Your Thoughts Can Surprise You
Why journaling will make you a better person by revealing secrets you didn't know you're keeping.
Have you ever had a family member dig up some old piece of artwork you drew as a kid? Maybe there’s a shared laugh over how cute you were, and then you feel embarrassed, and then you might even ask your mom why she kept it in the first place. That’s how I felt about my very first journal, until I realized the little pink notebook was actually pretty significant.
It was the winter after I turned six, and my top priorities in life were taking care of my baby goats in the barn and playing with my toy baby goats in the living room. I spent most of my time with my big sister, I enjoyed visiting family, and whenever my oldest brother came home from college on a weekend I was upset that he always slept in (now, as a college kid myself, I no longer fault him for that). I don’t remember most of these things on my own; I remember them, sixteen years later, because I wrote them in my journal.
I believe the habit of journaling is deeply valuable, but not just so you can remember what your six-year-old (or twenty-two- or thirty-five or however-year-old) self did on a given day. I believe the true power of journaling lies in two outcomes: 1) the ability to write the thoughts you may not realize you think, and 2) to give perspective to the present in light of the past.
You may not realize what you think until you start writing
The first time it happened, I almost dropped my pen. I was looking at the words I’d written on the page and I did a double take because I had no idea I felt that way. Yet, as the sentence on the page stared back at me, I knew it was true. That’s when I learned that journaling has a way of unlocking inner thoughts that may never otherwise come to the surface. I don’t know how or why, but I just know it works. By revealing these thoughts, journaling has helped me to better understand my feelings regarding events in my life, which helps me to make better decisions.
Remembering where you came from can help you understand where you are
While the biggest growth I saw from my journaling at six years old to eight years old was a reduction in exclamation points (I’m not exaggerating when I say that 50% of most pages were filled with excited punctuation marks), the years since have shown growth in how I relate to others, process my emotions, and take responsibility for making each day better than the last. I often don’t realize how much I’ve grown until I go back and read what I wrote, and seeing the most raw version of myself in the past helps me understand myself more thoroughly in the present. It’s also valuable to see that happenings I felt were THE BIGGEST DEAL EVER—and caused an appalling amount of stress at the time—turned out alright in the end. It helps me see current struggles as probably less of a big deal, too, since last time things ended up being just fine. (Or, to put it concisely: it’ll buff. It always does.)
I’m not going to say that I believe without a doubt everyone would be better off if they wrote some thoughts in a journal a few times a week. I can’t prove that. What I do believe is that everyone should give it a shot—I know a great deal of people who find value in journaling, and I have yet to meet a single person who regrets it. In fact, I meet many people who wish they’d started the habit years earlier. I was fortunate that a family friend gave me a journal as a gift when I was so young, and even though I had periods where I let it slide, I inevitably ended up back in the habit after a few months. Why not make this the week you give a gift to your future self by starting a journal?
P.S. You may be thinking to yourself “okay, so I need to start journaling, but how on earth do I know where to start?” Well, have no fear: come back next week for some tried-and-true tips for how to get started, and how to keep going.
Journal Prompt of the Week:
When was the last time you surprised yourself with a thought?
Share with the community:
Do you keep a journal? If so, for how long? If not, what would it take for you to start?