4 Benefits of Keeping a Journal

Isn’t it mysterious to begin a new journal…I can run my fingers through the fresh clean pages but I cannot guess what the writing on them will be.

–Maud Hart Lovelace

A new year. A new journal. A fresh start. I feel a tremble of excitement and a tremor of fear. Oh! the possibilities of the unknown. If you already write a journal, this will be nothing new. If you do not journal yet, let me tell you why I love it.

Journaling is healthy.

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. –Anne Frank

Scientists have found writing our thoughts speeds recovery from illness, improves heart health, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, and decreases physician visits.

But physical health benefits aside, it is increasingly important to aim for mental health. Any child knows to clean and bandage a wound. Yet I am so often unaware what to do with emotional damage. I desperately need a tangible way to process thoughts and emotions, to find the truth about myself and others. I need a way to take out the emotional trash and do the mental dirty dishes. I need a way to be quiet and reflect, to review the lessons life dishes out. Writing my thoughts on paper can be all of this.

Journaling lets me see.

There are eyes in pencils and pens. –John Piper

The sharp point of a pencil pierces the mental fog and begins to reveal the next step. The pen in hand focuses the mind and organizes the thoughts. Writing makes visible my priorities and intentions. It helps me see myself as I really am, giving me the opportunity to change. My daily writing reveals my worries, stresses and joys. Writing provides solid proof of accomplishments and problems solved. It reveals failures and struggles I have lived through.

Writing helps me see into the past, present and future. Looking back at old writings, I see patterns in our lives. I see God at work. I remember old times and people and places. I recognize progress in myself and others. For the present, I get clarity and focus for the important stuff of today. It helps me process the thoughts, emotions and events that I am currently experiencing. My thoughts must slow dramatically to keep pace with my hand as I write. This keeps me present in the moment. Writing about the future brings my goals and priorities into sharp focus. It shines a light to reveal the next step to take.

Journaling is free therapy.

There is always a sheet of paper. There is always a pen. There is always a way out. –H. L. Mencken

No special skills are needed to reap the benefits of writing. You may have read the title and dismissed this idea with the comment, “I’m not a writer.” Let me assure you, journaling is not “writing”. Journaling is putting the contents of my brain on paper. It is private. I see the best and the worst of myself in black and white. My shortcomings make regular appearances. Until I admit these things to myself, there is no way to grow beyond them.

By expressing my drama on the page, I am usually able to diffuse it without hurting anyone else. Often, by the end of a writing session, I come to a softer stance on the whole situation. A notebook is a safe place to dump negative thoughts and emotions so they don’t contaminate those around us.

Sometimes I see a pattern as I write about what God is teaching me. Sometimes I pray on paper. Sometimes I try to express what God may be trying to tell me. At the very least, I will have a record of his marvelous works in my own life.

Writing brings my thoughts captive to Christ. When these nebulous thoughts in my head are made clear on paper, I can examine them and see if they are true or not. I can be corrected or reassured.

Journaling makes me smarter (maybe).

Writing is thinking. If you cannot write clearly, you cannot think clearly. –Andrew Pudewa

Many smart and useful people throughout history kept journals. Anyone can join their ranks, even you and me! Journal writing is a keystone habit, meaning other good habits can be built off of it or will benefit from it. Human brains naturally come up with new ideas daily, but they are often lost in the sheer volume of stuff we deal with. Journaling is a good way to capture those bits of genius and maybe even give them a chance to be put to use.

Actually, I don’t have a clue what you will find out by writing in a journal. This is just a few of the ways journaling has helped me. But I am sure the benefits will be positive and will increase like compound interest the longer you and I keep writing.


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