For many (but certainly not all), writing a journal is something we want to do, or we feel we ought to do, but actually writing can be hard. Perhaps we have started journaling, but given up long before forming a habit. Or before even starting. I believe that understanding some of the benefits of journaling can help get us over the line. As the creator of Caneta, an online personal journal, I may be a bit too excited about keeping a journal, but these benefits are real, even if you don’t spend all your free time thinking about journaling.
Reflect and Process
At the end of a hard day, or a good day, or just a day, it’s good to take some time to reflect. What went well today? What went poorly? Why are you so happy, or angry, or excited, or frustrated, or sad? These are probably not subjects you want to share with the world in a social media post, but writing it all down can help you process what is happening in your life. You can be more capable of coping with hard times, and more grateful and appreciative of good times. Writing a journal gives you the opportunity every day (or week or month) to write and reflect and process. I have come to really enjoy this time, and I think I am a better person for it.
Writing can help you solidify your ideas and what you are learning. Explain something difficult to your journal and you will understand it better yourself. The best part about keeping a journal is that no topic is off limits. You can write about learning a new recipe you tried for dinner (I once tried mixing curry paste with scrambled eggs—not as good as it sounds, and it doesn’t even sound good), and you can also write about what you understand about linear algebra, or how you interpret a Tennyson poem, or what you have learned about raising children, or some new technique for cleaning a toilet. Writing about what you learn is a great way to improve your learning. And, by writing it down, you are more likely to remember it, but if you don’t…
Increase Your Memory
A journal is an amazing way to increase the capacity of your memory. The way our memories work is not completely clear to medical science (or at least to my understanding of medical science based on a fair amount of online research—at the very least, it’s not completely clear to me), but we do know that some memories fade, while others are reinforced. Writing things down can reinforce your memory, but it can also offload your memory so you don’t have to carry it around in your head. For example, I like to write down the funny things my kids say in my journal. Caneta has a “Topics” feature, which lets you mark your entries with topics. I don’t have to remember all of the funny things my kids say in my head (though some of them are hard to forget), but I can easily find them all by looking at the “quotes” topic in my journal. It makes for some entertaining reading!
One of the rewarding benefits of journal writing for me has been looking back. When I first started keeping an online journal through OhLife (a service which, sadly, no longer exists), I loved getting daily emails telling me what I had written in my journal one year earlier. My reaction was almost always, “Wow! That was a year ago?!”, but I also enjoy looking back and reliving good days and even hard days. Looking back at my life has a tendency to make me feel grateful, both for where I have been and for where I am now. One of my favorite features of Caneta is the “This Day” feature. “This Day” will show you what you wrote one week ago, one month ago, one year ago, two, three, four years ago, and so on. I can watch myself change and watch my children grow over the years as I read through past journal entries every day.
Journals are good for more than just looking back at the past. You can also write down your goals, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Writing your goals can actually help you achieve them, and a journal is a great place to write them down. One of the curious features in Caneta is that you can set the date of your entries, so you could write an entry in the future. I have tried it a few times, but I actually prefer writing my goals and how I feel about them right now, rather than setting a date I hope to accomplish the goal. Either way, writing my goals has helped me turn them into reality. The very existence of Caneta is proof of that.
In the next week or so, I will write another post about how to start writing a journal, so you can reap all these benefits. Until then, please check out Caneta.