Recently on a blog, I saw a woman refer to her "journaling heart". I love that. I have a journaling heart. I started keeping a journal when I was in seventh grade and for the most part, I have kept one ever since. It is something I believe in and something I feel is important. I've had two past young women (who are now women and married or serving missions) say that a lesson I taught them when they were beehives nearly 10 years ago had an impact on their lives. I believe that journaling does have an impact on lives.
I believe that journaling helps us record and remember the lessons we learn and the blessings we receive. As President Kimball said, "Those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives." It provides a record for ourselves and those who love us to see the Lord's hand in our lives. We are prone to forget...it is part of our human experience/condition. But recording the lessons we learn, the trials we face, and the blessings we are given helps us to remember.
For me, journaling often helps me sort through my thoughts and feelings so that my opinions and beliefs and feelings become more clear. When something is troubling me and I find that I cannot sleep, I often begin writing my thoughts down and often when I am done, I can sleep. And I find that my thoughts become clearer and I'm often better able to express them in writing than orally.
Journaling can also be a creative outlet in many ways.
As a mom, journaling helps me remember the silly and cute things my children say and do. It helps me record their milestones, their achievements and their failures (as well as my own!) I do know that I am prone to blog (which is my primary journal these days) more about our happy moments than the angry or frustrating ones. (We have plenty of both.) Perhaps I at times paint a rosier picture than is our every moment, day to day reality. President Spencer W. Kimball also taught, "Your journal should contain your true self rather than a picture of you when you are "made up" for a public performance. There is a temptation to paint one’s virtues in rich color and whitewash the vices, but there is also the opposite pitfall of accentuating the negative.... The truth should be told, but we should not emphasize the negative." I could work on this.
Many times I have wished my mom kept a journal so I could read how she handled the stresses of being a full time employee and a mom or how she handled various mothering challenges or what she thought about as we grew up. I often ask for her advice, but I would love to read what she was thinking and feeling back then. It's a bit different than hearing her perspective now, not that it isn't valuable.
I hope my journal will be an evidence to my children that I love them dearly! I hope it will show them that I tried the best I knew how to raise them...and that I made plenty of mistakes along the way. I hope that it will testify to them that I know God lives and Jesus is the Christ. I hope it will be a treasure to them.
So, those are some of the reasons that I like to journal. Now a little about what I've learned about how to journal.
1. There is no right or wrong way to journal. I've written in spiral notebooks and in actual journals. I've written on looseleaf paper that I added to a 3 ring binder. Now my primary means of journaling is this blog, although I do have a small journal that I record a few things that are too private to share here.
2. For me, I have never been a chronological journaler, or at least not strictly chronological. I had a roommate and on Sundays she would sit down and do a day by day replay of events in her journal. That fit her personality and worked for her. But it doesn't work for me...for a few reasons. If I miss a couple of weeks and feel like I have to go back and recall and record everything that has happened in that time, it overwhelms me and I procrastinate writing. Also, I personally figure I don't need to remember what happened every day but I do want to remember the outings I've gone on, the lessons I've learned, etc. So I've always just written about what felt most important to me. On my blog, my posts are topical or on one event. But they aren't necessarily written/published in chronological order. It takes the pressure off for me.
3. Along with keeping a journal about my life, I have kept some other types of journals. For many months while I was in college, I kept a gratitude journal. That changes your outlook in ways that you can't predict...and to some degree has had a lasting impact on my life even though I haven't maintained that practice. Before having children, I took a journal to church with me each Sunday and recorded quotes, inspiration or lessons I learned in each of my meetings. That become harder to do once I had children, and I've gotten out of that habit, although I still do this during stake and general conference. When I was newly married, I bought a journal for Alfredo in which I recorded the kind, thoughtful things he did for me and expressions of love. I haven't maintained that journal either, but it was a good idea. My sister Suzy told about a fireside she recently attended where the speaker kept journals about her scripture study and particularly the insights she gained, answers to prayers she received and inspiration she was given while studying the scriptures. What a treasure that would be!
4. Sometimes I include unusual things in my journal to keep it interesting. I've glued in important letters others have written to me (and sometimes copies of letters I've written to others). I have added quotes that are meaningful to me, titles of books I'm reading, tickets from plays or movies I've attended, clippings from newspaper or magazine articles, poetry or song lyrics that I like and so on. I might write a list rather than typical journaling format.
The important thing about how to journal is to find what works for you. And to make changes if that format stops working for you at some point.