Getting to know yourself through journaling

Do you journal? Did it ever cross your mind that journaling is more powerful than it might seem? I discovered journaling again when I was travelling through Ukraine and Hungary this summer. During this time, I took no pictures at all but decided to capture all the beautiful moments I experienced on paper.

My relationship with journaling

Journaling has been an on-off relationship for me over the past few years. I was doing it when I was a child as I loved writing in general and often elaborated on my day adding a lot of fictional elements to turn it into an exciting story. Back then I had the time and the motivation to do so. However, when I grew older my motivation started to fade and eventually time becoming shorter as well. So, I kept a dream journal as a compromise for a while, but then neglected it after a few months and forgot all about it after a while.

However, when I finally re-discovered the immense benefits of journaling, it didn´t seem like a burden to me anymore. When I first started my journal again in summer I was intrigued by all the beautiful experiences I made and wanted to keep them in my mind forever. But sadly, we tend to forget. We have to forget in order to let new things into our lives. So I decided that I could at least capture my thoughts and feelings on paper as I went on with my travels. This way of documenting what I experienced was even better than looking at pictures afterwards, as I was able to express my feelings directly on paper and would be set back right into how I felt during the time when reading about it months later.

Journaling about your feelings

For me journals are a great way to express my feelings and emotions. Sometimes, emotions can be overwhelming and you might not know what to do with them. You might find it difficult how to handle them in a certain situation. Writing your feelings down can be quite challenging at first as emotions tend to occur in a rather sudden manner. However, the exercise of formulating them and putting them on paper always brings back a certain structure into my thoughts. This shows me my way of thinking and lets me examine my thought patterns which came back again and again over time.

Capturing emotions can be hard at first but the good thing about a journal is that it is just yours. It doesn´t have to follow any rules you can just express yourself in a way that helps you to understand yourself better. You can write down fragments of sentences, thoughts that pop into your head randomly or a whole story – it is just yours. Nobody will ever read it if you do not want anyone to. Nobody will ever be able to judge you except yourself. It is just a space, a blank page that allows you to express raw thoughts again and again, as long as you need.

Learning about yourself through journaling

Writing in my journal has helped me greatly to understand myself better. When I was feeling sad or lonely during my travels, I wrote it down. I wrote down moments that frustrated me and still kept re-occurring. Of course, I also wrote down lots of happy memories and these are nice to reflect on and to read over again, too. But the moments you learn the most about yourself are the moments you struggle. Especially when the struggle can be traced back to your behaviour. For me it was always more interesting to write down rather negative thoughts and things were frustrating and annoying in order to see how I developed dealing with them. If they just didn´t matter anymore in the end or if I was effectively able to solve them. It was also motivating to recognize a pattern in my thoughts and behaviour which could be changed. If you then read about your positive development over time, it is even more motivating. And there will be many reasons to be proud of yourself as we are all facing many challenges each and every day. Journaling can help you handling difficult situations as your thoughts will not just be up in the air, come and go in and out, but they can be structured, formulated and analysed. Even if you never go over what you wrote previously, which I rarely do, you will still recognize that you wrote about the exact same situation the fourth day in a row now. Then you will start thinking if it is not about time to change something about your approach towards this problem.

How to stay on track

So, the most important question is now: how do I start? We all know it: forming a new habit is hard and journaling is no exception. It might be even harder than other habits as it is something you will be tempted to neglect if you are living a stressful life. However, the only way to benefit from journaling is doing it over time. Only over time you will be able to recognize certain patterns in your mind and behaviour. Only then you will have this one Aha-moment that can solve a lot of previous problems. Or you will be able to go back to a situation that happened a while ago and you completely forgot how you dealt with it and can learn from it again.

Journaling is about self-discipline. But if you try it and you do notice the benefits – try to stay on track. This is also a friendly reminder to myself as I am the first one to admit that it is hard. It only gets easier when it becomes part of your daily routine and you don´t even think about it anymore. When it becomes and automatic process, integrated in your daily life. Journaling could be a nice new habit before going to bed as you then have the possibility to go over your day and process everything that happened. Sometimes, a lot can happen in only 24 hours and we are not able to process it all the way through. Writing it down on paper binds it into a book which can be then closed and left on a shelf – ready to be filled again the next day.

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