Journaling is a practice that often comes up against much resistance. Not only do we perceive it to be a laborious task that requires thorough preparation, from finding the right notebook to finding the right time, the idea of sitting down to ‘explore one’s thoughts’ for some may be uncomfortable. Keeping a journal is often thought to be the same as a diary, merely writing down what has happened that day. Let’s be honest, some days we probably aren’t too keen to record or remember. Or perhaps it is the fear of diving deeper into ourselves that prevents us from giving it a try. However, like many things in life, places where we hesitate can also be rich sources for personal growth.
The distinction between a diary and a journal is defined as this: a diary is for recording events, a journal is for expanding ideas, being creative and developing the self. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci filled 5,000 pages of journals with inventions and observations. We encourage you to take that as inspiration rather than intimidation. We have found that though it can be hard to get started, once you are in the habit of journaling regularly it can also be hard to stop.
This practice is well-known to be an incredible support to wellbeing, helpful in coming to terms with stressful situations, give you a place to get the thoughts out of your head and, crucially, encourage deeper understanding of the self. It can be healing and enriching and guide you towards the path you are meant to be on. There’s just something about seeing words written down that can ignite curiosity or allow you to see more clearly. It can also offer us somewhere to escape. As another famous journal writer Susan Sontag puts it: “In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.”
From prompt cards to abstract questions to list making to dedicated notebooks, there are many different forms of journaling available now. However, whether you are just getting started or looking for a way to return, we suggest keeping things simple and starting with a daily check-in focusing on one question: How am I feeling today? The answer may not be as simple, but we will be all the better for giving ourselves the opportunity to open up.