Question of the Day: Have you ever kept a diary or a journal? If so, for how long? Was it more of a personal memoir of your thoughts and feelings, or rather an objective account of your daily doings?
One of my New Years' Resolutions for 2011 is to "write a journal entry once a day, no matter how short it is." I've been keeping a diary for goodness knows how long...all I know is that my first diary was a little Hello Kitty notebook with colorful pages and sweet, dotted lines. When I take it out from under the dusty shelves in my closet and open it to reveal the secrets of preschool-to-Kindergarten-year-old-me, I almost can't...my handwriting is so hideous that it hurt my eyes to try and read the letters.
I'm not exactly trying to embarass myself here, even though I've obviously succeeded in doing just that. =P So why take the time to journal at all?
Reasons to Journal
1. Reminisce. Reflecting upon sweet dreams, fantasies, lessons learned, valuable experiences, and nights to remember will let you relive those memories again while you jot them down. Remember to add the who, what, where, when, and any other details that made it worth writing down. Doing so leads to increased happiness (especially if it's a *HAPPY thought*) and even helps you keep an active memory system in your brain. If you're creative in literary terms, you could even write them in a short story form in your journal to make it more interesting and write your thoughts and reflections as if they were a character's.
2. Heal. Many studies show that keeping a diary helps reduce stress. Let's say you get in a fight with your sister/brother/mom/best-friend, and you're so mad that you storm off to write about how unfair/mean/irrational/other-unpleasant-word that person is. Scribbling your contemplations down not only allows you let off steam, but you'll feel A LOT better afterwards. It gives you time to cool down, and even if you don't gain any extra insight, you'll still be more willing to look closer at the issue and work things out. Bottom line is, a personal journal isn't simply just a place where you can vent, it's an outlet of expression and emotion.
3. Record. Wouldn't you like to look back thirty years from now and, while cleaning your old dusty furniture and other outdated belongings from the couch, discover the journal you wrote in when you were twenty-four? A few days ago, I was packing up my clothes from home to bring with me to college, and found my box of old journals (yes, every single one I've ever owned!) and it was like a major...blast to the past. Whoosh! There were indeed some "oh-my-gosh"s and "I-can't-believe-I-thought that"s, and overall it was an interesting little journey into my head when I was seven, twelve, sixteen, whatever.
4) Understand. Ultimately, you know yourself better than anyone else. Who else can you tell everything to but yourself? Too often do I write down my thoughts about a particular feeling or topic that I'm skeptical or confused about and then, after jotting down random notes, I come to realize something that I otherwise would not have figured out. Journaling is ultimately about not only understanding others better, but also yourself. And when you write out your thoughts and feelings, things become clearer much more easily.
Okay! You're motivated! You're all set to begin your very own journal! So what do you grab for first at the end of the day when you want to record the happenings of your life?
Web Journal v.s. Print Journal
One wouldn't think that it matters whether you contemplate and 'fess up using an online diary like WordPress or with a simple notebook and pen. I used to be really addicted to Livejournal, and as you can see my blog sometimes acts as my journal as well. But I've used paper notebooks all my life and definitely prefer those over electronic ones. I'll provide some facts, and then leave it up to you to decide.
Web Journal: The pros of an e-log is that you can most likely type faster than you write, which means you can get all your thoughts down almost right after you are thinking them. Most online journals let you have a password along with a username, just like Blogspot, so nobody will ever be able to find your secrets! Plus, you can customize your text with cool fonts, colors, and graphics. If you wanted to do that with a notebook, you'd have to bring out colored pencils and stickers and all of that nonsense. On the other hand, however, you're more likely to lose your entries whether you write them on the Internet or on Microsoft Word. The website could go down unexpectedly, or your computer could crash. Of course, to prevent these things from happening you should always back up your files on USB drives and disks so you have multiple copies (this goes for everything, not just journal entries!)
Print Journal: What is so great about the print journal is that you're using a centuries-old method to preserve your thoughts and ideas! People have been writing stuff down for record-keeping since the time of dinosaurs (just kidding..you know what I mean). Plus, you'll be more likely to write down everything you're thinking and feeling and less likely to reach for the eraser. In other words, you'll be more inclined to confront yourself with the truths. I write with a pen because pen marks don't fade, but when I truly do mess up I just scratch it out. The bad news is that your hand will hurt more. I have a pretty big callus on my middle finger and it's gross and hard. Ick! And it's because of all that writing (and my excessive use of chopsticks for eating). Oh, and it's easier to find a diary hidden under a bed rather than a small file of journal entries embedded within a huge folder labelled Writing on a USB!
So...what do YOU think? Which type of journal do you prefer more?
Your Ultimate Journaling Guide: Part 2 will be coming up next!