It’s hard to believe, but New Year’s is only 41 days away! And with New Year’s comes New Year’s resolutions.
Raise your hand if you have ever set a goal to write in a journal regularly. Ok. ‘Nuff said.
Why should we keep a journal? Here are some benefits:
- It is amusing, enjoyable, and humbling to look back on old journal entries. As I was preparing for this post, I looked back through some of my old journals. They were mostly embarrassing and gave me some good laughs J, but also filled me with me a sense of gratitude – not only for the good experiences I’ve had, but also for the hard ones. And not just gratitude that those hard experiences are over – but especially gratitude for the lessons I learned.
- Your posterity can really benefit from learning about your life! This article explains a study completed at Emory University where professors discovered that “the more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. [It] turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.” Keeping a journal is a great way to make that happen!
- Journaling can be very therapeutic! It releases stress and is a healthy way to express your emotions – fears, stresses, and successes. Writing things down certainly helps me sort through my thoughts and enables me to step back and look at things with a greater perspective, rather than just being caught up in how I’m feeling in the moment.
This article explains some other benefits of journal writing, like strengthening our self-confidence, helping us achieve goals, increasing our emotional intelligence, and improving communication skills in general.
For a lot of people, keeping a journal can be intimidating and difficult. Here are 5 different ways to approach journal keeping and help you start realizing some of its benefits:
- If it has been a long time since you have written in a journal, you may feel a need to catch up on the last 20 years! A friend of ours suggested that instead of trying to write your entire life history (an overwhelming task, indeed), start with a goal of writing about one life experience a month. At the end of the year, you will have 12 key stories from your life recorded! In five years – 60! That is a LOT! Just from writing once a month.
- Along those same lines, my husband had a schoolteacher who encouraged them to pick 100 experiences from their lives and write a news headline for each of them – descriptive enough to trigger their memories of what actually happened. Years later when he looks at that list he can still explain the stories that most of those headlines represent! This can be a great reference when you need a personal example for giving talks or lessons, or telling stories.
- Trisha and her husband share a Google doc and take turns writing in it each Sunday. She says it is a nice way to keep a record of their family, and is really doable as it only requires each of them to write twice a month.
- Years ago our grandma started putting together a family newsletter each month. Since her kids and grandkids have been spread out around the country (and even the world!), this has become a good way to keep in touch. So once a month each family e-mails her 1-2 pages of pictures and a written update on what’s going on in their lives, and then she compiles them and sends them out. Whether or not you decide to share what you write with others, recording the highlights of our month with pictures has become a great journal for us and something we will keep forever!
- I have enjoyed keeping a gratitude journal throughout the years – writing down the good things that happened in my day, or something or someone I am particularly grateful for. Not only does this accomplish keeping a record of my life, but also helps me focus on all the good things in my life, rather than focusing on the things that are difficult or hard to control. I find that it not only cheers me up while writing at night, but affects my perspective into the next day. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained:
“Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.
We can be grateful!
It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.” (source)
When we were first married my husband and I took turns writing in a gratitude journal every night. Now I do it on my own once or twice a week (usually on nights when I find myself being super cranky and not fun to be around… or when I feel like we have received too many blessings to not write them down and acknowledge them!) It really helps turn things around! And when I do it consistently, it helps me look at life in a completely different way!
Whatever approach you decide to take, remember that something is better than nothing! Think about what is reasonable for you and give it a try – you and your posterity will reap the benefits!