Keep a journal; your future self will thank you

 

I’ve been keeping a journal for more than five years. I wouldn’t say that I’ve written in it every single day, but aside from some seriously busy periods in my life (usually involving travels) I usually can average almost every day.

I love what a journal does for me. And I’m not just talking about the process, the zen-like offloading of whatever happens to be on my mind at the time. That is satisfying, of course, especially after a day that’s been particularly eventful. But there are many practical benefits to keeping a journal as well:

You will gain a +5 memory bonus

We can only keep so much in our brains, and most non-essential information will eventually just float away, to be replaced by more salient thoughts. But being able to inhabit the minutiae of your thoughts from a previous time can be incredibly useful.

Think about the quotidian answers to these questions? “Where did we go the last time we met up?” “What was the name of the person I met at that event?” “Did I meet his wife? What was her name?” And so forth. You may not be able to keep all of this in mind, and that’s fine. The difference is that now you don’t have to remember, but you can look it up. This is awesome, and I had no idea that I would have this benefit when I started journaling.

It really does feel like a super power. I can now “remember” crazily specific details from a long time ago, just by looking things up in my journal.

You will free more space in your brain

Related to the above is that once you’ve offloaded whatever you want to write about onto your journal, you no longer have to keep it in mind. You can forget, whether it’s “extraneous” details or the feelings that go along with your travails. And once it’s down, you no longer have the same need to carry it around inside you. This is as much practical as it is emotional. You will feel lighter.

You will learn so much about yourself

Over time, as you continue with this project, you will have an almost magical ability to go back and time and commune with previous versions of yourself. If you’re going through a certain life event that you know you’ve gone through before, it can be comforting to go back and read how you handled it in the past.

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Actually, it can be good to go back and read about anything you did in the past. Usually, you will see how far you’ve come in your own development, and develop a greater sense of satisfaction at where you are in your own life now.

Your own previous selves can feel like friends, familiar but estranged, and it can feel good to reconnect.

You will get better at writing

You may not think this is relevant to you, but no matter what vocation you’re in, you could probably benefit from improved writing skills. Just by doing it every day, or almost every day, you will improve, both in your command of words, and in your ability to produce them.

You will gain confidence

I truly believe that there are benefits to tenacity. Being able to say that I have a record of my life for the past five years, no matter how incomplete, feels satisfying. When I look back at the body of work I’ve produced (at even 250 words a day, we’re still talking about a half a million words), it feels like a great accomplishment.

Even better, this is something I don’t need external validation to get satisfaction from. I did this. What else can I do?

If you’ve been feeling full of thoughts to the point where your life feels “heavy”, or even if you’d just like a meditative activity, I highly recommend trying your hand at journaling. Best part: you can’t fail at it, no matter how you do it.

And then, later on, when you’re able to reread your entries, you can thank your past selves for all the effort they’ve put in.

But enough about me. Have you experienced the benefits of journaling?

One Comment

  1. mpinard

    Totally up my alley! Although my M.O. is to write more on travels, rather than less, in the journal, because I’m freed up from other writing commitments. Ha! Great reasons. I wrote a couple posts about benefits of journaling a while back: http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/bid/80209/Traveling-Remember-to-Pack-Your-Personal-Journal and http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/bid/79961/Personal-Journaling-Makes-for-Better-Decisions 🙂

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