Journaling never seemed like much to me.
It was just a habitual action, an attempt to solidify my memories. I never looked for any benefits it could offer, never anticipated a lesson to learn.
Only recently did I realize how much goodness this simple practice has to offer.
Here are some of the benefits of journaling I found:
1. A map of the real me.
Journaling is a tool that helps us disassemble our sophisticated inner conflicts. It gives an access to the many behaviors that run our lives.
Writing makes me see a true picture of my own mental state. The real “me” comes in full view, jumping from one line of my ruled journal to the other. By simply keeping track of my thoughts, I can later fish out the ones that repeat with suspicious regularity. For example, feeling guilty when it’s not necessary or doubting myself for no good reason.
2. Shaper of the stress response.
Once we know what triggers our patterns to reoccur, we are given a chance to respond in a more graceful manner.
When I see a tough situation approach, I reach for a piece of paper and answer these questions:
How do I want to handle this?
What response will be the best manifestation of myself?
Reasons I shouldn’t lose it/act crazy/get upset/punch someone in the face.
When I did this for the first time, I didn’t understand how powerful this practice might be. I was packing to go on a camping trip with my friends and I knew that someone I had history with would be there. Seeing this person had the potential to bring up a lot of conflict and old pain. When I finally saw him, everything begged me to go off the sane lane. Memories kept coming up, and friends asked how I felt and made comments.
In the middle of it all I was only able to pull myself together because my calm response to this stress factor had been written out and decided on long before the occasion.
Back in my apartment lay a journal with five pages of indestructible reasoning. I went camping to have fun, enjoy nature and spend time with my friends. Drama was not part of the plan.
When you give yourself a written explanation, it becomes significantly harder to get swooned by a roller coaster of emotions. Even if you’re overly sensitive and impulsive by nature.
3. Ultimate tool of decision making.
How many times do we have to tear ourselves apart between two options? Sometimes journaling is the only way I make a decision. It’s my secret weapon in a field full of unclear choices. Once I have my pen running across the page, the answer to any question becomes more obvious.
Going back to my old entries is also helpful. Once in while I catch myself choosing a wrong battle and spending too much time and energy agonizing over something that is not priority.
My journal is there to remind me who I am and where I want to see myself in the future.
4. Humble pie and compassion shot.
I love the idea of journaling for the sake of keeping track of my progress.
I wrote about being taught a new asana, I made notes about taking a sweaty bikram yoga classes, and I made sure to document the first time I watched an ashtanga yoga class.
Initially, I expected these journal entries to give me a good laugh years later. Instead, they taught me to be humble and have compassion for complete beginners, who struggle a lot or are afraid to join a class because of being “too stiff,” “not in shape,” or “not strong enough.”
Now I re-read my journal to see that I’ve been there too. And every time I learn something new, I am a beginner once again.
Journaling is underestimated. It might seem as something too boring and routine, but in my experience it became more than just setting thoughts on paper. It’s a practice of self-inquiry, stress management, decision making and compassion.
And something tells me there will be more benefits to come.
Author: Liza Kautaniuk
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Doug Robichaud/Unsplash