Journal Writing
Kristin Donovan : Journaling Heals All Wounds

Better Living Through Journaling

Regular Journaling Provides Endless Benefits

Journal writing slows down time, etches images into your memory, and breathes life into everyday occurrences.

By Kristin Donovan | Updated 7/29/15

Regular journaling provides endless benefits. Perhaps one of the most magical it its ability to slow down time, to effortlessly etch images in your memory, and breathe life into everyday occurrences. Simply put, journaling makes your life more colorful. Here's how to harness the benefits of journal writing for more vivid days — and nights.

Turn Your Life Into a Treasure Hunt

Adding the detritus of daily living fleshes out the experience of capturing your days. As you wander to various locales throughout your day, pick up ephemera to stash in your journal. Keep an eye out for ticket stubs, newspaper headlines, bus transfers, postcards, parking meter receipts. I love collecting items bearing the current date. My journals are bursting at the seams with scraps of life.

If you continue this practice, you'll find yourself paying closer attention to your surroundings as you seek tidbits for your journal. It can turn a ho-hum walk into a treasure hunt!

Be Here Now

Journaling reels you in, slows you down, and makes you more aware of your surroundings. Try beginning each journal entry with an in-depth description of where you are sitting. Include the details that truly complete the scene: the dripping faucet, the sound of traffic outside, the cricket in your closet. The smell of coffee brewing next door, carried in your window by the spring breeze. The mottled warmth of filtered sunlight pressing through the cherry tree. Dig into your world and put it on the page.

Save it for Later

Once journaling becomes a habit, you may find yourself thinking, "I need to write about this later." You then begin paying special attention to what's going on, taking close mental notes. Small moments become vivid in time. You may find yourself listening more closely to dialog, body language, scents, background noise. This means you live deeper, experience the moment more fully, retain more in your memory, and are able to create lasting impressions on the page.

Experience the Past

Capturing your life regularly builds up an amazing resource later on. These in-depth, highly detailed entries can provide a safe spot to re-experience the past at will. If you're homesick or feeling nostalgic, just turn to the section of your journal where you relished your surroundings in colorful detail.

It's fun to revisit older entries armed with your life experience and matured world view. Look at an old experience with new eyes and then write about it. How do you feel about the situation now? What have you learned in the time that has passed?

I often feel compassion for my younger self when re-reading, particularly the times when I was thrashing about, so conflicted and unsure. It also brings home the reality of how much I've grown in the years since that era — my life experience has made me braver, deeper, wiser. This even helps me deal with present circumstances, knowing one day they will be fodder for growth and I will look back with compassion at my current predicament.

Have More Headspace

Even if you don't journal about time and place, the act of writing helps you experience life more colorfully. When you journal, you get all the garbage out of your head and onto the page, freeing up valuable mental real estate. Then your mind is free to experience the present tense, to fully engage with life. If you're working through repetitive issues in your head, it's hard to tune in to your surroundings and your daily life. Problems that could be easily solved on the page become intrusive.

I find this works especially well for me when I write in the morning. The first thing I do is a brain dump on the page. Then I can begin my day more freely and with ample attention and energy to attend to my life. I get the grumpies out, dust off the head room, and face the world with the ability to dig in to my day.

The same benefits can be had by journaling just before bed. Unloading the day's struggles and details can help you sleep more deeply, less hung up on worries. Deeper sleep makes for more colorful dreams. If you're lucky, some of that fairy dust will spill over into the waking hours.

These are just a handful of the many ways a regular journaling practice can deepen your day and bring more color into your life. Try them yourself and see what happens. •

Next: Journaling Heals All Wounds

© 2010 by Kristin Donovan. All rights reserved.

Kristin DonovanKristin Donovan has been journaling for more than two decades. She facilitates creativity groups for women and leads journal writing workshops in the Pacific Northwest and online. More »
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