In case you’re wondering – that’s pulled directly from my journal entry dated August 30, 2000.
I have the wonderful fortune to be part of a family that writes. I watched my grandmother and mother write in their daily journals growing up. My grandfather carried a small notebook to keep his thoughts in. It stayed in his shirt pocket along with a small pencil kept sharp with his pocket knife. I still prefer to write in pencil, sharpened with my knife. However, for more permanent thoughts I’ve transferred to pens. Even this post was first written in a dedicated journal.
So why do we journal? Why has it become so popular again? And what does it have to do with personal growth? I’m so glad you asked.
I’m actually going to answer these backwards.
Keeping a journal and writing your thoughts can help with your mental health according to current studies. How? It allows us to track our feelings, emotions, frustrations, triggers, and stress factors. I personally keep track of habits I want to change, meditations, day to day happenings, victories, failures, and I also write short “poems”. Some people keep depression and anxiety journals that record not only their feelings, but also the reminders and encouragements to not give up. I keep something like that in the first page of my current journal.
It’s not overly fancy. But it keeps me encouraged to write, to pursue my coaching certification, and to keep working on my own inner growth.
By writing our feelings, thoughts, triumphs, struggles, joys, and other particles of self we begin to get a clear picture of who we are – the parts we like, and the parts we may not like as well. Over time the map to our inner cosmos becomes clear. We hold a map to our mind and emotions, and maybe even our spiritual bodies. It becomes an invaluable tool for inner change and transformation.
Journaling has been a practice for centuries. We can even argue that the ancient cave painting throughout the world can be considered a form of journaling. The pictures depict hunting, animals, and even religious life for ancient people. It may be a crude form of recording, but I’ll never be convinced that those paintings didn’t hold great emotions for the men and women going through the trouble of making paint to record their thoughts. An argument can be made that journaling has always been popular.
Growing up and in my twenties I read several famous journals including The Diary of Anne Frank , Walden , The Origin of Species , and the poetry of Emily Dickinson (hey its chronicles her inner life). These works not only inspired me to explore the world, they have inspired others to explore both inner and outer worlds.
However, it was not until the nineteen seventies and eighties that journaling for personal growth and inner work became a thing. Thanks to Christina Baldwin’s classic One to One and well known therapist Kathleen Adams journaling for inner growth has become a mainstay in Western culture’s self-improvement and mental health tool box. By the way – check out One to One. There’s a reason it’s still in print after forty years. It was actually my first introduction to journaling for growth when I was a religion major twenty years ago!
So why do we journal? What keeps us coming back to recording our lives? We are human. As a species we needed to record our lives eons ago. We still feel that need for self expression now. Be it ground breaking scientific theories, philosophical flights, poetry that touches our heart, or a simple bullet list of today’s events, we as humans have the need to explore the universe from the smallest particle to the expanding cosmos. Journaling is simply part of the mystery that is the human soul exploring the mystery of life’s journey.
Join me for the upcoming posts:
Thursday 8/15 – Podcast: Disagreements in Relationships.
Friday 8/16 – New series: One Hour – Self Care for Real Life
Be well and at peace,