it’ll be great material to remind them of when they have kids of their own.
Putting all of this down on paper is immensely cathartic, as it gives you the opportunity to let out all of your negative, and thus let it go.
5. Uninhibited Creativity
Remember that a journal doesn’t have to be solely comprised of words written on paper: a journal can also include collages, drawings, mini paintings, and more. Instead of a standard paper-based journal, you can use a heavy-duty scrapbook and add in all manner of things that you find interesting.
6. It Can Help You Achieve a Goal
Do you have a project or goal that you’d like to pursue, but are having trouble moving towards it? A journal can be an invaluable friend that can help motivate you and keep you on track. Whether your goal is to change careers, redecorate your house, run a half marathon, or write a novel, dedicate a large notebook to it and write in it whenever the whim strikes you. Write down your moments of doubt as well as your mini successes: did you manage to write a thousand words today? Excellent! Make note of how you managed to focus, and how great you felt. Did you strike out with sending out resumes and letters of inquiry? Reassure yourself that things will be better tomorrow, and that the only way to fail is not to try at all.
You can even skip ahead several pages and write random notes of encouragement to yourself—it might boost your spirits when you’re having an off day and you open a page that begins with “I believe in ME,” or a similar affirmation.
7. Appreciation of Silence, and Authenticity
When you write in your journal, make sure that you’re doing so without distractions such as TV, radio, Netflix, or some raging death metal MP3s in the background. Many people are uncomfortable in silence, but it’s in silent stillness that we’re forced to be truly honest with ourselves… and in turn, our journaling will be more authentic as a result.
Before you put pen to paper, take a few deep breaths and just sit in the silence. Then, let your thoughts move freely from mind to journal: you may be surprised at what forms there.