Starting a personal journaling habit is one of the easiest things you can do to carve out some “Me Time” in your life. You don’t have to be a writer, either. Anyone can start and benefit from this simple practice.
When I was in elementary school, I got my first diary, a small white notebook with a lockable clasp on the front that any 80s/90s girl would instantly recognize. It was the first of many to follow, ranging from plain old one-subject notebooks to velveteen or leather-bound journals with gilded pages. I still have several of them, though not all – I’m pretty sure the worst of my angst-y teenage poetry is lost to the ages.
My current edition was a gift given to me around the time of my divorce, and is emblazoned with “Everything Is Going to Be OK” on the cover. I keep it on my nightstand and see that affirmation every morning and again when I go to bed.
But the cover of a journal is the least important part. It’s what fills the pages in between that makes the simple act of writing into a powerful tool for self-expression.
Why I Love Keeping a Journal – and You Might, Too:
1 – It declutters my mind.
My favorite time to write in my journal is right before bed. Sometimes my entries are no more profound than an accounting of what I got done on a particular day, and what’s still on my plate. Not only does this help settle my mind enough that I can fall asleep (and I’ve definitely fallen asleep with my nose in my journal), it helps me arrange my priorities. I remember things better when I write them down, and my Type-A brain loves nothing more than a checklist.
2 – It prompts me to look at things from different perspectives.
Whether it’s a problem I’m facing in my life, a complicated Big Picture question like politics or religion, a weird mood or memory that came out of nowhere, or anything else that is “stuck” in my head somehow, exploring it through writing helps me untangle knots and organize my thoughts. I’ve had some really powerful AHA! moments in the middle of an entry, literally between sentences.
3 – It’s cheaper than therapy.
I can’t speak highly enough of therapy, and journaling isn’t a true substitute for the real thing. That said, it is therapeutic and a healthy outlet for emotions. I’ve learned a lot about who I am by spreading myself out over the page. It’s also a great way to vent about something that is bothering me without actually causing any conflict or consequences in my life, or to pour my heart out over a heartbreak, disappointment, or tragedy so those feelings have somewhere to go instead of stagnating in my heart.
4 – It’s a judgment-free zone.
The best thing about journals is that they can’t talk back or give you side-eye for anything you subject them to. Deep dark secrets, embarrassing incidents, weird dreams, mistakes and failures can all find a home in those pages. (If you worry about prying eyes, keep your journal in a secret, safe place.) A lot of the writing I get to do in life and work is professional and impersonal, but in my journal, I don’t have to worry about quality, spelling, grammar, or whether I’m even making sense. Anything goes – and really, where else in life do you get that kind of freedom?
5 – It’s a time machine.
I think this is one of the best-kept secrets of journaling. Thoughts and emotions are fleeting and, except for the most deep grief or exuberant joy, they’re difficult to remember precisely. I love going back and rereading old journal entries and reliving the moments that inspired them. It’s like I’m watching a time-lapse of myself growing up. Sometimes it’s nostalgic, sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes I can only shake my head and smile at my younger self. In any case, I’m glad those memories are stored somewhere for posterity, even if I’m the only one who ever reads them.
If you’d like to try out creative journaling yourself, check out our upcoming writing circle & wine social for women. Embodiment: Our Strong & Sexy Journeys (facilitated by yours truly!) is going down on Friday, February 20, 2015 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. in Cincinnati, OH. Click the link or the image to take you to the registration page.
Marisa is a professional writer/editor and creative writing teacher living in southwest Ohio with her mutt. Recently divorced, she is busy enjoying the single life and all the adventures it offers. She believes the sexiest thing you can do is love yourself first, and is a champion of clear communication and listening to your gut as well as your heart. Got a question for Marisa? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org