5 Reasons to Journal

by Simon Forsyth

When it comes to journaling, common questions can be things like ‘How do I it?’, ‘What’s it meant to look like?’, and ‘How often should I write?’. Though these are all perfectly natural and reasonable things to wonder, sometimes our desire to know how something is ‘meant’ to be done can overshadow the question of why you would want to do it to begin with. If I’m flicking through a cookbook, I want the picture of a cake or the little blurb about it to help me decide why I would want to make this one over all the others on offer, with the how-to of it coming after. With that in mind, I’ve made a list of five possible reasons why someone might like to try out journaling, connecting with the motivation to do before the ‘hows?’ start crowding round. And if you’re already a journaler, do these reasons match yours?

 

It’s creative: We all have the ability to create and be creative – this isn’t limited to a lucky few that seem to have been bestowed a magical gift that no one else can aspire to. Writing a single sentence in a journal is a creative act – where there was once a blank page, there is now a string of words, however long or short that might be. Boom! You created that. In this way, a journal can help you meet parts of yourself that you might feel closed off from or possibly think aren’t even there. The more you experiment with journaling, the more creative you can be with it, and because it’s not on a public forum like social media, you can remove any sense of pressure to be ‘perfect,’ witty, diplomatic or whatever else you might possibly feel self-conscious about in other settings – the way you create in your journal is by you, for you, and doesn’t have to be measured against any external standards. This is a freeing proposition!

 

It’s flexible: A journal can live on a bookshelf or travel the world with you. It’s available 24/7 and you don’t need an appointment. The way you use it is for you to decide whenever you go to write, with no rules or protocols to adhere to, unless you’ve decided on them yourself. If you want to go all-in with a deep and meaningful reflection, you can. If you want to doodle or jot down random thoughts or nonsense, you can do that too. Your journal doesn’t need or expect uniformity in how you use it. Resources like Kathleen Adams’ ‘Journal to the Self’ book and workshop (which I’m chuffed to be a facilitator of!) present multiple techniques that can be used for journaling, and you can mix and match as much as you want. You can write for five minutes or an hour, or simply until you feel like you’re done (and you don’t need to politely end the conversation if you just want out after a while). You can choose to keep what you write private, or you can choose to share it, or some version of it, with another person, if you feel that might be useful for you. Your journal is open to it all and will never ask you for anything in return.

 

It lets you express all of you: If you look for images of journal-writing online, chances are you’ll come across a visual of someone looking like they’re having the best time with their pen and paper, curled up on a cosy couch, mug of tea beside them. What bliss! Journaling can sometimes look like this, yes, but what if you’re going through the wringer, scrambling for answers to something painful, just wanting to get your thoughts out, in all their messiness and confusion? These are the moments that don’t tend to get drawn on for photoshoots, but they are real, and the journal will be ready and waiting to be a containing space for all of it – the joy and good of life and the awful, maddening times; the you that is content and optimistic and loved up, and the you that is disillusioned and angry and spiteful and full of contradictions. The journal is an equal-opportunities employer when it comes to you and your feelings and you never need to censor who are you or how you’re feeling in that moment when you write. Being able to express ourselves authentically like this can be deeply comforting and cathartic.

 

It can be a refuge: Sometimes we can feel like we’re being swept along by the current of life, perhaps without a sense of how far we’ve gone from shore or how long it will take for us to get back to dry land. When you write in a journal, even if it’s just for a few minutes, you have the opportunity to anchor back into yourself. This won’t necessarily mean that you then re-emerge to find that the waves have magically died down, but giving yourself that space and time to connect with your inner world and simply being curious around what that landscape is looking like may help tap into a greater sense of calm, compassion, capability or control. If you are someone that finds the idea of meditation/mindfulness difficult, journaling can offer a similar internal haven for checking in with yourself.

 

It highlights patterns and precedents: We all have the capacity to find ourselves seemingly stuck in the same patterns and cycles, and this may come with a feeling of bafflement or even despair (‘HOW do I keep falling into this same hole?!’). The journal can be a powerful tool for noticing the ways in which we can end up in familiar and sometimes uncomfortable places, potentially giving insight around the who/what/when/where/how’s of these. Knowledge is power, and the more awareness we have around our own go-to behaviours in certain situations (many of which we’ll wander towards quite unconsciously), the more opportunity we have to be compassionately curious around how we might be able to do something different. Your journal can also highlight precedents of positive change, reminding us of our ability to challenge the status quo and offering encouragement.

 

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