Benefits of Keeping a Diary
- Jan 19, 2015
Two years back my family decided to go on a short trip to the sea. A long journey, a revolting car ride and a terrible misunderstanding at the resort later, we finally caught a glimpse of the sea. Out came my journal as my entry began “And then we reached Mandalay....”And you know what happened when I pulled it out, dusted it and began reading it a few days back? I surprised myself. I could almost almost touch the transitions taking place in my life and I couldn't help but admire the way life changes with time.A journal serves two purposes: it is a permanent record of the occurrences in your life and a cathartic release for your emotions and frustrations and just about anything else. But the benefits run far beyond those. Let's have a look.Builds a bridge between our present and future selves“I fancy old Virginia, putting on her spectacles to read of March 1920 will decidedly wish me to continue. Greetings! my dear ghost; and take heed that I don’t think 50 a very great age. Several good books can be written still; and here’s the bricks for a fine one.” This is an excerpt from Virginia Woolf's “A Writer's Diary”. This was written when she was 37 years old.Your diary forms a window to your past. And it give you an opportunity to reflect back to a few months, or a few years to give you a sneak into your traits. It helps you understand how far you have come in your life and how much you have achieved. When you read through the lines you have penned down, you would know where you stand in the bigger story of life.Helps you understand the contextAs you grow up, your perspective changes and with it, your interpretation of incidents. Therefore, when you look back to your life through your journal, you would feel a warm wave of realization sweep over you, making you smile even in the darkest of days.In our busy life, we get absolutely no time to stop for a moment and reflect on the “why” and “how” and we end up focusing on the “what” and “so what”. While writing out your journal, you are going over the incidents in your mind all over again. And this urges you to ask these important questions to yourself.Mental health benefitsA study from the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment noted that 15-20 minutes of writing a journal on 3-5 occasions was enough for the participants to deal with traumatic, stressful or otherwise, emotional events. A diary is your confidant. You can pour your heart out to your diary without inhibitions. Did you know that journal writing has been specifically effective in people suffering from severe illness like cancer? According to psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker of the University of Texas, keeping a regular journal strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes.It is while writing your journal that you get to deal with your emotions. Writing about stressful events helps you to come in terms with them and therefore, reduces the impact of these stress-causing factors on your physical health.Harnessing your creativityI have always been an introvert, therefore, writing a diary was the only way I could let my thoughts out. As I kept at it, I was hit by a sudden realization. I wasn't that shy, quiet girl anymore, in fact, my communication skills soared. Even though I keep to myself most of the time, I have come a long way in the conversation front.As you move ahead with your journal, you would find yourself getting better with words and forming better sentences since you are getting a lot of practice. You might also catch yourself conveying complex ideas effectively. Writing about your experiences gives you a second shot at processing those incidents, helping you to break down complicated experiences into relevant and organized information.In the 1946 lecture at Dartmouth, Anais Nin had something very beautiful to say, “Keeping a Diary all my life helped me to discover some basic elements essential to the vitality of writing”. She added, “In the Diary I only wrote of what interested me genuinely, what I felt most strongly at the moment, and I found this fervor, this enthusiasm produced a vividness which often withered in the formal work. Improvisation, free association, obedience to mood, impulse, bought forth countless images, portraits, descriptions, impressionistic sketches, symphonic experiments, from which I could dip at any time for material.”Practical benefitsRegular writing has its practical benefits too. When you put in your everyday entries, you end up writing about your accomplishments and failures. Therefore, you diary also becomes your track record of your mistakes and successes, reinforcing the habits you need to nip in the bud and the ones you need to develop more. The written record could also come in handy when you are feeling down. It can help a lot to maroon the lost ship that you might yourself in at a low moment in your life.If you are keeping a food diary you would know what is responsible for increasing that fat around your tummy. If anything has recently thrown you off your game, going back to the pages of your journal will help you spot the bug. You could write down good things and that would come in extremely handy.Keeping a journal can help help you loads in developing better habits. It forces you to keep a closer attention to yourself, be aware of your actions and keep yourself de-stressed. It make looking forward easier and restrictions weaker. So the next time you take up a notebook and a pen, why don't you make a journal out of your time?
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