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Why Journals Are So Important And How We Can Keep Writing Them
By Hannah Smith, Legends Report Writer
"In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself."
― Susan Sontag, Author & Philosopher
The Rise of Journaling
Nowadays journaling is everywhere. The internet and social media is jam-packed with reasons why keeping a journal can benefit people's lives, and professionals will recommend the practice as an integral part of therapy and counselling. Many inspirational figures, including Marie Curie, Leonardo Da Vinci, Frida Kahlo and Lady Gaga keep journals.
"Keeping a journal will change your life in ways that you’d never imagine."
― Oprah Winfrey
With the internet and the rising influence of the self-help community, it is easy to discover and understand the benefits that come from keeping a journal. There is more and more scientific evidence as to the psychological benefits of journaling. One such example is a study by social psychologist Doctor James W. Pennebaker, who explored the benefits frequent writing had for people dealing with trauma and other mental health issues: ‘Six weeks after the writing sessions, those that had delved into traumatic experiences reported more positive moods and fewer illnesses’. Read more about this study here.
Although it isn’t necessary to write specifically about trauma and other heavy topics in a journal, just the act of writing is the act of reflection and personal evolution. Writing down our feelings helps to gain distance from them, to view them as separate from the mind, and by viewing our thoughts on a piece of paper or on a laptop screen, we can begin to discover the power we have over them.
"I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn."
― Anne Frank
My Journaling Journey
In my own life, keeping a journal has been a consistent practice throughout most of my childhood and teenage years. I credit the hours that I spent writing in an A5 notebook as one of the key influences in me deciding to try and write professionally. As a kid, I would even write journals as a form of storytelling, where I would create a character and pretend to be them as I wrote – this may not have necessarily improved my own wellbeing, but it has shaped the way I write fiction to this day, as I am able to empathise with the characters I create. This practice has also enabled me to empathise with the real people around me as well.
‘Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.’‘
― William Wordsworth
Writing a journal was always an important part of my life – note the ‘was’.
Amidst a struggle through a university career last year and my current full-time employment, my day-to-day life has become very adult and very bustling. Life is busy, and time for quiet personal reflection becomes thin – in the past few years for me, journaling got left behind.
Keeping Good Habits Is Hard
Learning why journaling is so beneficial is easy and beginning one of your own is quite simple. But keeping a journal, learning how to write in it consistently and long-term, as a part of day-to-day life – that is a lot harder. Even with the knowledge of how keeping a journal can improve your life, in practice, it is so much harder to actually keep it up long term and integrate it into life.
For some people the inability to keep up a journal could equate to failure, it can cause a recycling of the negative thoughts and mental health that they are trying to escape.
Learning to process emotions is only a part of why keeping a journal is so important – an important part, but not the only benefit. As Aristotle said: ‘Good habits formed at youth make all the difference’, and for young people especially, being able to write in a journal consistently is learning how to begin and maintain healthy habits, a skill which is integral at any point of life.
For me, adjusting to adult life was intense and my journal writing got lost in the many other things I wanted to do while working full time: working on my writing career, creating art, as well as completing my courses in digital art. Being a young adult is when many learn that time is truly precious.
For me, writing this article has helped remind me of how much journaling helped me use my time well. As I start my journaling again I have realised that taking the time to write for no purpose other than to learn and reflect about myself has helped me understand how I can use my spare time more effectively around my full-time work.
How To Keep Up The Habit - A Support System
So how can we keep writing our journals frequently?
The main way to integrate something into your life is by having a group of people to share it with, as having a community to reflect on something with makes it a much more positive and physical act. Having a social aspect to turn to when the act of journaling doesn’t come as easily, makes it a lot more likely that you will be able to continue writing even when you do not want to do it as much.
This community can come in the form of friends, support groups, mentoring and workshops. It doesn’t mean reading one another's journals and talking about your deepest and darkest secrets. It is more of a case of reflecting on how the act of journaling has affected your life.
Having a support system to relate to can help you figure out the best way to maintain your journaling. As I said, just writing this article has helped me come back to it. Communicating with my editors and people about my own journaling has helped me begin to introduce it back into my life.
I have learnt from others that the best way they maintain their journal is by ensuring they write at the same time in the same place every day, and learning this has helped me understand how to persevere with my journal myself. Personally, I find I can continue journaling more effectively when I do not have a set schedule of where and when to write. I find that carrying a small notebook around with me is more effective as I can write whenever I feel like I need to take some time for myself, whether it is on my break at work, or when I am taking a walk. Talking to others about their own journaling habits was integral for me to learn this about myself.
The key aspect of keeping a journal is the good habits and positive mindset that it can lead you to develop. By taking the time to share your experiences of writing with others, these habits will not only be reinforced, but set into a physical action of shared creativity.
"Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around."
― Stephen King (author)
Journaling is an example of how creativity can be used as a way of therapy and support for your own personal growth. By connecting with others and using one another’s creativity as an inspiration, the therapeutic act of journaling can be an integral and unmissable part of your life.
If you would like to learn more about how to maintain your own journaling and reinforce positivity into your life, get in touch below or on our live chat. I’d be happy to share any advice and we offer workshops and mentoring sessions where you can connect with others and learn how to improve your habits and wellbeing.
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