So, what's the deal with journaling? Why is everyone talking about it? Why does everyone say it's something you absolutely must do, like right now?
Well, first of all, relax. The good news is that journaling is possibly the lowest hanging fruit of all the healthy things you could decide to try. You don't have to learn to sit still and breathe. You don't have to wear specialty clothing. You don't even have to eat kale. You just need something to write on and something to write with. That's it.
There are as many ways and reasons to journal as there are types of journals available for purchase. Some are leather bound and seem very solemn and serious. Others are simple school composition books, less imposing and grandiose, but no less functional.
Journaling is the same. There are no hard and fast rules for how to do it, or even why to do it, but here are a few reasons you should consider trying your hand at putting pen to paper.
1) The little things are all too easy to forget, and so very worth remembering
I have almost zero recollection of my youngest daughter's first year. She hardly ever slept and I was working full time. It's amazing to me that I survived that year, but not all that surprising that I remember nothing beyond the bone deep exhaustion that plagued me.
Luckily for me, largely inspired by Anne Lamott's memoir, Operating Instructions, I did make time to journal every day that year. Some nights I could barely string together more than three sentences. Other nights I was able to wax poetic about some mundane aspect of life as a working mom to two little girls.
So I can't remember that year, but I can read about it. Cracking open that journal is bitter sweet. It was a hard, hard year, but I love being able to visit my baby and "see" her again.
You might think that yours days are too ordinary to bother recording, but our lives are made up of tiny little things that only seem inconsequential as we're living them. What might seem routine today might be a treasured memory one day, only you won't be able to remember it if you don't write it down.
2) When you journal the trees, you can see the forest.
Writing down the little or not so little details of our lives can help make sense of it all. What seems like noise and chaos sometimes just needs to be set down on paper and looked over at a later time for patterns and logic to emerge.
You might not realize how crucial your work-out routine is to your well-being until you look back at some journal entries and see how differently you think the weeks you can work out from the weeks you can.
You might not spot a quirk in one of your children's behaviors until you see it written about again and again.
Consider your journal a daily log that helps you keep track of the details of your life, even those you don't yet know are important.
3) Everyone deserves to hear themselves think
Our lives are so very noisy and busy that sometimes it seems like it takes super human strength to not only have a complete thought, but to have time to ponder that thought and let it lead us where it wants to go.
Journaling is a great way to put these fleeting thoughts somewhere safe where they won't be pushed out or blown away by more thoughts and more chaos.
And sometimes, you don't even know what you're thinking until you sit down and put pen to paper. It's amazing how clear your mind and your heart can be after just 5 minutes alone with a journal and a pen.
4) It's a brand new way of processing
Something happens in your brain when you place your pen on the paper and start to write. Things come out you didn't even realize you were thinking, were feeling, were agonizing over. Little joys pepper the page, surrounded by a myriad of other thoughts and worries. And once it's all out, you feel lighter, stronger, and sometimes clearer than when you started.
You can think of it as a cheap form of therapy. It definitely helps justify an expensive journal purchasing habit.
5) It's a safe place just for you
We can't all stand in the middle of our homes and yell out our frustrations. We can't hit things, break things, or even have the tantrums we so often deserve.
Journaling is a fabulous, safe, cathartic release valve for the stresses of daily life.
It's your space, your utterly 100% private, no one will ever, ever read it, secret place to say anything and feel everything. And then, when the words are out, you can go back to being the sane, responsible person everyone expects you to be.
6) Processing to the nth degree
You know how sometimes you come home from an event and you just know there's a lesson to be learned from being there, but life rears up and clouds everything up, keeping the wisdom just out of your grasp?
Well, journaling is the answer.
Sit down, write about what you experienced, re-live it. And presto, there's your learning moment, just waiting to be plucked off the page.
7) Ask and you shall receive.
There's a lot of truth to the notion that sometimes just putting something out to the universe means that you'll get back exactly what you needed.
Have a question weighing on your mind? Ask your journal the question and then sleep on it. Often we wake up with the answer, or the answer comes to us the next time we write. Facing a doozy of a challenge? Let yourself free-write for 10 minutes and discover that the solution was hiding deep inside the recesses of your brain.
It's seriously like magic. Magic we can all wield.
A version of this post was originally published on It's my life... by Jessica Rosenberg, just another mom trying to do it all before she falls into bed every night. Her first novel, Aloha Also Means Goodbye is available on Amazon. Her latest venture, The Zen Pencil, launched in November and has already delighted customers around the country.