retreat

7 benefits of keeping a journal (+1 bonus)

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor

In an old box for boots do I keep them: my journals. Still have those pink booklets with a lock from the late eighties. They are lots of fun to read now, when our kids are at the age that I started. We have a good laugh about the stuff I was concerned about at the time.

I started as a kid, continued as a teenager, stopped as a young adult, restarted again in my early twenties, and haven’t stopped since then.

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I write neither daily nor weekly. But, I know when I have to write, and I make time for it. Here seven reasons why I think keeping a journal is beneficial.

  1. Writing helps you understand what you are thinking, as Flannery O’Connor says. When you read back on what you wrote, you get a better understanding of your own thoughts
  2. Writing improves your articulation skills because you practise writing regularly. It stimulates your creativity with words.
  3. Writing helps you to be better in tune with your own feelings. You will learn to sense a certain restlessness. When you take time to sit down and write, you gain a sense of relief.
  4. Over time, writing gives you an overview of the highlights and depths of your life. You have written down what was worth writing down. It is there. Here you have it: Your own life story—for free, yet priceless—highly valuable for you, and maybe for who-knows else in one hundred years’ time. 😉
  5. Writing helps you to reflect on relations, friends, and family and their seasons over the years. It gives depth and meaning to your life. What is meaningful is written down.
  6. Writing might help you to analyze situations because with writing, you take a step back. In the little distance you create, you can find clarity.
  7. Journaling helps you to face life difficulties. You can even get encouraged by your own writing over time. (I have started to see that now more and more and find it deeply encouraging.) You are able to climb big mountains you faced and conquered in the past, which that gives you the courage to face them again—with God’s help.
  8. And one bonus reason for believers in the Creator of life: you see God’s faithfulness in your life—how He has carried you, day by day, hour after hour.

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I write because there are stories that need to be told.

These are just a few of my own reasons to keep journaling, but when I googled this topic, I found out that more people have written down their thoughts:

For example, I can totally relate to the woman who wrote about  five reasons you should keep a journal. This man gives even more reasons.

And even this blog post is an example of how I treasure it—because there is a story behind this story.

So, I have journaled for more than two decades, and in the summer of 2015 at the International Teams Conference, I followed a workshop that opened my eyes to the value of journaling for the first time. It always has given me a positive feeling; that is why I kept going. But, I hadn’t analyzed what it was that made it so good for me. Wayne Platt gave a workshop with the title: Counseling When There Is No Counselor. We were preparing to move to a rather remote area, so I signed up for it. His main thoughts were as follows:

  • Sit down for four days in a row.
  • Write freely for twenty minutes a day.
  • Nobody has to read it—not even your husband.
  • Read what you wrote and learn from it.
  • Go to a (online) counselor if needed or desired.

We had an unforgettable lunch break conversation in which I found out how healthy it is to write because you do not pile things up (stuff, emotions, sadness, joy).

It took me nearly three more years to find out my eight benefits of keeping a journal—not that this is any problem. There is no rush. There is no pressure. Writing needs to be done in an utterly safe environment.

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I write so I can understand what I think.

But, what about when you are scared at the idea of somebody reading your thoughts? Just make sure you put them away in a box. On mine is a sticker that says:

Do not open before 2077

Won’t it be special, if I am still alive, to open the box on my 100th birthday and start reading those old stories? If I have passed on and changed my address, like Billy Graham used to say, then it will be my inheritance.

In our family, we do have a rule, and this is a very serious one: You can leave your journal wherever and trust anyone in the family to not read it. This has to do with something else: boundaries. Know what your private zone is and what is open to others. I love that everyone here keeps that rule. It shows basic trust in a very fundamental way.

I write because I have an urge to write, and because of that, I am a writer.

I love writing; amore; amateur writer.

Do you want to get started? At the silent retreat in Hungary, I will give a writing workshop about how to start. And, if  you are a journalist already, you can get ideas on how to write down your life story.

This retreat is full now, but let me know if you are interested in another retreat, at some point.

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