The Practice and Potential of Journaling

Updated: Sep 25


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I have been writing in journals since I was in the fourth grade.


Now years later, every once in a while, I re-read entries from my elementary, middle and high school years. It is nothing less than comical to read the petty trivialities which consumed my thoughts. However, it is also refreshing to know that writing was an invaluable practice through which I cultivated a rich world of self-reflection and inquiry through the simple act of writing down my observations, concerns and aspirations.


From childhood journals, travel, pregnancy, gratitude, meditation and daily thought journals, I have gained tremendous insight into my beliefs and emotional patterns — good and not so good.


Journaling has been instrumental in my life.


Here are a few ways the benefits of journaling can be instrumental in your life and possibly lead to unexpected an outcome:



1. Clarify intentions

When you use your journal to write down your goals, you can revisit your intentions — your why’s:

  • Why do you want something?

  • Why are you doing what you’re doing?

  • Why is this the thing you must do beyond other things?


2. Witness progress and personal growth

If you make journaling a regular habit, you can see how much progress or growth you’ve made by revisiting previous entries. You can see patterns — behavioral, mental and emotional — to glean insight.


Reading through journal entries provides valuable insight into your thought process and emotional life. You can look back and see how you’ve dealt with important decisions and challenging situations to feel more confident in your ability to do so again.



3. Gain self-confidence

You can feel proud looking back at the challenges you faced and seeing how far you’ve come.


4. Improve writing and communication skills

“Writing, like anything, improves with practice. When you journal every day, you’re practicing the art of writing. And if you use a journal to express your thoughts and ideas, it’ll help improve your overall communication skills.”



5. Reduce negative rumination

When things happens that we don’t like, there is a tendency to constantly replay or obsess over negative situations. Even when things go well, we tend to ruminate on the one negative thing that happened.


Rumination rarely offers new insights. It can even make the present situation feel worse. But if you take some time to write out how you’re feeling, it can help you relinquish the attachment to ruminating over what was said or done. Writing down how you feel provides an opportunity for you to be honest with yourself. It provides a safe and private space to reveal something to yourself that you may not be ready to reveal to someone else.


6. Mindfulness

In 2005, during a disturbing turn of events, my husband was hospitalized due to the onset of symptoms for a stroke. He was 33 years-old. In every way imaginable we were unprepared to deal with the long term effects of the challenges that lie ahead. The financial distress, parental responsibility, unexamined emotional wounds, blame, resentment, fear and anger unearthed elements of our psyche that nearly destroyed us and our marriage.


The loss of his ability to work propelled us into the beginning stage of what became the most prolonged and difficult period of our lives. For the next several years, we experienced the devastating loss of our home through foreclosure, ruptured familial relationships, job loss and a steady decline of our marriage.

Throughout this period there were times when I believed myself to be the victim. It wasn’t until I turned to meditation, prayer and journaling to make it through each day and began sincere self-examination, that I was ready to understand the circumstances provided an invitation for growth.


For more than one year, I sat down in a meditative state to ask questions to help me mentally and emotionally navigate the difficult and uncertain times I faced. 

During meditation, in addition to periods of silence after prayer, I began to ask questions to solicit clarity and guidance into my awareness. The more I posed questions during a meditative state, I began to notice answers would indeed come into my awareness. However, as soon as the meditation session was over, I forgot the guidance which came into my awareness.


The only way to remember was to write it down. It was at that time I decided to bring a journal to my meditation sessions.


In the midst of this silent struggle, I turned within for at least 20 minutes a day to be able to make it through each day. I continued to meditate and write in my journal. Meditation grew to become the most practical, accessible and effective way I found to calm myself of the anxiety-ridden thoughts that propelled me.


At the time, I had no idea the practice I created around journaling would become my first book almost seven years later.


7. Strengthen memory

Even the simple act of writing something down lets your brain know you want to remember it. That’s why note-takin