Thank you so much for being here! Thank you for the love on my last post too. Today, I am sharing my “journaling” story, not just because I think it’s important to share, but also to encourage you to keep journaling if you already do, or start journaling if you don’t do it already.
I started journaling in 2011. It started as an outlet of curiosity. I was in secondary school, and I had just began to ask myself questions about the Christian Faith. I was particularly curious about the reality of the Holy Spirit. People had talked about it, yes, but here I was wanting to experience God for myself. Based on the fact that I always loved writing and I wasn’t always willing to share my curiosity with others, I started journaling. My journals started as “Dear Holy Spirit,” and I would write about my school day, my friends, my teachers, my crushes, my fears, and my wishes. Every now and then, I would go back to read some of those journal entries, and it was comforting to see how some of my wishes and prayers were already answered. So, I kept at it. I kept writing “Dear Holy Spirit” for about 3 more years until I had no doubt that He existed.
Fast forward to 2020, my journals have taken different shapes and sizes (literally) – big notebooks, small notebooks, books with journal prompts, curiosity journals, ideas journals, Bible Study journals, prayer journals, and gratitude journals, and I am grateful for this practice.
Pros and Cons of Journaling
Now that you know my story in summary, it’s also important to know that journaling isn’t exactly a bed of roses. Here are a few cons:
- If you are just starting out, journaling may feel like showing up at a job you do not like. True journaling shouldn’t feel overwhelming, so when you feel this way, my advice is to take a break. Instead of viewing journaling from a perspective of a project to be completed, see it as sharing your thoughts, dreams, ideas, and questions with yourself for future reflections – something which can be done at anytime.
- It asks for vulnerability. True journaling doesn’t ask for perfection – it’s a transparent relationship between you, yourself, and the page. If you don’t feel comfortable with letting things flow, this may pose a problem.
- Garbage in, Garbage out. Journaling is like a mirror. If you keep a journal of “bitter” moments, the bitter moments don’t leave you. You literally get what you give. Personally, I advise against journaling about a fight or a situation of unforgiveness. If you must write about it, do so. However, remember to tear it apart and trash it after letting it out. Your journal is a mirror.
Pros: When you journal, you recount, relearn, and retain.
Both the mind and brain do a lot of thinking and wandering, hence there is only so much that can be retained.
- However, when you put pen to paper or record with a journaling app, you help yourself to recount memories, dreams, ideas, and recounting gives form to thoughts. Memories are like clay. Journaling is the potter which smoothens them out. Journaling helps you reflect on your own perspectives and biases about certain things. In turn, it puts you in a place of introspection and control about who you are and what you stand for.
For instance, when I feel tempted to worry or complain about something that’s not working, I pull out my gratitude and prayer journals. Just by flipping a couple pages, I realize how far I have come in life, and it encourages me to hope for the best. The best thing about that? It always works! Things may hurt in the present, but that single action moves me away from the complaint path.
- You relearn and unlearn. Things may sound good as thoughts, but putting them on paper causes you to think even more deeply about them. Journaling gives you room to express your thoughts, but in the long run, it helps you see what was wrong and what was right.
- When you write something down, you retain information because you are absorbing the so-called information again, and you can always go back to it in the future. Journaling is great for retaining information. Every time I study the Bible or read a book, I keep my journals close by. When a certain understanding strikes me, I write it down fast. Two hours later, I may remember that I found out something great, but to remember in details, I go back to my journal.
So, how can you journal?
Decide on the type of journal you wish to have.
I don’t write in my gratitude journal everyday. Sometimes, once in three days or once a week, I pick it up and write in the following format: “Today I am grateful for: ” I stick to writing at least 5 things. After outlining the first thing I’m grateful for, my brain sometimes feel clogged. By the time I’m on the fourth thing, I realize I have 10 more things to write.
Ask yourself these questions: “What do I want to write?” “How often do I want to write it?“
I write in my Bible Study journal almost everyday – about 5 times a week. I probably write in my idea journal every week or every two weeks. For the idea journal, if I have only one idea, when I think of an improvement on the idea, when I execute the idea, or think of an execution strategy, I go back to it, so I can keep track and fix my eyes on the goal. It’s really all up to you and how vulnerable you are willing to be with your thoughts.
Remember, you don’t have to dot your i’s or cross your t’s. It’s not the time to be perfect. It’s the time to just be.
If all else fails, get a journal with writing prompts. I once got a notebook titled, “The Thoughtful Journal.” It helped me achieve my weekly goals because I was overwhelmed with school work and to-do lists, so it helped me put my thoughts in perspective, one step at a time. This journal (pictured below) had prompts like, “This week I want to do More _____, Less _____” “Weekly High:” “Weekly Low:” “Something I did or want to for someone else…” so it really eased things out for me.
Don’t have any journal prompts?
Get started with these. You can use them repeatedly:
- What are you grateful for right now? Why?
- Things you love to do
- Do you have a goal? What is it? Why this goal? How will you achieve it?
- Read the Bible. Pick a verse. What strikes you about this verse? What does it mean? Now that you found out its meaning, can you back it up with other Bible verses?
- What’s something nice you would do for someone? Why?
- Pick a random topic e.g. Freedom. What does this really mean to you? Is your interpretation an echo of someone else’s thoughts? What’s your conviction?
- If you could go back in time and change one thing from your past, what would it be? Why?
- If you could find out one thing in the future, what would it be? Why?
- If you could do only one thing now, what would it be? Why?
- Just write.
ps: On another note, 2020 has hurt a couple people in different ways, so I'm dedicating this post to every hurting person. You are seen and loved by Love himself.
With Overflowing Love,