When I say journaling has changed my life, I don’t mean that lightly. I’ll share one example here.
Not going to go into details, but there was a fairly big fallout in my family a few years back. The hurt ran deep, very deep, and many once-precious relationships were severed.
There was one particular family member who had caused me a great deal of pain and I was having a hard time making the choice to forgive this person. I knew I should, but I was thinking of a lot of reasons not to forgive.
Well, I was going through journals that were about a year old. I’d recently read Greg McKeown’s book, “Essentialism” and listened to several interviews. He’d recommended doing quarterly reviews that included re-reading journals and going through calendars. I tend to be overly ambitious at times and decided to review the journal entries of the last year
Well, I came across an entry where I’d recorded an incredibly kind thing this family member had done for me. They’d reached out when I was going through a very dark time and helped me when I was in an embarrassingly bad financial situation. I was basically stuck in the middle of the United States and had run out of money to get home!!! It’s such a dark time in my own life that I don’t like to think on too much. What was humbling to me was that this person hadn’t asked questions, just put money in my account, enough to get me home.
I had completely forgotten this very generous and gracious act of kindness.
If it hadn’t been that journal entry, that act of kindness might have been lost completely in the recesses of my memory.
As you might imagine, I realized the error of my way, of withholding forgiveness and basically holding a grudge that was causing unnecessary pain in the relationship.
So that’s one-way journaling changed my life.
1. Brings back memories of the kindness of others.
Here are 7 other ways journaling can change your life…for the good.
2. Processes the hard times
Some people talk to a friend.
Often I have voiced heartache, concerns and frustration to a friend, but I don’t like to burden others. But the journal is always open and receptive and doesn’t get bogged down by my issues!
Sometimes writing out the issues is a wonderful way to let off steam, calm down and gain perspective. (Sometimes, I even figure out where I’ve gone wrong).
3. A way to create lists…of things to do, things & events that are meaningful, memory lists, gratitude lists, lists of daily activities, lists of prayer requests
Bullet journals have increased in popularity the past few years. I think part of this is because they’re quick and succinct and they can pack a lot of punch in a short amount of time. If there is not enough time in the day to write out a long hand entry, keeping a bullet journal may be perfect.
One year I kept a running list of all the “gifts” I received, those sweet, simple moments that are God’s gift to us. It opened my eyes to the many beautiful things that were given to me each and every day from witnessing a sunset to a call with my grandma.
4. Collect memories
This kind of goes with #6. BUT, junk journaling is quite visual, while “Collecting Memories,” I’m usually writing about events. I “Collect Memories” entry might look like this:
Trip to Bodega Bay with Sister
- We had the best clam chowder at the tiny cafe on the bay
- Went to these three beaches, my favorite was Goat Rock Beach
- Ranger told us which beach had the best hikes and where to find the best tide pools
- Tide pooling on Tuesday. Saw seastars, anemones (huge ones!), crabs, mussels, shells, oysters. Lots of rocks to climb over
- Went into the spa at the resort, nicest spa I’ve ever been too
- Bought Taffy at a store that was painted white & pink stripes
Multiple studies show writing things down builds our memory muscle. Not only will I retain the memories better when I write them, but when I do forget the details (as I will), I’ll have a written entry to bring them back to life.
5. Great way to stay thankful when you want to complain.
Honestly, I wrote this one to remind myself. My natural bent is negativity and refocusing on what is good and true and worthy of being thankful for is something I consistently work towards.
Many wise mentors have pointed out, “your mind can only focus on one thing at a time. If you’re focused on being thankful, the negative stuff disappears.”
6. Realize how much is really going on in life.
Junk Journaling has been what’s helped me to realize, “wait, I’ve done a lot this year…this season….” The thing is when we stay busy and don’t stop to reflect on the gatherings, the events, the things accomplished, the projects completed, the losses and failures (important to process these too), we don’t realize how much we’re growing and are doing.
7. Help me keep growing and moving forward.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato had something here. It’s to our benefit (and those around us) to take time to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. It’s not to be morbid, but instead, to do, to the best of our ability, that we are not walking down a path we don’t really want to end up on.
8. Decreases stress & Improve Health
There are so many times I’ve felt better after writing, more relaxed, less burdened. There’s a growing list of studies and researchers who say there is a connection between journaling and decreased stress. James Pennebaker, PhD, has some interesting research and clinical studies between journaling and increased health.
If journaling is something that’s been on your list of things you’ve wanted to do or been curious by the process, why don’t you start today? Grab a notepad or open a new file in your computer and start writing.
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