The advantages of journaling have long been touted. On the scientific side, studies list its many health benefits. On the spiritual side, it can help us bring ourselves into account each day. There is also the sheer pleasure of putting pen to paper which might be linked to the number of beautiful journals (here, here, here, and here) and wonderful pens (here, here, here, and here) available for purchase.
Journaling can be a great tool in our efforts to live our best lives. Just like with any tool, it’s important to keep firmly in mind the reason for its use, lest it becomes counterproductive. Recently, while discussing how to become increasingly efficient contributors to the well-being of our communities, some of my friends and I realised that journaling sometimes easily slips from a tool to pinpoint obstacles to growth to a forum for the glorification of our own selves.
Okay, fine, I’m being a little overly dramatic (but it makes for good reading, no?). My friends and I realised that often, journaling is centered on our feelings, our emotions, and our thoughts. But when we are trying to lead a life of selfless service to others, reinforcing thoughts about our own selves seems a little counter-productive.
How then could we journal in a way that helped our personal growth in the context of our responsibility to contribute to the growth of the community? Perhaps it could begin by remembering that while journaling should be about our feelings, emotions, and thoughts, these are set within the context of our efforts to contribute to the betterment of our communities. This might imply that instead of going on for pages on why we feel justified in how we feel and what we think, we might want to spend some time reflecting on what other people might feel and think, and how the coming together of their emotions and thoughts with ours affects the process of building a strong community.
Another would be to think of journaling as “consultation with oneself”. This implies that the principles of consultation should be applied here. For example, we should be both frank and loving with ourselves; identify clearly what we did without judgment; and not beat ourselves over the head when we identify something we could have done better. Another example would be to eliminate repetition from our “self-consultation”, as going over the same thing multiple times could lead to dwelling.
Another thought was that of cycles of growth: perhaps daily journaling can be enhanced by a regularly scheduled reflection during which one goes over two or three months’ worth of entries to glean insights into patterns of thought and behavior enhancing or undermining one’s personal development. This could help extract some of the main topics of concern which can then be reflected upon with carefully identified friends.
It seems that the benefits of journaling can be greatly increased when one sets them within certain healthy boundaries described by the psychology and religious communities. The broad range of personalities, needs, and emotional makeups that exist make it necessary for each person to consider careful how, even in this most personal of spaces, principles guiding the development of the community can be judiciously applied.
Might want to spend some time journaling about that…
Photo credit: Sage Brown.