Why You Should Keep a Journal

Lifestyle Productivity

In another post, I wrote about various methods of keeping a journal. But that article didn’t answer the basic question – why should you consider keeping a journal in the first place?

The internet is full of lists detailing the reasons for journaling. This is mine.

Remember the Past

This is my number one reason for keeping a journal. As I noted in my previous post, I use a computer app called DayOne. It has a great feature called On This Day, which displays all of your previous entries on a specific day of the year.

I check my On This Day list every morning. It reconnects me with what I was doing – what I was thinking about on today’s date in years past. I find it to be interesting but also reaffirming about progress I’ve made.

Likewise, recording events contemporaneously helps you remember important events and decisions. It can also serve as a reminder of those who have influenced your life – who have helped to make you the person you are now.

By recording the good and the bad, journaling can also help us avoid past mistakes.

Reflection and Introspection

I mentioned contemporaneous writing, and it is important to make note of our feelings ‘in the moment.’ By looking inside ourselves and reflecting on how we addressed the challenges and rewards of a given day, we can be moved to become a more compassionate – a better – person.

“Who am I today?” is an important part of recording our life, for it becomes “Who was I on that day?” when we look back at prior entries.

Thus, we can see the evolution of ourselves – how our attitudes have changed or remained the same. We can also reflect on how our view of the world around us and, indeed, our view of the worth of ourselves has progressed.

Explore Our Thoughts

By recording our thoughts as we move through the day, we provide a platform for future reflection. Our thoughts may be irrelevent in the future – but just as likely, they might become inspirational or educational upon reflection.

We never know how reflecting on past thoughts will shape our future. But if they aren’t recorded, they certainly will never provide any future value.

Record Interactions with Others

I mentioned making a record of those who have influenced us. But often, we may not know how much impact another person may have on us until much later. Noting interactions with others, their impact on our lives – positive or negative – may become clear with time.

This is an area where I have been remiss in the past. As I read my old journals, particularly those related to work, I find that my notations about my interactions with others lack clarity. 

I’m sure that the brief note I made at the time served to remind me of the full event a few weeks or months later. But more than 20 years later, I find many of those notations useless for recalling details of events – some of them important in my life.

Improve Writing Skills

The world today no longer values penmanship in the way it was respected five or six decades ago. But skill in crafting the written word, whether with a pen or a computer keyboard, remains valuable in almost everyone’s life

Like any skill, it must be continually practiced to reinforce good techniques and remedy poor ones. Keeping a daily journal means that, no matter what else happens in our day, we have a regular dose of applying the writing craft.

A ‘Real World’ Example

March 2020 did not just bring winds of change – it brought a virtual hurricane. Within a matter of days, most human interaction was deemed unsafe. People were dying after exposure to tiny strands of genetic material contained within an organic particle less than 120 nanometers in diameter1.

Disinfectant sprays and hand wipes flew off store shelves. Food supplies dwindled under the crush of panic buying. People were ordered to remain at home – with contact limited to members of their own households. 

With few exceptions – emergency service workers, medical personnel, and food store employees – unemployment became the order of the day. Fourteen million people lost their jobs in a three month period from March to May. This increase in unemployment surpassed the Recession of 2007-2010 and rivaled the numbers seen in the Great Depression of the 1930s2.

Even those who maintained employment were forced to completely change the way ‘work’ was accomplished. We went from working in an office interacting with many other people one day to connecting only by virtual meetings the next.

Such a momentous circumstance may happen only once in a lifetime.

But history tells us that we, as a people, will survive this. And for those of us who were fortunate enough to be part of the majority who survived the pandemic, a well-kept journal provides an invaluable look at how we confronted the microscopic enemy and the personal chaos it wrought.

What are your thoughts about keeping a journal? Do you regularly record your thoughts and actions, even if no one but you will ever read them?

Tell me about your experiences in the comments.

  1. In comparison, the average human hair is 80,000-100,000 nanometers in diameter.
  2. Kochhar, Rakesh. “Unemployment Rose Higher in Three Months of COVID-19 than It Did in Two Years of the Great Recession.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 26 Aug. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/06/11/unemployment-rose-higher-in-three-months-of-covid-19-than-it-did-in-two-years-of-the-great-recession/.