Start your journaling journey today! Do you see it? I know you see it. But you may not want to consciously admit that you see it.
Can we agree that life is a journey? Can we agree that happiness is not a destination but also a journey? And, success too?
Journaling your journey is a means to record events, thoughts, and emotions. It offers an opportunity to return to a past moment and reflect on your recorded memories. Journaling is a means of recording progress. And that is what we want, right? To make progress. Don’t be that way. I could feel the cynicism, negativity, and sarcasm of your future selves reading this as I type it in the present. Trust the process!
Journaling is not just another task. Journaling as a means of recording what happened and how you felt about it is as essential as keeping a calendar/planner/schedule/appointment book. Btw, if you aren’t keeping a calendar/planner/schedule/appointment book we need to talk about that too. Why not? Do you not care how you are going to be spending your time? You do realize that time is something we never get back, right? In the wise words of Katy Perry (Don’t scoff.), “…I only got this life, and I ain’t got the time, no, not to get it right…” from the song Witness. Or if Katy isn’t to your liking, how about Pink Floyd? These are lyrics from Time, “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, you fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way…You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today, and then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun…” I am telling you that you have only one life, you have to get it right; you do not have time to kill today; now is your time to run; if you think you missed your starting gun, I just fired it for you. “Run, Forest! Run!”
Seriously, if you take some time to plan your year, month, week, and day, you will find a lot more time to utilize. Take time to journal too. If you haven’t journaled before, you may find ten minutes seems like an eternity and you only have a couple of sentences to show for it. Conversely, you may find that you have barely gotten started at ten minutes and you have written two pages. Journaling, like everything you focus on in your life, will become refined and produce better results. You will write more or less as you come to understand what events, thoughts, and emotions should be recorded because just as a couple of sentences are probably not sufficient to sum up your day, neither are several pages generally efficient to reflect upon – though there are occasionally life defining days that may require a couple of pages; maybe the death of a loved one, the birth of a loved one, a marriage, a shift in your ideas, etc.
I blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram nearly every day. While these are a kind of journaling, they are not what this blog is about. I am talking about private journaling, where you can be completely raw and honest with yourself. If you haven’t read all of my posts here, you will have missed the occasions where I talk about our prodigious ability to lie to ourselves. We are masters at lying to ourselves. Don’t believe me? Google the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Everyone has lied to themselves and most people are still lying to themselves. In my case, I know it is easier to lie to myself than to tell myself the truth. Why? The truth will set you free, but not until it has pissed you off. I am paraphrasing Orrin Woodward. I think he says something like, the truth will set you free, but not until it has made you mad. It is about comfort. I lie to myself so I don’t feel uncomfortable. If I feel uncomfortable, I’ll have to change. Who wants to change? Well, me now and you do too! I know because you have read this far. If you didn’t want to change, you’d have left this post already!
Alright, we have agreed that we are going to journal because it is a means of measuring progress. I have some specific areas I want to measure. Curiously (not really), these areas coincide with the eight Fs of Life Leadership – Faith, Family, Finances, Fitness, Following, Freedom, Friends, and Fun. I do not journal about each area every day, nor do I keep eight separate journals. I do keep 3 separate journals though. I specifically keep a Faith journal and a Fitness journal, then I keep another journal to record events, thoughts, and emotions in the other 6 areas. Sometimes my journals have overlap when an event encompasses more than one area, and not every area is journaled about everyday.
So we are journaling, that’s the Do It! The longer we do it, the better we will do it. So journal every day. Be raw and honest with yourself. Don’t be H.P. Lovecraft level vague. But don’t be Anne Rice level detailed either. The longer you do it, the more like Goldilocks you will become. Start with one journal, that may be all you ever need. But, you may come to find separate journals work better for you in some areas.
We now have Do It and Do It Better covered. Now, this is important! How Not to Do It! Do not spend too much time dwelling on negative events, thoughts, or emotions. The key here is too much time. Do not lie to yourself! A trap that we can fall into is ranting in our journals. Journals are not a place for ranting. Therapy is a place for ranting. We fall into this trap because we lie to ourselves. We start to journal about a negative event and then to justify our negative emotions and to convince ourselves of our innocence we end up lying. We over exaggerate the “harm” done to us, the “guilt” of others, and our “innocence.” We do this to make ourselves feel better, but what it actually does is makes us feel worse about the others involved than we should. Be honest, no one is completely at fault or completely innocent. It is part of the human condition, we do, in fact, contribute to the bad things that happen to us, we are never 100% blameless. We might very well be mostly blameless in a given event, but mostly still means we had a part to play in it. Sometimes, at the other end of the spectrum, because we occasionally like to play the martyr, we accept all the blame, that is no less unhealthy. So, again, be honest!
If you are interested in seeing the specifics of scientific studies on the benefits of journaling both for mental and physical health, all you have to do is Google “studies on the benefits of journaling” and you will have a plethora of choices to read from. It is my experience that when I journal, I move forward, and when I don’t, I don’t. Happy journaling!