Benefits of Writing in a Diary or Journal
When my high school English teacher required journal writing in her class, I had a big decision to make. You see, had already been writing in my diary for many years by then, and I wasn't sure I would be up to writing daily entries in two different places.
Would ignoring my diary for the duration of the class strip me of the benefits I was receiving by writing in it? The teacher assigned different prompts for her journal, while I could write whatever I wished in my diary. I didn't think I could do both, so I decided that the diary would have to wait.
As I grew older, I got out of the practice of writing in a diary, but I feel and felt the residual benefits of writing in one. I wrote in an online diary until the site closed down, and then switched to blogging.
What are the benefits of writing in a journal or diary? There are so many benefits that it is impossible to enumerate all of them for you. Here is an outline of a few of them:
Practicing Communication Skills
One of the most basic benefits about writing in a diary or journal is that you get practice writing. You learn how to move your hand to form words and, through practice, it becomes second nature. Your hands learn how to write more without getting tired.
You think about what you want to write, and commit yourself to pen and paper to write about them. Just thinking of topics is something that many writers struggle with today, and maybe the fact that I started so early is what helps me think of topics so readily.
You decide what order you want to put your words. Even when you are the only one who will be reading it, you still learn how to communicate in written form.
I read a study (wish I could remember where I saw it) that kids who write in daily journals do better in school, in all of their classes. I believe it, since communication skills are necessary in all classes. This is really a skill that will help you throughout your life.
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Farmers reported the weather and crops, with an occasional visit or birth in their journals. Just reporting basic observations help you keep track of new things you have learned or what your day is like. Sometimes these are helpful to help us remember what happened in the past. Is it really hotter this year? When was the last time I visited Aunt Martha? Just look at last year's journal entries and you will know.
You will want to record important dates, like births, marriages, deaths, people moving in and out of the town, family reunions, and anything else that you find worthy of mention. You may want to keep a record of the animals that have come in and out or your life, or cars.
Even now, we look at journals from previous centuries to glean important historical facts.
Lewis and Clark had to write in a journal to report the new finds they made along their trail. I keep a journal when I travel. These types of journals help us remember what happened and the order in which they happened.
Michelangelo kept a journal to report his insights and ideas. A scientist uses a scientific journal to report the results of experiments. An inventor outlines his trials and errors of his next great invention. All of these journals help put our insights into written form, and the act of putting them down into paper keeps them from being simple ephemeral ideas to something more concrete.
Even though it is just pieces of paper, a diary provides comfort and companionship during lonely times. When you write "Dear Diary" you are writing to another entity, one that accepts you unconditionally with all your flaws. It will "hear" whatever you are willing to tell it. To a lonely soldier on tour of duty, or a high school student outcast, a journal provides a much needed friend.
This companion will patiently accept any thoughts or information, no matter how boring or mundane they may seem to the outside world. It will also accept minutia of your bodily functions and other things that are simply not proper to discuss with others.
Analyzing Difficult Issues
Taking the time to list the pros and cons of a situation, and making them more concrete, may help you make difficult decisions. Writing them down helps you organize them and think through them fully. Sometimes it isn't even the words you write down that will help you with your decisions. Sometimes your thoughts and your actions are what help guide you. Many times when I made a list of pros and cons, I found that one side had more than the other. As I struggled to add more to the other side, I realized that there was really a side I was favoring, and even though it was a shorter list, it still was the one I should choose.
A diary is a great way to unburden your thoughts and find relief. It gets things off your chest and lets you say the things you want to say without any repercussions. I found that my diary was a great place to vent about all the injustices of adolescence.
Some people have a gratitude journal where they list the things they are thankful for everyday. Others keep track of their spiritual reflections. These types of journals add a calm respite to the hustle and bustle of daily life.
If you want to write a diary, you have a choice of a variety of formats:
- Sheets of paper bound in notebook
- spiral notebook
- Online diary
- pretty blank books
- composition notebooks
- fancy printed diaries
I prefer plain loose leaf paper which I keep together in those portfolios that are sold very cheaply at back-to-school time. This way, I can add to them, and they are just the number of pages need for the time period. There is no obligation to write every day, and no space limit on days I am really chatty. Plus, it avoids that "it's too pretty to mess up with writing" feeling.
Sometimes it helps to look through a diary to review recurring trends.
If you have a new baby, you may want to look through your old journals to see when her older sibling went through certain milestones so you can know what to expect. You may want to look through your journal to see when it is safe to put away the lawnmower for the winter.
A diary or journal can be used in by the police, and maybe even in court, as evidence against a stalker, a bully, or an abuser. Since you can show your documentation of the incidents over time, you are more likely the details of the facts straight, and are more likely to be believed. When I had a foster child, the police asked for her diary to support her claim of abuse.
A journal or diary can help provide a creative outlet in an otherwise mundane life. In this case, a writer may choose to follow writing prompts, or write poems or short stories. Sometimes a journal is used to record inventions or quilt patterns or other craft ideas. Maybe it incorporates sketches, doodles, or quotations.
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Boost Your Self Esteem
In the Answers section, Ms. Dora recommended keeping a journal with positive comments, compliments and reviews. You can record positive accomplishments, experiences and conversations. You can also include positive, cheerful or inspirational quotations.Then, when your morale is down, you can read these comments to boost your mood.
When you review your record of your medical symptoms, you may find that your depression is cyclical, occurring each winter, or coincides with the menstrual cycle, or coincides with an anniversary of an event. Or you may want to find out when you first started having particular symptoms, and think through what was going on at that time to see if there are unresolved conflicts.
You may also record your children's health history. You can check to see whether you had the chicken pox or measles, or encountered any allergic symptoms to any medications. You can record their immunizations, and any accidents or broken bones.
Monitor Goals and Track Progress
A diary is a great way to document their goals and monitor the results. A food journal and a weight loss journal are examples of this type of record keeping. Since you know you have to write it down, you may be less likely to indulge. When you feel like you are slipping, you can go back and see the progress you have made. You can see which efforts are working and which ones are in vain. A food diary keeps you honest and accountable.
You can record your ambitions and monitor your personal growth and steps you have taken towards your goals.
Some people's diaries get published as they are, like Anne Frank's, while others, like Vinaya, are able to glean parts of them for publication. Just imagine, you can take your diary and publish it, as is, without editing or polishing. Your book is already written.
Notes for your Biography
Keeping detailed records of your life will be handy for writing your autobiography or biography. In addition, the entries can provide details and insight in writing short stories or other works of fiction.
Benefits of Keeping a Diary or Journal
There are so many benefits of keeping a diary or journal, and it is such a simple thing to start. Just grab a sheet of paper or notebook and start writing about whatever interests you. If you do that from time to time, you will find that you have a beautiful record of a very interesting person. You may just find out that you are much more interesting than you thought. And if you aren't, you may just be motivated to do something interesting so you can write about it. Oops, that was yet another reason to write in a diary or journal. The benefits keep going and going.
Oh and about my dilemma about writing in a journal for school or keeping my own diary, I wound up writing in both. My diary could not be abandoned all semester.
© 2012 Shasta Matova
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