Diaries have the potential to help us move toward bettering ourselves.
I remember, a small part of the book The Diary of A Young Girl, by Anne Frank. It was a chapter of our English book in some secondary class. I wondered for some days then, about how a simple act of diary-writing could make someone famous.
I also remember my school diary, which was never taken seriously. But then came the slam books, those pretty things were kept safely to aid the reliving of memories of school and friends. So, when the time came after my first year of college to reopen my slam book, that was the day I realised I needed to start writing a diary.
And now I know it is one of the best habits I’ve developed.
Why writing diaries can be beneficial:
We get ideas.
To start with, as soon as we open the diary and pick up the pen to write, two things happen: we get ideas and we get real.
Getting ideas can be easy. We seem to have them all the time; but not necessarily the right ideas. We tend to forget the importance of our ideas and their effect on our lives until we find ourselves in need of them, or discover the spirituality of our thoughts, or listen to a motivational speaker asking us to believe in ourselves at all times. But writing a diary gives us ideas that we need because they are coupled with our realities.
I started writing my diary in my second year of college. I was exploring the world then and tried to write some of it on weekends, on high days or low days. My habit was still at the initial stage when I got my first migraine headache. Since my mother suffers from the same and it’s genetically passed, I tried to accept my life like my mom has done with the wisdom “that every headache will be a migraine attack so keep some painkillers handy.”
Like any other college student, I was high on newfound freedom and I seldom cared about headaches and ailments—although the frequency of my migraine headaches was increasing. So one lazy Saturday evening, after surviving a migraine in the afternoon, I was writing my diary when my thoughts wandered to:
Why am I getting so many headaches? Sure I am living a wide range of experiences, but I have a healthy lifestyle. I had only drunk once, never smoked anything, took the right amount of sleep and ate healthy food—so why? Plus, how could I possibly get a headache on a lazy Saturday?
That was the first time I wondered about it, all while writing it. I wrote further:
I was just going to enjoy my nap after my piece of chocolate but my afternoon was ruined unnecessarily because I could not sleep, instead got this headache.
Then the idea dawned on me that I should maintain a journal for migraine days, so that if there was a pattern or something to find out about, I could. That idea healed me.
I found out through detailed journaling that high sugar intake was followed with headaches, something so simple and not frightening at all. To this day (after five years) I have my migraines under control (knock on wood).
I found out later that migraines are triggered by many individual factors. So I gave the journal idea to my mom. While she has had migraines for many years, even her frequency of headaches has started coming down.
This is what my diary has done for me. It’s aided my journey to recovery and better health.
Writing in diaries boosts creativity.
It’s good for creative professionals (Writers with writer’s block, what do you say? Maybe some time with a diary?). The boost in creativity helps us get ideas to beat our problems and to reach our goals, because this creativity is intentionally or unintentionally oriented toward our real life.
In diary-keeping there is a process to get real with ourselves. Through writing in a diary, we naturally tend to ignore, hide, and mask our problems and other issues less, which is the first step for growth. It also provides us a good outlet to explore what’s going on within us. It allows us to introspect, and bring clarity, awareness, and peace in our lives. Through this process we can decide which spheres of life we want to develop in.
At the end of my third year of college, I had to choose my major for an internship, which was also going to be my area of passion. I had been trying to decide what it would be since the first year. All subjects suited me, and all subjects had good career prospects. I just could not make the decision. I gave so much importance choosing the right subject, because I felt like I had to—it was about my career—and for a good career life, one must follow one’s passion. I was losing time to decide.
It felt like I was wasting my every precious second on the choice when I should have begun preparing for my career path. I felt like I was wasting my life, especially compared to my fellow batchmates. I grew passively stressed and anxious each day. I could not see through it and took it for temporary stress, or something I could handle easily.
I kept ignoring the symptoms of stress and anxiety—even the biggest one, which was losing interest in my subjects, rather than growing. I tried to follow the whole, “prepare for the worst and expect the best,” but I was becoming negative, and fighting negative ideas and worst-case scenarios in my head most of the time—until I had nothing new to write in my diary, but the same old fears and same inspirations to beat the stress and try to come out of fear.
Then my diary showed me the mirror—how I was stuck in the same negative perspective, which was not helping or inspiring me, but taking me on a loop of the same questions and answers.
So to change the perspective, I wrote only about the facts of my situation and not about how I felt. And then I reread my old entries…only to discover my solution was not hard. With each subject, I wanted to bring real-life change to make the human life better, so the most important part of the choice for me was my motivation to do something good.
Soon after this realisation came other solutions. I became aware of the fact that I could choose any subject and could still have a career path that dealt in interdisciplinary projects. The worst-case scenario won’t end with the end of my career life, but just a change in career path whenever needed.
So my diary guided me to separate my emotions when they were troubling me, and to end the self-induced stress in the long run. These solutions and realisations may seem obvious now, but these kinds of simple things often escape our attention because we are looking for so much in our lives. It is not always easy to find the simple wisdom, and it can be even harder to act on it unless we have understood it and owned it well. Keeping a diary is a simple method to aid the process.
Writing a diary can help us better ourselves. If we have a lack of determination or are feeling lazy, writing down goals in big fonts can help us to actually act upon what it is we need to do.
Making our lives better is a heavy task and cannot be done consciously all the time. For those times, just vent out, write, or doodle a little, and enjoy the feeling of control over your life. Diary-keeping has a mysterious, indescribable, and only to be felt way of putting the control in our hands. We all need that power of control on rough days.
A diary is a space for us to truly be ourselves—to identify ourselves, our world, and our interactions with it better, shaping our vision, thoughts, and action in the process.
It puts us in a spiral of growth and it is a good self-care habit. It’s wonderful how a diary brings the best out of us humans and this life, sometimes helping us guide ourselves, sometimes inspiring us while revisiting our life experiences, sometimes helping us to remember those life experiences, and sometimes helping us learn valuable lessons from the past.
Even with all of this goodness, if life gives us lemons, then a diary gives us the medium to give ourselves good closure too—for a new and better beginning.