Christmas Eve of 2010, I was 17 years old and in my first relationship. My boyfriend’s mother gave me a journal, as she’d heard I liked writing. While I have loved writing since I can’t remember when, I was particularly determined to fill that journal from front to back. The relationship was still new and I was desperate to make a good impression.
During my childhood I had tried to journal regularly, but I never got more than a couple days before I would forget or give up on it. When I was 17, however, I took to it with determination. I set up a specific time of day to do it (10 pm) and even came up with a format for each entry. And I found that I really enjoyed it. When I finally filled that journal front to back, I was incredibly proud of myself.
Years later, I discovered there are actually measurable benefits to keeping a regular journal. Turns out, journaling is actually healthy for you, both mind and body. I won’t list all the various studies (as they’re mostly done by psychologists and are fairly dry reads) but research has concluded that keeping a regular log of your daily life has various positive outcomes. These include…
- Improving empathy
- Improving intelligence
- Lowering stress and stress-related health issues
- Improving memory
- Assisting in attaining goals
- Improving communication skills
- Sparking creativity
- Boosting self-confidence
- Decreasing the effects of psychological trauma
- Improving vocabulary
Those are (more or less) the benefits as researched so far. But I would add one more to the list: inciting change. Or, as I like to call it, “shaming yourself into doing more with your life.” Over the nearly 6 years since that Christmas Eve I’ve spent journaling, I’ve noticed I feel very differently about writing based on what I’ve done that day. On the days where I’m writing about going out and doing things or researching things or just generally being productive and interacting with people, the journal entry just flows out unencumbered.
Contrary-wise, on the days where I have little more to write than “I spent the day on my laptop” which generally translates to “I was just playing random games and looking at funny pictures all day” writing isn’t as much fun. After a couple days of those types of entries, I suddenly find myself deciding to call up a friend to go to a movie or taking on a new writing project (speaking of which: National Novel Writing Month is coming up. SO EXCITED). Journaling is like taking a mirror to your life on a day to day basis. A great way to “check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
Now I’m not saying that everyone should become as obsessive over it as I am. So far, I’ve filled 7 journals completely and I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. But if you can manage even one entry a week, it could seriously help. And I’ve never met anyone that couldn’t use a helping hand.