I’ve been keeping a journal for the past 16 years.
I know it sounds peculiar, but I must admit that these journals have played a major role in my personal growth.
I remember receiving my first journal on my 11th birthday—it was a small yellow book with flowers that had a lock and a key. Back then, I would return from school, finish my homework and write about my day. When the journal was full, I rushed to the library and bought another one. The gift that I received when I turned 11 was the beginning of an unbreakable habit.
When I look back, I know that I grew up with my diaries. Not only have I cultivated a habit out of writing in journals, I also grew into the habit of reading them once they’re finished. In one way or another, I have witnessed my life passing before me through the pages of my diaries.
Throughout the years, I have found tremendous benefits at the core of this habit. And now, it no longer is called a habit—it’s a part of my daily and weekly ritual.
Now I no longer write details of my days, however, I do write my thoughts and emotions down—which of course sheds light on what’s currently going on in my life. Whatever my current state of mind is—angry or calm, faithful or faithless, good or bad—I just pour it into the pages of my journal.
This is how keeping a journal has benefited me:
1. A place to release.
Some people who go to therapists feel somewhat comfortable after therapy sessions as they clear and work through layers of emotions. The majority of people have one best friend who they call so they can tell them their latest updates and feelings—and we all know how good it feels once we let everything out.
A journal is a best friend and a therapist at the same time (and it’s free). For me, it is a place to release everything I am feeling at the moment. Once I write down whatever is bothering me, I feel a great sense of relief. I simply feel as if half of my problem has been solved.
Further more, writing about emotional and stressful events improves our physical and psychological health.
2. A different perspective on things.
The truth is, we can never be our own mentor. We give tons of advice to other people but we tend to never do the same when it comes to ourselves. The reason is because we are involved in the problem, hence it is impossible to conceptualize it.
When I finish writing my journal, I instantly read what I have written. This allows me to look at my problems or thoughts from a different angle. This, in return, helps me with finding solutions, as my journal assists me with taking an objective look at what is going on inside me.
I picture my journal as a camera that’s going up to take a bird’s-eye view picture and my life is the scene below it.
3. Tracks your self-growth.
Twice a year, I bring back the journal from the year before and read it. Every time I do, I am astonished by who I was then and who I am today. I evaluate my past thoughts and emotions, and learn from them.
Opening an old journal is like meeting with your former self face-to-face. Sometimes we are amazed by how far we have come and how much we have endured. To have a journal is to have the chance to sit and talk with who you were whenever you please. What’s even better is closing the old journal and having a moment of gratitude for your present moment.
Sometimes, when I read back over what I went through, my current problem decreases to a great extent. My journal simply helps me with realizing that I’ve been through much worse and that I made it out alive anyway.
4. This, too, shall pass.
I always chuckle when I read my old journals. I chuckle at life, time, space and I even chuckle at myself. I laugh because what I was worried about three years ago, barely exists right now.
I am thankful for my journal because it always reminds me that “this, too, shall pass.” It reminds me to not take things too seriously because just like other things, they will perish and be lost in the mists of time. All what will remain of memories are words written on a piece of paper and it is up to me to relive them or not.
If you have never kept a journal before, I suggest you try it even if you think you don’t need it. Mine helped me to a great extent and I’m sure yours will too.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Cynthia del Río/Unsplash