Keeping a Journal
Some Ways to Keep a Meaningful Journal
Anyone, at any moment, could walk up to you and tell you the meaning of life. For everyone it may be different, but regardless of this fact, if the very next person you were to hold a conversation with were to divulge to you the secret meaning of the universe, chances are you probably wouldn’t understand it at the time. Meaning is a product of contemplation, and contemplation is something of an aging process; things that start out as simply memorable mature into encounters that are truly meaningful.
A good journal is like a roadmap, a golden thread through the labyrinth of one’s own personal past. A journal that is kept well and tended well will be fruitful, whereas one that is neglected and kept up out of a false sense of obligation, without any real thought put into it, will not yield any fruit to its writer.
In any Barnes & Noble, Border’s, or even artsy boutique, blank books are a popular item for sale. People like blank books, people buy blank books, but do people use blank books? For me, getting to the very last page of any sort of notebook, no matter what it’s filled with, is a very special moment. At that moment, I come to the realization that what’s in the front of the book is probably mature, so that I can read back over what I’ve written in the beginning and see how my attitude has changed. A good journal will be rewarding in the writing process and also (especially!) during the re-reading process. Remember, a journal is for you, and no-one else but you! So, there's no excuse not to be as honest as possible!
Keeping a journal can improve your happiness, according to academic research, although what you write is important. Negative events in your life may be best written about in analytical fashion, i.e. as an attempt to identify why events unfolded as they did (because writing analytically will increase awareness about external factors that caused the negative event, and thus suppress negative personal feelings). Positive events, on the other hand, might be better off when left unanalyzed, because analyzing could give the journaler awareness of external factors which contributed to the success). It might be better instead for the writer to simply record the feelings of the moment and attempt to relive the positive events.
One of the most important things for a prospective journaler to remember is that the real value of a journal is the record being created; a proper journal can serve as a set of minutes to life, and so it comes down to the writer to decide what events are worth noting. Even entries that seem incredibly mundane, filled with details that don't seem to change much from day to day can be interesting years later, and the real key can be establishing a habit of introspection and recollection at the end of each day. That way, when something that is out of the ordinary and calls for real consideration occurs, the writer already has a set time and method to confront the issue.
Now that everyone is good and inspired, here are a few tips to get started: At the end of each day, pick one thing that sticks out in your mind. This thing can be a situation, a person, a feeling, or any other kind of observation. Pick something that is meaningful to you, and reflect honestly on it—half a page is a good starting length, but eventually you’ll come to have a certain sense of when an entry is completed. At first this may seem difficult, but there are only 2 key points here- being perceptive, and being honest.
The writing part of keeping a journal is not a time-consuming ordeal-- IF the entry is something that you keep at the back of your mind throughout the whole day. The cultivation of this attitude is one more beneficial side effect of keeping a journal. Every day is at least a little bit different, and it is these differences, and moreover our reactions to these differences, that shape how we live life and experience the world.
Keeping a diary
In order to keep a diary, you must set aside time each day to do so. An ideal time to do this is just before you go to bed. As well as adding the events of the day to your journal, the most important things you could write are your feelings and how events have made you feel. This can be useful to look back upon, and honest, open diary entries can help you through difficult times.