The benefits of journaling have become a point of discussion for those looking to improve their mental health and have a form of relaxation and internal reflection. Journaling has also gained popularity recently for its association with the improved achievement of personal goals and good habit forming.
The beauty of journaling is anyone can do it, and it’s completely unique to each individual. You have nothing to lose by giving it a try.
What did I journal?
In Canada I kept a journal for 3 months over the summer of 2021 and was extremely glad I did so. In the three months within my diary I moved house from Whistler to Vancouver Island, I converted a van, lived out of my van and went car camping, did a 10-day hike on the Sunshine Coast. I surfed in Tofino, did multiple day hikes and over-night hikes. Camped on the beach on my way to a lighthouse, boated to a hidden cabin in the woods and did a 3-day canoe portaging trip. Looking back through the pages of the journal are fond memories of skateboarding, sunsets, sunrises, sleeping in tents, hiking to glaciers, swimming in freezing water, camping under the stars. Going to a party on a farm. Fruit picking cherries, trimming vineyards.
Keeping the journal has made these memories relivable whenever I wish, and fleeting funny moments I would have forgot otherwise are immortalised. For that I’m grateful.
What I gained from journaling
Keeping a journal did actually improve my overall mood, but it was a subtle transition. I eventually noticed I felt less stressed over little things and I felt more like I was un-affected by negativity. When I journaled I felt more like an ‘observer’ witnessing things rather than someone experiencing them. I would recommend that to get this feeling of relief, you should try journal for a minimum of 30 days straight.
Journaling made me feel less emotionally attached from events, as if writing them down finalised them in my mind. If something slightly negative happened, it felt like it was “done” or “over” once it made its way into the journal. So each day was a new day.
Structure and routine:
Writing in my journal became a nightly routine I looked forward to. Having the structure of journaling daily felt like healthy to commitment to something for myself. It began to feel like personal time. Time I didn’t touch my phone, think about anything or anyone, and just focused on my day. Reflecting back on the funny and amazing moments of the day was a nice way to unwind before sleep.
Journaling gave me a better timeline of events. I would be able to talk about certain days in chronological order. I was also able to more accurately know what day of the week it was and I always knew the date.
Journaling certainly helped my memory. After I wrote down each day I was able to recall each day in far better detail and in far better time-line.
Was daily journaling easy?
The answer was both yes and no. Having a routine was key, and not viewing each day’s journaling as ‘work’ meant I was seeing each day as an opportunity to unwind. Set yourself an alarm on your phone at 9pm and when it goes off, do your journal entry.
At times, I was writing under a headlight hanging from my tent into my diary, so I switched to writing into notes on my phone. If I did ever miss a days entry, I would promptly write dot-points in my phone the next morning and do a re-cap the following night.
Biggest achievement or take away
After I finished my summer journal I had the idea to turn a portion of the diary into an eBook. I managed to achieve this while I was in isolation in a 2week quarantine when I flew home to Australia. Over the course of 5 days while in the hotel room in isolation, I typed up, edited and publishes a 25,000-word book called “Summerland”
Do I still journal?
Yes, in notes on my phone. But I do not journal daily sadly. I just journal big events or memorable weekends or adventures.
Would I recommend journaling?
Absolutely, you have nothing to lose and lots to gain.
Evidence of journaling
Studies show that journaling can help reduce stress, encourages achievement of personal goals, improves mood, cultivates mindfulness and forms good habits.
- I would say that keeping a journal should be something you do for yourself, not for someone else.
- Make it a practice like “having a coffee” that you set aside some time to get it done.
- Don’t see journaling as a hard task, it may only have to be 5 minutes.