When I was younger, journaling simply meant jotting down events that took place throughout the day and how they made me feel. As I grew up and experienced more, this process evolved into my go-to place for venting. Looking back from where I am now with this practice, I’ve also learned that it is a form of self-exploration and a test of how honest I can be with myself.

So why journal?

When journaling, I ask myself questions – the hard ones. Then, as I begin to search for an answer and unravel my thoughts, I sometimes end up lecturing myself. Basically, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on my thought process. So many thoughts go through our minds that it’s impossible to keep track of them all. As a result, some thoughts develop further without our awareness, and the next thing we know we’ve somehow arrived at a conclusion – conclusions that most times really hurt us. For example, if I concluded that I am incompetent at something, I will feel disappointed and even get mad at myself for being that way. But, as soon as I journal I realize that exaggerated end thought may have been reached without solid ground, and was just the progression of thoughts without my recognition. Most times, my thought process is so absurd that it’s very easy to negate. Thanks to journaling, I’ve started to notice more and more of my thoughts. This allowed me to catch the dangerous ones before they spiraled out of control.

Journaling made me a more rational thinker and helped me get rid of a lot of problems and worries, and if you have less of these, you will most likely be happier.

I am, however, very well aware of the fact that life presents us with never ending sets of problems, big and small, and this really cannot be stopped. The key, however, is finding joy within the chaos, looking beyond the troubles, and learning to live with problems comfortably.

To me, journaling has two purposes regarding this:

  1. First is that I have a method to turn to if all else fails. If I really can’t seem to get past a worry or problem, I will just journal about it and immediately feel better. In most situations, I find answers and what exactly it is that’s bothering me. This process is a series of digging deeper within ourselves, and we achieve this by asking “Why?” It’s comforting to know that there’s at least one method of dealing with our problems that is guaranteed to make us feel better.
  2. When I journal, I learn about myself and my surroundings, and from this I find clarity. If we think of our perspective as a camera and our circumstances as the image being projected, I learn to blur out areas that don’t matter and put focus on the issues that do. This is a great method of finding joy within the chaos.

But keep in mind, if you really want to reap the benefits of journaling, you have to take it upon yourself to be genuine and honest. It is almost like an intimate conversation you have with yourself. To make it worthwhile, you have to write down your thoughts no matter how stupid it may seem.

It is a courageous act, a form of bravery

Most times, you will end up writing about what’s bothering you, but real journaling goes doesn’t start there. It starts when you ask the tough questions and genuinely look for the answer within yourself. This by itself is a form of bravery: the willingness to find the answer and put it down on paper regardless of what it may be.

Then comes the unwanted thoughts and feelings flooding in as you acknowledge their existence. You’re allowing yourself to welcome all of them without filtration and without pushing them to the back of your mind. Upon acknowledgement, comes the exploration. Why did you feel that way? Most of the time you will know the answer, but the difficulty comes in writing it out on paper. Sometimes it’s too embarrassing, like admitting your ugly side bit by bit.  But journaling means you are willing to admit what you don’t want to and you address them even if they would be easier to ignore.

So why does it feel so good to bring in these ‘unwanted’ thoughts to the forefront of our minds?

It’s not just the unwanted thoughts that bothered you, it’s also the act of repeatedly pushing them away. Because the more you try to get rid of them, the more they occupy our minds.

Most of us divide thoughts into two different piles: the “ignore” pile and the “address” pile.  The problem is of course with the “ignore pile.” When you leave that pile alone for too long without replacing those thoughts to the other pile by addressing them, problems arise. With journaling, the ignored pile is put into the forefront of your mind and can be addressed. The sense of freedom and lightness you feel after writing it all out just feels so good!