I did not consider journaling until my ninth birthday when my neighbors gave me a small, pink book with the word “diary” printed on its spine. Getting in the habit of writing was a bit spotty at first but, by the time I filled that book two years after receiving it, I was hooked.
Up until my sophomore year of high school, there were times I would fill a journal in less than a month because I hardly missed a night of writing. My homework load then hardly allowed me to maintain a skeletal outline in Google Docs, but I couldn’t stay away from putting pen to paper.
The latter half of my high school career saw several handwritten entries and much encouragement from me for others to do the same. Journaling is a fantastic way to process, but the happiest year of my life didn’t call for much of that so I fell out of the habit in the months leading up to graduation.
Four weeks into the worst heartbreak I have yet to experience, I mentioned to one of my best friends that I hadn’t journaled in a year. Her jaw dropped and she promptly encouraged me to get back in the habit, reminding me of all the benefits I had once shared with her.
What’s the big deal? Why take time to write about what’s going on in your life? There are several reasons.
#7 — Allows you to time travel
Journal entries, like pictures, are return tickets to moments otherwise gone. Reliving memories through the words of my past self is one activity I rarely fail to enjoy. I love recounts of simpler times and running into younger versions of my friends.
There was a time I could pretty much be given a date anywhere between 2015 and 2019 and—because of how often I review my detailed journal entries, photo library, and planners—share what happened that day.
Those memories never fail to be a highlight, for better or for worse. Only one friend was creeped out enough to scoot down the bench from me. 😂 Others enjoy the detailed accounts.
#6 — Improves your writing
It takes 10,000 hours to become good at something and journaling will definitely help exercise your writing skills, especially if you journal through school. From middle school on I was able to come home and directly apply the writing techniques or vocabulary I learned in class earlier that day.
From a physical standpoint, practicing your penmanship will naturally improve your handwriting. That’s one of the coolest things I love about my journals, flipping through the pages and comparing how my handwriting has changed over time.
#5 — Allows you to see communication failures
Reflecting on your day is good for a number of reasons, but a big one comes with the recollection of conversations you had. Time after time after time, thinking back on exchanges regularly causes me to realize what so-and-so was actually saying and/or how I then did not respond appropriately.
This has happened enough to change how I approach conversations to begin with. I am quicker to listen, think more, and make connections sooner than I have in the past. If you get in the habit of recording conversations word for word, you will also become a better listener.
#4 — Quiets your mind
There have been many times my thoughts have seemed like hyper-active demons running around my mind in such a blur I can’t think straight. Writing identifies each culprit and allows me to see the simplicity of what initially seemed like a stressful situation.
In a world full of anxiety and dominated by hurry sickness, slowing down to think allows you to get a handle on what can often seem overwhelming. More importantly, you need to quiet your mind to hear the Holy Spirit (the real beauty of silence).
#3 — Helps solidify what you believe
For the first ten years of my journaling career, I primarily recounted my day. After compiling the facts, I often recorded my opinions and reflected on events in a philosophical or theological manner. This additional writing allowed me to nail down precisely what I believe.
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”-Flannery O’Connor
This is the case even more so as of late, which I elaborate on in point number one.
#2 — Allows you to see the bigger picture
One of the most wonderful things about journaling is you can look back and identify patterns you couldn’t see in the details of day-to-day life. This is hugely encouraging to me as I often feel like I do not embody the growth so essential to progressive sanctification. The stark contrast between older entries and who I am today tells a different story.
Aside from character development, you get a first-hand testimony of how God has been working in your life all this time. He was with you then as He is with you now and will continue to be with you in the future (Matt 28:20b).
“I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains / And I believe I’ll see You do it again / You made a way, where there was no way / And I believe I’ll see You do it again”-Elevation Worship, “Do It Again”
#1 — Strengthens your faith
I walked through a dense and foggy wood in college as God brought me to a place where the only truths I had to hold on to were those about who He says He is and who I am because of that. Yet learning contentment with that knowledge was hard, so I journaled.
I wrote down my deepest fears, the intensity of my emotions, the numbness of losing sight of one’s identity…and how good I still felt God to be through it all. In that season where God was squeezing me, truths of His character spilled onto the pages of my journal.
“When you’re trying to learn from the Lord and you feel an impression from the Spirit, it’s important to make a note so it will not be forgotten.”-Gene Cook
Now whenever I find myself again facing darkness, I often read through those entries and am encouraged by their testimony, which in turn fuels me to continue blogging here and sharing about He’s done.