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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Why Keep a Journal or Diary?

Some people can’t be bothered to keep a journal or diary.

They’re not interested in writing things down, regarding it as a waste of their time.

They’d much prefer to keep their appointments in their heads, their thoughts about their feelings to themselves and not bother themselves with maintaining an ongoing record of their lives.

There are others who see the value in keeping a journal or diary. They view it as a good way to manage their time, to reflect on how they spend their days, to monitor their emotional health and wellbeing and to plan their ongoing journey and the direction in which they’re heading.

So, why keep a diary? 

I know of several busy business people who, at one time, resisted using a diary, in either paper or digital format, instead preferring to keep everything, all their plans and appointments, in their heads. When they discovered that updating their diary took only moments and freed them from the stress of having to remember everything, they rapidly started to see it as a beneficial way to support their efficiency and manage stress.

It can be a useful exercise, at the beginning of each year to add significant dates, from birthdays to anniversaries to your diary. From then on, keeping it nearby enables new appointments and additional information can be added immediately. Notes can be made next to entries, with relevant prompts, phone numbers, addresses and key pieces of information. A well-kept diary can be an important aide memoir, assisting with better time management and supporting a busy life.

Efficiently managing time is important, especially when there’s a lot going on, so using your diary to note meetings and appointments can ensure that you apportion time as required, better able to plan well and give yourself time to travel, have food and schedule breaks in-between each entry. It can also be a valuable point of reference if bookkeeping and accounts are needed.

Using a diary can serve to motivate you and keep you on track, recording both business and personal goals; how far you’ve run, how much weight you’ve lost, how well you’re moving towards your next target. When your goals are set out in front of you, written down to see each time you log on or open your book it can motivate and inspire.

Some people like to keep mementoes in the diaries, from ticket stubs to dried flowers, programmes and menus. They serve as a sentimental record of both major and minor events, acquired over time, providing an enjoyable interlude at year end, as you’re reminded of what’s happened over the past year or years.

And how often, when flicking back through a diary, do you smile as you suddenly recall occasions that brought you joy, dates and times spent with lovely people, successes that meant so very much and special moments that you’d forgotten about. A diary is often about more than the entries it contains.

Why keep a journal? 

A journal is usually kept as a personal, in-depth record of feelings and thoughts which can be dated, like a diary, but is more often an account of how situations made you feel and your reactions to events. Some days may prompt in-depth deliberation, observation and reflection, whilst others may have less to record.

A journal can sometimes be used as an adjunct to therapy, a deeper dive into the emotions experienced, perhaps after a session; a time perhaps to reflect on things that have happened, maybe even long ago. Journal time may be about exploring the nuances and subtleties of feelings triggered, patterns that have typically been repeated.

Re-reading entries at a future date can be an interesting exercise, as insights may have been made about particular patterns of behaviour. Keeping a regular date with your journal can help you become more self-aware, perhaps even coming to smile as you reflect on how much you’ve grown over time.

Often a journal is viewed as an intensively private piece of writing, preferably being kept in a place safe away from prying eyes. Some people like to buy a quality, hard-backed notebook, maybe with a lock, to signify that it’s very special to them. Some may choose to share an entry or two, perhaps to explain themselves or to prompt a conversation, but that should be an important personal choice.

Keeping a regular appointment with your journal helps you process your thoughts and feelings. Your journal entries may, in the beginning, be a jumble of words, overwhelming and full of mixed emotions. But, over time, your thoughts will become clearer, as a better understanding evolves.

This is why it’s often best to handwrite your journal. Thoughts flow freer when you’re writing in longhand, rather than with a keyboard. Your journal can become your reliable trusty friend, your confidante in times of distress, uncertainty or even in times of great joy and happiness. It’s good to have a regular date, with your journal, a time when you’re able to open up about things you may not want or care to share with anyone else.

Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist   www.lifestyletherapy.net

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