Keeping a Journal and What It Taught Me

As a new year’s resolution I have tried journaling several times, in several ways. At the end of each year I was able to look back at my year and remember the special days, the normal days, the sad days and the fun days. Here are the four ways I have kept a journal so far and what journaling has taught me.

Memories in a jar:

The idea is to take a small jar, either buy one or you can recycle an old pasta sauce jar, and every time something good happens, or you have a good day, or have something to remember, you right it down on a small piece of paper, add the date, fold it up small and put it in the jar. There might be days that went by without anything interesting happening but it doesn’t matter, just keep open minded about what is ‘good’ day. At the end of the year, you then empty your jar and you can reminisce about all your great days. What is truly lovely about this idea is that there are often days you forget about. For example, that one day where you went on a long walk with a friend and had one of those conversations where you feel so much closer, or the day you got some flowers from someone. It’s good for remembering the little things as well as the big things. At the end of the year you then have the option to just throw away your small pieces of paper, or you can stick them all in a book, and do so after every year so you end up with a scrapbook style diary.

I decided to dive back and look at my scrap book and thought you might like to see some examples I had from my year:

  • “Even though it’s 61 days until my birthday I got two early birthday presents today; A GRAND PIANO and BRUNO MARS tickets! Literally best birthday Ever!” -1st March 2013 (it was a very old, out of tune piano, but it was still the best thing in the world)
  • “I won the lottery!!! A whole £6.20… but I still won!” – 3rd August
  • “I had my first driving lesson today, I was so nervous but it was so much fun, I hope I pass soon!” – 4th September 2013 (as Jessica will know, this is particularly great as I didn’t pass for another 2 years)
  • “First day of snow!!” 20th November 2013
  • “I got my First University Offer and it’s from Westminster!” – 20th December 2013

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Keep a diary:

This was a typical goal of mine repeatedly throughout my childhood but I never had the motivation to continue for long periods of time. This can take a lot of effort and dedication. However, I promised myself to stick to an entire year and I managed to sit down every Sunday to summarise my week so that at the end of the year I had 52 entries. There are several ways you could keep a diary; write once a week, write every day, write once a month, write whenever there is something that you want to write about. I just went for once a week as I felt this meant I didn’t feel pressure to write every day but also felt I wouldn’t have to write a huge essay at the end of the month. Keeping a diary was great for more detail and was almost like reading a book of my life. I now have a beautiful book, neatly compact with an entire year’s memories. The downside was finding out that some weeks you just don’t do much. An example of this was while I had many assignments at university I didn’t really move from my desk, had no social life, and therefore had nothing interesting to say in my diary. Do I wish I would have done this from childhood? Yes. Did I continue to keep a diary the next year? No. But I might do this again next year.

Bullet point journaling

This is a relatively new craze and is essentially another form of keeping a diary. It is more relaxed and less detailed compared to keeping a full diary. This is also good for writing on the go. Keeping the small diary in my bag so that if something happened I could add it as a bullet point on my list. This is a balance between the jar and the diary idea, if you prefer the neater look of keeping everything together in one place, then this would be more beneficial. I started by trying to jot something every day but I spent a lot of time trying to find things that were relevant and it started to become a play-by-play of my day. So many times I was searching for things to say and started to say “got the train”, “went to uni”, “had a lecture”. That isn’t the kind of stuff you want to be reading at the end of the year.

Photograph journaling

In a way, people already do this without realising. This could be considered more difficult but given most people are on their phones and take photos all the time anyway this is quite a good idea. You can organise you routine of when you want to take photos. I would recommend every day or just every time something of interest needs documenting. Then at the end of the year you can watch back your year. I took one every day for a year, some days it was just of my computer screen doing work, but I would always try to find a moment in the day that would be worth remembering or would summarise that day, or was the highlight of my day. I ended up with photos of sunsets and sunrises, I had photos from walks, holidays, friends, meals; you can do anything.

What it taught me:

Journaling for the year, no matter what form, taught me to appreciate the little things. It reminded me to not take for granted what is ‘normal’; the sunsets, the weekly catch-ups with friends. It taught me that I can stick to something, even though after a few months of keeping a diary I thought, why am I doing this? No one will read it? It’s about me. I will read it. It taught me to be expressive and talk about my feelings. Even on paper, it was therapeutic to express anger when I was frustrated, sadness when I was upset. It was a relief to write down my worries, as though by writing them I was erasing them for a while.

If you’ve never written a diary or kept a journal, I’d definitely recommend doing it. You could start with the jar or go straight for the diary. If you’re not much of a writer, try the photo-journaling.

Has anyone else tried journaling before? Are there other forms of journaling you’ve tried?

Eleanor

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