Throughout history, the journals of individuals have been published as an insight into their trials and tribulation and thought processes. Several historical pieces come to mind, such as those of George Washington and Anne Frank. However, the main reasons that one should keep a diary or a journal, are far from historical importance which may come about in the future, unless one considers the personal day-to-day life of the individual writer. That is to say, that a personal journal is for the writer to read that which was in the past, and form a conclusion about their own endeavors, thoughts, feelings, and actions. In fact, many revelations or insights into oneself can be obtained in a rather short period of time. With that said, here are the main reasons why you should keep a journal.
The Journal is a safe place.
The journal is a safe place to write formative thoughts. Many times our emotional responses to life are better not said in public. Too many times the social media is being used as a personal journal which can cause problems. On the other hand, if we write these emotional responses to life’s events in a private journal, we feel as though we said our piece without having to be caught up in the chaos of those who disagree with us or find our thoughts as dangerous. Even writing our unmitigated thoughts in a letter could potentially cause us grief, because we have no control over the letter once it is mailed. For examples, during the American revolution or during the communist rule in The Soviet Union statements of dissonance were dealt with harshly. For instance, Solzhenitsyn made a negative comment in a personal letter about the war under Stalin and was imprisoned for ten years. “But that was different.” One might say. If so, then why are there copies of emails being exposed today?
The development of the individual requires a place where the individual has the complete safety to try out different thoughts and emotions. Many times the individual must say or feel the wrong thought or emotion to know that it is wrong. When one learns to play a song on an instrument, it is the wrong notes played that generate the most learning. But it is the final performance of the right notes being played which is heard by others. Just as the performer practices in a secluded place, so is the journal kept in a secluded place. This is the right of the individual.
The journal forms our thoughts.
Thoughts and conclusions are often a complex pathway which is shaded by emotions, objectivity and perceived consequences. Many times the information required to formulate the most sound conclusion is not available. Many times the initial emotional response to an event is based on incorrect information and fears. As the journal is used as a place to express initial thoughts, emotions, and conclusions, there is generated a record of information that can be built upon and re-read in the near future. The journal writer then obtains insight into their own thought mechanisms. The development of thought patterns requires and benefits from direct feedback to a very high extent. Using the performer analogy, one of the most effective ways to improve the performance of public speaking is to watch a video of yourself giving a public speech. The transformation in a short period of time can be astounding. The journal does the same thing in exposing reactive or circular thoughts. Once exposed to the individual, there is developed a self-awareness of such behavior, and the thinking process most often corrects or improves spontaneously.
The journal helps concentration.
The mind can often be preoccupied with worries. This often destroys the ability of the individual to concentrate on the work at hand. By making a detailed journal entry of a worry, concern or fear, the mind relaxes and knows that this topic will not be forgotten. One might call this a psychological trick but it works if the journal is known to be reviewed by the author on a routine basis and that the journal is safe from destruction or intrusion. The journal becomes a place to set aside something which has become obsessive or damaging in the daily life of the individual. Putting something to rest in this fashion is very effective to allow one to move forward with other duties while feeling that their concerns are well documented and realized as important. As time goes by, these thoughts can be revisited and dealt with at more appropriate circumstances.
The journal helps to find one’s personality and individuality.
There is nothing more important than the freedom of self-expression to find one’s personality and individuality, no matter how outrageous the expression may seem to be at the time. These expressions of individuality need not be made in public to be effective. In fact, many times the public expression of thoughts could create problems but must be expressed so that the individual can observe their own expression. This reason relates to the first reason, that one being of a safe place. Therein lies the beauty of a journal: It helps keep one moving in a straight line.