Much of life is run on autopilot, and we do what we have to do to get through the day. Then, we move on to the next day. We let life affect us, rather than being the change we want to see. Journaling gives you a voice when you most need one, but we often don’t know how to start one, much less keep one.
One of my favorite books on journaling is by Alexandra Johnson. It’s called “Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal.” Johnson discusses the art of transforming one’s life through storytelling. Whether you’re recording your innermost thoughts or impressions on life or current events, keeping a journal allows you to become an active participant in your life, rather than a silent witness.
A crisis occurs in each of our lives at some point. A child experiences trouble. A family loses their home or a parent. Illness strikes, whether physical or mental. Existential crises are valid: It’s your lived experience, and that deserves a voice, even if you feel/fear you don’t have one.
Crises also occur on a global scale: the pandemic.
Whether you see yourself as a sufferer or survivor, a journal gives a sense of control, the very thing that crisis takes away. Recording one’s recovery process, or day-to-day routine, can take the focus away from the crisis and place it back on the internal journey through the crisis.
Why should you keep a gratitude journal? Recognizing what adds value to our lives helps us move through every day with meaning. It enables us to see the abundance of what we have and can allow ourselves to have.
Keep this one in list form if it’s easier, and begin with the prompt: Today, I’m grateful for… A comfortable bed. Not losing my keys. Chocolate.
Even if it’s “one small thing,” it’s something. A thing that means something to you.
Commonplace books compile favorite quotes. In fact, Emerson kept one and consulted it almost every day. It’s a source of inspiration when you need it most in life. Collect famous quotes and ones from friends and family. Make vision board collages out of photos.
A milestone journal can span a lifetime, single event, or category. Keep a milestone journal to celebrate a friendship or a tenth wedding anniversary. Collect oral histories from relatives. Think of it as a timeline of life-shaping, positive events or stories.
A milestone journal can also be helpful for your career growth. By listing your successes, no matter how small, you will be empowered to persist in the face of challenges. Keeping a milestone or success journal during your career also comes in handy for annual reviews and switching jobs.
Things to Consider When Keeping a Journal
- Keep a digital journal to lessen your environmental impact, especially if keeping a commonplace journal.
- Handwriting in a journal provides more space for mindfulness if you stare at a computer screen all day.
- Elevate the journal by including your senses in your descriptions of gratitude or daily events: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing.
- Your journal can include internal or external observations. The entries can be short or long, in list form, quotes, paragraphs, or pictures.
If your journal needs more personalization, consider starting a bullet journal.