Keeping a Journal

I remember seeing a joke somewhere that a therapist’s go-to response for clients sharing any sort of life challenge is, “Have you tried journaling?” And here I am now, asking you (as a not-yet-licensed therapist but also as a pal)…have you tried journaling?

Keeping a journal has helped me in so many ways at different stages in my life. When I was a kid, it made me feel safe. I grew up with 6 million sisters (or: five) and having a journal was a comforting way to keep my private thoughts private. I wrote about how annoying my sisters were, how much I wanted to couple-skate with Cam at our school’s annual roller skating party, and shared all my secret embarrassing desires (like how I was excited to get my period one day. Can you imagine??).

In high school, on good days, my journal was a place to gush about every miniscule detail of every insignificant interaction I had with my crush. It was a place to spend way too much time sitting in the warm fuzzy feeling of interpreting the complexities of the way he said “See you later,” a place to dream about all the laters we could have together if everything went how I wanted. And my journal, on bad days, was ready and willing to be marked up with swear words and tear stains in accounts of an unpredictable life with an alcoholic parent. In a time of chaos, it was my rock – never judging, never prying.

My journal in college focused on dreams and wishes for the future. I wrote about my academic goals and daydreamed about creative pursuits that I promised I would get to someday (side note: I’d been slowly writing and planning for this blog for about a year before going live with it!). And now, post-college and post-grad school, my journal serves as a mechanism for my own personal exploration. The focus isn’t just on my dreams for the future, but also on how to better understand myself in the present. I write about events that shake me up and tease out the emotions behind it, exploring why these feelings showed up.

And on top of it all, I’ve noticed the awesome, awesome benefits of taking the time to be quiet, be present, and handwrite. I don’t think I’m over-the-top addicted to technology, but I will admit that I have been horrified at how quickly I instinctually pick up my phone to check Twitter after committing to writing. I didn’t even realize how much I needed to get away from my phone, computer, and TV until I noticed how hard it was to do. Journaling helps me disconnect and spend some time with myself. When was the last time you really did that? 

So again, I ask you: Have you tried journaling? I came up with a few journaling topics – why not try it out?