I bought a bullet journal at the end of June in 2019. I hoped it would help me organize my appointments and tasks. What began as a simple “to-do” list slowly evolved into a memory book of my baby’s milestones, and a way to exercise creativity via bullet journal layouts. After the first COVID lockdown, my journal became a haven for me. Journaling helps me focus on positivity amidst uncertainty. I’m able to keep lovely little memories I would have otherwise forgotten. It’s not all fluff, though—when I need to I write my truth no matter how brutal or unflattering.
There are many proven benefits to keeping a journal for mental well-being:
- Reduces Stress
- Cultivates mindfulness
- Enhances ability to recognize stress/trauma triggers
- Provides a way to engage in positive self talk
- Improves memory
- Aids in processing trauma
- Boosts your immune system
Keeping a journal doesn’t have any hard and fast rules, nor does it need to consist of your daily activities or thoughts. My journal has: newspaper articles, dried flowers, doodles, quotes, collages, poetry, political opinions, checklists, tarot readings, herblore, and more. A journal can be a compilation of “you.” A way to preserve and track your interests, thoughts, art, memories, and observations. Journaling can be a tool to facilitate change or meet your goals. You may gain insight into subconscious thought patterns or behaviors, and it can help you “rewrite” your mental narrative. Over time, your journal can become a way to evaluate your growth. However you choose to do it, if done consistently, journaling can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on your life.
I love having a physical journal, but you can keep a journal on your computer or phone, if that’s what suits you. If you want to start a journal but don’t know how, there are thousands of journal prompts available! It can be scary when writing something deeply personal, but you can always paint/draw over the page, or even tear it out and burn it. The benefit of having written in your journal will still be there, but the “evidence” won’t be. The freedom to lay oneself bare in a space that is purely yours is liberating.
Journaling in this time of global upheaval has contemporary benefits, but it can also be considered a gift to future generations. Journals are a glimpse of history made personal. Many historians utilize journals as primary sources, and historical journals have helped flesh out our understanding of what life was like in the past. We have powerful glimpses into the lives and minds of people like Frida Kahlo, Anne Frank, Virginia Woolf, Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as “average” people history would have otherwise forgotten if not for their journals.
I know it’s been nauseatingly overstated: “we live in unprecedented times,” but it’s true. The ever growing threat of climate change, vast (and sometimes terrifying) technological advances, the socio-political climate, and of course COVID-19 all add up to a confusing kerfuffle historians and curious (i.e. nosy) people of the future will delve into with gusto.
Dozens of crowd-sourced projects are currently accepting pandemic journal entries for research and posterity (The Pandemic Journaling Project, or Covid Stories are two examples). Some have prompts or questionnaires, and many give the user the option to have their journal publicly available or private. I’ve read entries written by people from all over the world. It’s comforting (though sad) to note how much I have in common with many others struggling through the hopelessness of everything and everyone we’ve lost.
Personally, I’m not putting my journal out there for the world to read. I keep in mind the real and uncomfortable possibility I may not live through the pandemic despite the precautions I take. India is not vaccinating foreign citizens, which leaves me quite vulnerable. Should the worst happen, my son will (at the very least) have a semblance of who I was, how much I loved him, as well as some interesting anecdotes from his childhood and the turbulent times we lived through. Regardless of what may or may not transpire in the future, keeping a journal helps me now, and for that I am abundantly grateful.
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