Why Writing In A Journal Is Important

the next four journals

Image by paperbackwriter via Flickr

Last year I was challenged to keep a journal of thankfulness. I thought this was an odd challenge but one I took on.

For a full year, I wrote a journal entry every day. Each entry was regarding my thankfulness for my wife.

I reached the one year mark on November 26th, 20111.

Throughout the year, I looked back upon the days I wrote in the journal.

I wrote in my journal many things this past year. Two major events happened to my wife this year. They were the severe injury to her ankle and her quitting her job.

It is amazing the things that you forget happened. In the journal I wrote about the talks I enjoyed with my wife, the events we enjoyed together, and her attributes that I was thankful for.

You also notice trends in your life.

I noticed the activities I was most thankful for, the type of attention I most appreciated, and what made me happy.

This is an activity I will continue pursuing. It is an activity I encourage all leaders to do.

After the writer’s death, reading his journal is like receiving a long letter.
— Jean Cocteau

Writing in a journal provides great benefits.

  • You have a written record of your activities
    Writing about your day in a journal helps you keep the memories you formed. While reviewing the journal I wrote, I found many things I did not remember. They were significant moments but moments that passed from my memory. It is a great way to see where you came from.
  • You can leave it to loved ones
    When you die, you can leave a written account of your life. Your journal contains your knowledge, your trials, your triumphs. Your family members will appreciate seeing the life of their father, brother, or son through your eyes. I feel it is one of the greatest things a person could leave for their loved ones.
  • You improve your mental health
    Taking time to write in your journal can help relieve the stress of the day. Writing out the stressful events and situations helps you define the situations that are troubling. With the stressful situations defined, you can now act on resolving them.

Starting a journal is the most difficult part of the journey. It is a habit you must form. Once the habit is formed, it is easy to keep it.

Here are five suggestions on how to start writing in a journal:

  1. Buy a journal
    There is a journal design for every person. Go to the local bookstore and purchase the one that looks like it fits your personality.
  2. Find a place that is comfortable
    Search out a place that you feel is conducive to writing. Ideally it will be quiet and free of distractions.
  3. Schedule a time to write
    When you schedule in time to write, you make it a priority. Find a time that works and stick to it.
  4. Begin writing
    Now is the time to start writing. Write down whatever comes to your mind. Did you have a particularly stressful day? Did your dog do something funny? Did you accomplish a goal? These are just a few of the things that are worth writing a journal entry for.
  5. Review
    Take time to review your journal. During the review time you will discover many things about your life that you either forgot or did not know. You may laugh, cry, or feel regret. You will also learn more about yourself than you could imagine.

This is not a pen, it is a prayer, one must have com­pas­sion for that.
— Anne Frank

Question: Do you journal? If not, why? If you do, what have you learned about yourself from the process of writing in a journal? Please share your answers in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jeff E.

    Thanks for writing this Joe. This is something I felt I should have been doing a long time ago, but haven’t. In fact, I was recently in a small study group where someone shared about using their journal as a source of faith-boosing encouragement during difficult times. My response to that was this: “wow, I wish I had done that. I could really, really use that during this challenging period of my life. If I could offer some advice to a ‘younger person’, it would be to start that journal today, because there are times when you will need it as a source of encouragement.”

    It’s been a week since that heart-felt discussion, but I still haven’t followed my own advice. While reading this Joe, I came to a conclusion. I’m whining about not having the journal today during some difficult times, yet journaling these tough times, right now, could in fact be the best story of all. The things I am learning about myself, (some bad, some good) that I don’t ever want to forget. And how God decides to help me get through a few messes….

    Anyway, sorry about the long post here dude. It’s just that I really needed to read this today, and do something about it…for real this time. Thanks Joe!

    • Jeff, thanks for sharing bro! It’s fine you posted such a long response. It let me know that I touched someone. Especially someone that has helped me through some tough times.

      I hope you will start your journal. Just schedule in a few minutes each day and you will be knocking out journal entries before you know it.

  • I *sort of* journal…I often start my day with a free-write session. Sometimes I start from a prompt or a topic, but other times, it’s just whatever comes to mind. Lately, it’s been a lot about how I hate catching every cold and flu that goes around!

    Sometimes, what bursts from my fingers isn’t to be seen by anyone but me…raw, deep, unsafe stuff. But a lot of times, it becomes blog content or a fiction project or a ministry goal. Just gotta pray and follow….

    • Haha, yeah there are a lot of colds and flues going around. Hope they stay away from you!

  • I have journaled off and on throughout my life. I really enjoy it, I love looking back and seeing what all God has brought me through. It’s a great way to count my blessings.

    I don’t journal daily, but I try to weekly. Wish I had more time to do it daily…

    • TC, glad to hear you’re at least taking the time to journal weekly. If you want to do it daily, start with baby steps. Plan out 5 minutes where you can write something meaningful from your day. Before you know it, it will be a great, quick habit you have gained.

      • I think it is something I am going to work on for the next year, specifically I want to write down memories from watching my baby grow.

        • That would be a great idea. Looking back on your baby’s growth would probably bring back many memories. She/He may also enjoy reading it once she/he is older.

  • I journal – but not quite as frequently as I’d like. I appreciate the reminder in your post today!

    • Glad you liked the post Jon. If you want to journal more frequently, I encourage you to set aside 5-10 minutes and write away. Doesn’t have to be much, just something.

  • I love jouraling. For me, the main benefit comes from doing the writing, not necessarily going back and reading. Just having to put my thoughts into words helps make them concrete. I find the Holy Spirit bringing concepts and scriptures to my mind as I write – it’s very much like a prayer to me.

    • That is right Loren. There is something about putting your thoughts and ideas on paper/the screen. You’ve now made them real.

  • I stand convicted, and have been meaning to do this for years. My excuse has always been other writing, other duties, work, etc. You’re so right, as I work on making more personal time with God more often, I hope to include some journaling in this. My wife is a pro at this, so I hope she can “learn me” a thing or to. 🙂 Thanks for the post.

    • You’re welcome Stephen. I know you’ll be able to find time and write down at least a few thoughts every once in awhile.

  • I “sort of” journal too… I love to write with a pencil and paper, and keep a composition book but it’s not really journaling like yours. I do write a great deal of “just whatever”

    I also use Evernote, have you ever tried it Joe? Pretty useful and cool cloud-like tool that you can take anywhere.

    • Something is better than nothing Chris. Even if it “just whatever.” Getting those thoughts out of your mind and onto paper can be a great source of inspiration and well-being.

      And yes, I do use Evernote. I mentioned it in my Must-Have Firefox Extensions post – http://www.jmlalonde.com/tech-tips-series-5-must-havefirefox-browser-add-ons/ . I still haven’t gotten a great grasp on the best uses but I snag notes and webpages for future reference.

  • Bmwbear129

    As a writer, journaling is important. I wish I could be more disciplined at it. Maybe this is the year for me! Keep up the good blogging Joe!

    • I’m praying that it will be the year for you Brenda. I know there are great things in store for you, in your writing and career.

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  • I do indeed Joe!
    I thrive on it!!! It gets my crazy thoughts out of my head. Then they stop bouncing around in there and I can actually put them to good use!

    • Awesome Claudia! What do you think is the best idea you’ve gotten from journaling?

      • ohhh, I like this question Joe,…
        hmmm

        I think the best idea… or overall takeaway is that looking over my journals for the past years all the entries were the same (basically)
        I was struggling with the same things for years and years. I realized that was a boring life to live and that I was ready to write a different story 🙂

  • I really want to start this habit. Thanks for the idea and motivation.

    • The best way to start is to start. Hope you do and reap the rewards!