Posted on 28 March 2019
It can be difficult to know ourselves in the vast digital world we live in today. We are constantly consuming information, moving and changing as our environment demands. In this fluidity, direction and meaning can become convoluted as each day pulls us this way and that. However, there is a simple practice anyone can do that helps alleviate this issue. That practice is journaling.
Journaling is near and dear to my heart as I began doing it at the behest of an Art of Manliness piece. The article outlines that many a famous person has kept a journal and that there are several benefits to sticking to it as a hobby. So, in the interest of furthering a message that cannot be stressed enough let’s take a closer look at some of the positive effects of keeping a journal.
Importantly, a journal provides you with a judgement free area in which to explore your life. You can write on anything and discuss any issue without fear of external reprisal. This alone makes journaling worth looking into. It is a great way to crystalize your thoughts on problems and creates a space you can exercise your decision-making skills. You are the only constant in your own life and so it is invaluable to be able to develop a proper and respectful relationship with your mind. Additionally, by writing down what you are grappling with brings the issue into the physical world. It is no longer an ephemeral thought, or vague stress, it is now a list and can be more easily dealt with. It comes as no surprise then that Michigan State University has put together a piece detailing all the stress relieving properties of journaling.
Additionally, a journal provides an informative narrative within which we can place our lives. As mentioned previously, we can get lost in our lives and forget the lessons that life’s long experience has taught us. A journal, especially one regularly kept, provides a window into our past selves of shocking clarity. It becomes a written testament to our failures, successes and lessons learnt and relearnt. I, myself, have referred to old journals and found out I was battling the same issues, in the present, that I had been years before. It provides a sobering reminder that without self-reflection our brief time can be spent stuck in loops of behaviours we are not aware of. This ‘encyclopedia of you’ can be used to reorientate yourself, alight old sparks and provide the motivation needed to stay on (or change) the path we have chosen.
These benefits are made all the better by the fact that journaling is a cheap and easy hobby to get involved with. All that’s needed is some sort of word processing device. This can be the humble pen and paper or the mighty Word on a computer. Personally, I find buying a high-quality notebook adds to the experience but there’s nothing stopping you from going so far as to make your journal an online blog! There is no limit on the amount to be written in a journal or a directive on the content included but, there are certain types of journaling that produce certain outcomes.
For instance, this article from verywellmind outlines that journaling is effective at reducing stress when you treat the journal as a therapy or brainstorming session with yourself. If you are more interested in capturing the lessons you learnt throughout the day you might wish to write these down at the end of each day when they are still fresh. Such lessons can then be referred to in order to improve learning and remind yourself of the obstacles you have overcome. This is similar to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations which details a number of practical and philosophical issues that the great philosopher-emperor was processing. This included, quite famously, struggling to get out of bed. For those of you focused on cultivating positive energy, or just staying humble, a gratitude journal may be more for you. This involves, as the name suggests, detailing all that you felt gratitude for throughout the day. Your energy thus becomes focused on the positive aspects of your life and brings them to the forefront of your mind. Alternatively, you can use a mix of styles to capture everything from your day to day routines to the fundamental questions of life you are trying to answer. There are a million ways to journal but what is important is that you are consistent in your action and patient in waiting for the results.
Do yourself a favour and spend 15 minutes a day capturing the magic and story of your own life. It’s a great gift from the present to your future self.
Get writing gentlemen!
By Gabriel Segal.
Gabriel is currently completing a double degree in international studies and finance. He takes great interest in what history and contemporary experience can teach us about living a full life.