Everyone has that childhood embarrassing story that their parents love to bring up at any moment. Mine is leaving a piece of paper on my parents' pillow with ‘I hat you’ on it - not knowing how to spell hate - aged five. Seemingly, I’ve always just been better at communicating my feelings through writing, rather than in person.
Even now, I'd far rather send someone a love note then tell them in person. Some people may say this is hiding behind words, but really it is immortalising feelings. See, words can be read at any time and they can be shared. Words are proof of intent and thought.
My life can be seen through paper. The earlier years with school photos and certificates and my parents' memories. The teenage and twenties with journals and scrapbooks. The journals start at fifteen and are still going now. Topics range from boy drama to my most intense depressive episodes. I write the good, the bad, and the very embarrassing.
My journals keep me accountable and self-aware. I have a record of destructive behaviour and the consequences of it. I record what I want in life, and what I don’t. I can easily trace through why I am feeling the way that I do.
It seems that more and more people are coming to realise this. Social media serves as an online diary; pictures, thoughts, conversations which we can always refer to. However, social media has more darkness than a diary ever could. Online we can compare our ‘diaries’ to everyone elses. We can perceive an individual's happiness and actively compare our own. Comparison, publicity and duplicity are all things that should be avoided in a diary though. Journals are unfiltered, authentic and private. They are the physical form of your brain's inner workings, which should never be up for grabs. Just as your body is a temple, your mind is too.
That is not to say you should be entirely private on social media, just be wary of giving people more information about yourself, than you know of them.
Why have a journal?
Regularly checking in with yourself is always a good thing. Especially when it is purely for you, and not to share. Life is so hectic, one long emotional rollercoaster, so regularly seeing where you are at and what has made you feel this way, is a great place to start. Also, if in the future you are looking at going to counselling or therapy a journal will help you discover a number of topics you want to discuss.
How to start
Find a notebook and pen you have lying around, write the date, and then ‘Hello future me, this is an unfiltered account of my life. At the moment I am feeling ….’. Be honest, be open, be reflective. But mostly, just write. The whole point is that it is unfiltered. Nothing that you write in there is wrong.
Write it for your future self
I have always found the concept of writing it for a ‘future me’ motivates me far more to do it. I do love looking back at my past diaries, and I’m sure my future self will too of this one. Writing for your future self mainly gives you a focus of why you’re writing, and someone to write it to. Making the whole process less daunting. However, it definitely has more benefits for my mental health in the present.
Find a schedule that works for you
As with all routines, this needs to be right for you. I typically write at night, usually when I can’t sleep. Sometimes I’ll write multiple entries on a day, sometimes none. Having been journaling for about four years now I know when it feels right to write, it’s now so ingrained in my schedule that I don’t consciously have to make an effort to do it, and you will get to that point too. However, for now, just pick morning, afternoon, or night; and then: seven days a week, five days a week, or three days a week.
Don't take it too seriously
Ultimately, keeping a journal is fun. Talking about the dramas happening in your life, your latest impulse, and who you like, is fun. Avoid seeing it as a chore, and more like catching up with a friend (who you tell everything to). Enjoy the journey of personal growth.