I have kept a journal since I first learned to write, somewhere around the first or second grade. So the idea that anyone would find it difficult to write just a few sentences a day is incomprehensible to me.
I cannot force anyone to write daily. But I can shout from the roof tops why I think it is the prescription for a healthier and happier life.
Author Pat Conroy said, in his book My Reading Life, “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”
Journaling is not only your live-action autobiography, it can be a useful tool to help you accomplish any number of goals. From training for a race to losing weight, over-coming a personal struggle to achieving your goals, your journal is whatever you make of it.
Maybe you’ve heard of Oprah Winfrey’s Gratitude Journal? Each day writing down something or someone in your life you are thankful for? This simple task is a common suggestion for coping with depression.
Or if you are dealing with grief or a loss, a journal is a safe place to let all of your emotions flow freely without filter or judgment. Your journal can be a place to remember your loved one every day, which can bring enormous comfort.
Many doodlers and artists alike keep fun, funky and fabulous art journals with elaborate drawings and water colors, mixed-media fabric scraps, art papers, and embellishments. They’re stunning.
For me, my journal is sanity-saving. The very act of putting pen to paper gives me an immediate feeling of calm.
I like ruled pages. My collection of leather-bound Moleskine notebooks is vast. I have one in virtually every color, and I get a certain thrill opening a new one and seeing those blank pages in front of me.
I write stream-of-consciousness style, with no attention paid to self-editing. Just pouring the contents of my overactive mind out onto the page. Nothing is off-limits. I write everything from the mundane details of everyday life, “the commute was beautiful, with the sun rising all blue and pink over the frozen lake, and The Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ on the radio” to my struggles with anxiety, or progress on achieving my goals as an amateur photographer.
I tell family stories. Some days when I’m feeling nostalgic, I can devote pages to my favorite memories of my grandparents.
In the summer I detail my garden endeavors, birds at my feeder, progress on home renovations, and my ongoing struggle with finding and fitting into a swimsuit that doesn’t make me feel like a dancing hippo at the circus. My journal is the place where I hold myself accountable. Tracking how well I’m doing on sticking to a diet (Two cupcakes? Really? Did you need that second cupcake?) And also, where I rally myself after a setback.
I can talk myself down or build myself up. I like to glue motivational messages inside my journals. Or use little doo-dads, stickers or Post-Its. With the popularity of Smash Books, a journal/scrapbook hybrid, you can find all kinds of cool little embellishments to add to your journal.
It’s January. A blank slate. A fresh new chapter in your life. You don’t need to invest in anything fancy. Paper and a pen. That’s all it takes. Your journal can be whatever you make it. Simple to elaborate. Regardless, you’ll find it can be a powerful tool to create change in your life, or to provide you with peace.
What are you waiting for?
Blogger Melanie Bisson, a Smart Perks employee, could fill a POD storage unit with all of her journals. She’ll never go digital.