We’re not even two weeks into the new year, but statistically most of us have started scrapping our high hopes for the months ahead. Apparently up to 80 percent of people break their New Year’s resolutions by mid-February.
That’s one reason I’m not much for resolutions. Keeping resolutions is hard work — and doesn’t allow for slip-ups. I prefer setting goals; it’s a more positive spin on personal growth that’s less focused on failure.
One goal I’m working toward this year: to journal at least twice a month.
Benefits of journaling
A quick glance through my journal entries proves that I often journal when I’m trying to make a decision. It helps me process my options and feel more at peace with a decision. It makes sense; research shows that journaling can help lessen stress or anxiety.
When we’re stressed, it’s easy for our thoughts to go a mile a minute. But writing out our thoughts or fears forces us to slow down and articulate each one before moving on to the next. Soon, we have a more logical representation of our concerns instead of just our emotional perspective.
Journaling can also help us remember things we think we’ll never forget, but often do. Maybe you jot down a few funny memories from a family gathering. Maybe you record the steps you took to seek out a new job, or the internal angst you felt when deciding on a major.
Some of the most important things to remember are the ways God has worked in our lives. Many of the Psalms read like diary entries. When facing danger, the psalmist wrestled with his faith and reality, often reminding his soul to remember how God provided for and protected him in the past. “Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” David wrote. To find the answer, he turned to the past: “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
Unfortunately, we are prone to forget God’s work in and for us. But what better way to remember what God has done than to write it down? “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them,” John Piper said. Even if we’re aware of three things, we’ll probably forget at least two of them within a few months. Unless we write them down.
What works for you?
So, you’re convinced you want to journal more this year. What’s next?
First, define your goal. There really aren’t any rules here. What do you want your journal to be? A record of events and family happenings? A log of specific details? A collection of personal ramblings — or wrestlings? A list of specific (but brief) ways you’ve seen God work?
Do you want a plain, lined journal? A five-year journal? Maybe you’d like to try a journal that lists daily prompts on what to write.
Keep your own personality and journaling interest in mind. I wrote in my journal a grand total of four times last year. The year before that I wrote about 10 entries, but almost all in a two-week period. My goal for this year pushes me to write at least 24 entries (and spread them out a bit).
My teenage brother started a five-year journal last year. He aimed to write every day, faithfully going back to fill in days he missed. My sister-in-law kept detailed journals for years. Last week she showed me a journal she kept when she dated my brother. She filled each page of the large notebook — this was no tiny diary — with teeny cursive writing.
They set a high bar for sure. But I know if I try to write that often or that detailed, I probably won’t stick with my goal.
Maybe, like my brother, you prefer a brief daily record. A five-year journal might be perfect for you. I don’t want the constant obligation of daily writing, and I know I’d prefer longer entries. Even weekly might be a stretch for me to commit to at this point, considering how little I’ve journaled the last several years. So for me, twice a month seems perfect.
Okay, ready for step two? Here it is: Start writing.
It’s really that simple! Don’t overthink it. Write a few sentences, and then feel free to stop — or keep going if you think of more to jot down.
Rinse and repeat. You now keep a journal.
Same time next year
A year from now I plan to have at least two dozen journal entries chronicling the next 12 months. I look forward to looking back on the year with the added benefit of hindsight.
I hope you’ll consider joining me in keeping notes on life. God will work in your life this year. Journaling might help you see His hand more clearly.
Copyright 2023 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.