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By Kathy A. Megyeri
I admit that each night before bed, I pick up my leather-bound journal and write a small paragraph covering the day’s events, my reflection on what transpired, and a line of thanks for something for which I am grateful.
Journaling is a way of capturing events in my life to be relived and recalled later, and it’s a most pleasant and private way to end the day on such a joyful note in the midst of so much sorrow, turmoil and uncertainty around us. I believe in journaling for the following reasons:
Journal keeping is therapeutic
It lets you vent, helps with self-awareness and has been shown to be good for you. New York Times writer, Glenn Kramon, cites proof that it helps people with stress and depression in that it affords them an opportunity to move on from tragedy and sorrow to a better place and happier state of mind. Most writers are honest in assessing the day’s events whether they be joyful or heartbreaking.
Not surprisingly, fewer people keep journals than use social media posting to show their happy times, but privately writing about shortcomings, failures and heartbreak in an honest way that really gets to the truth, Kramon believes. This method helps one take the best path forward by thinking through the challenges and sizing up bad situations. If you look back at entries, you can see if you spent too little or too much times worrying about the right things, the wrong things, or factors you never before considered. Journaling is cheap therapy on pages.
Helpful in developing writing skills
It helps with writing skills including using vivid anecdotal details, scene descriptions, colorful impressions of people and events and the ability to draw conclusions and infer meanings. Just like practicing a musical instrument or using a new language, one gets better even in as little as 10 minutes per day. And it doesn’t have to follow any structure—it’s your own private place to discuss whatever you want. You don’t ever have to consider proper spelling, grammar, or forbidden topics because no one will read it without your permission.
Choose what method is best for you
Write or type? I prefer to write longhand in a book because I love paper and pen, but some think that writing their journals on a computer is easier because they can use apps that allow them to include photos, videos, sketches and audio recordings. A few even dictate their musings rather than type them. Kramon recommends the following apps:
- Day One, which won App of the Year and design awards from Apple, is popular for its simplicity and versatility, according to Kramon.
- Diarium reminds you to write every day.
- Journey claims itself as a “motivational and happiness trainer that calms and uplifts.” But with these extra bells and whistles–including photos, recordings and images–the act of writing itself might become diminished and the whole graphics and visual efforts can seem more overwhelming so a beginner should just stay with short writings.
An attitude adjustment
Journaling helps improve one’s attitude. Actor Matthew McConaughey tells his fans that “God has shown me that it is a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates.” And I too believe that. So, in my journal, I make it a point to acknowledge what is good in life, thank those who have made me what I’ve become and address my dreams, wishes and desires. Even in the hardest of times, journaling seems to improve my outlook and attitude as I’ve come to regard it as a dependable friend who never judges me on what I share.
The gift that keeps on giving
Your diary becomes a gift if you want to leave it to others or share it with family. Some have even left their journals to schools or groups with instructions on their use as they can provide a window to life during our times or be a bit of an historical record.
For some, it’s a family memento because it’s handwritten and offers insight into a person’s mind. How I wish I had encouraged my own mother to keep a journal as it would have kept a part of her alive for me. And re-reading my own journal is an eye opener as to how much I have changed over time.
Barb Swenson, 77, of Ft. Lauderdale, has the most extensive set of journals that I’ve ever seen. She’s kept them religiously since high school in the 60s, and they would be a historian’s dream if she hadn’t already vowed to leave them to her grandchildren: filled with greeting cards, ticket stubs, sample restaurant menus, receipts for items purchased, letters, photos.
With each daily entry hand written, this treasure trove of thoughts, feelings, wishes, desires and reflections offers an insightful look to economic changes, fashions, personal growth, books read and relationships examined. Best of all, when she and her mother demonstrated Norwegian cooking techniques on the National Mall during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1974, her journal contained that year’s award-winning recipe, a superb tribute to her mother’s cooking skills.
When she enrolled a few years ago in calligraphy classes at the Bonnet House Museum in Ft. Lauderdale, her hand-written entries began to exhibit the pain-staking attention to her personal design and execution of lettering, and the entries grew to look like Medieval script. It’s no wonder then that her family considers all those volumes the most precious inheritance she could leave them.
Therefore, not surprisingly, in these times of confinement, anxiety, uncertainty, COVID and economic upheaval, even the University of Rochester Medical Center now recommends journaling for stress management because it provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and a way to identify negative thoughts and behaviors. It helps create order when one’s world feels like it’s in chaos and it can be so relaxing. And what a positive and inexpensive way to express oneself while improving writing skills and creating a family heirloom.
So, consider bringing the joy of journaling into your life, no matter the mode or means because it will document your existence, improve your attitude and leave a precious gift for your loved ones.