The personal journal is your ‘dear diary’ sort of journal, where you pour all your thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, fears and doubts onto the page.
Some people argue that the terms ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ have different meanings – that a diary is to record daily events and experiences, whereas a personal journal is a lot more, well, personal.
Regardless of what you call it, it’s the sort of notebook where you are usually quite candid and it’s the kind of thing you tend to keep private.
I started keeping a journal (although at the time I called it a diary) when I was about 11 years old. At that time it mostly was a daily record of events, with a few thoughts and feelings mixed in. Slowly I started to include crushes, conflicts with friends, worries about the future, feelings of inadequacy.
I didn’t think much about what I was doing or why I was doing it, although it was right when I started middle school (what we call intermediate school in NZ). I think I did it to have a record of my experiences, but the practice grew into so much more.
My personal journaling practice has grown and evolved over the past two decades.
I spent most of my teens and early twenties turning to my journal mostly in times of trouble: breakups, career concerns, friendship dilemmas, existential crises. It was my go-to place to process these things, and I almost always felt better for doing so. When I was deep in a depression a few years back, simply writing in my journal each day made me feel much better.
Now I keep a personal journal for many reasons, including processing emotions more effectively, developing a sense of self compassion, overcoming fears and creative blocks, and increasing my self confidence, among other things.
I certainly still turn to my personal journal in tough times as I’ve always done, but I write a lot more often and explore many more positive things too.
It functions as a record of my life, a portable therapist (accessible 24/7 and a fraction of the cost!), a friend and mentor, a creative coach, a life coach, a container of fears, dreams, secrets, and the mundane.
If you’d like to keep a personal journal, it’s very simple.
You write by hand (it can certainly be done digitally but I think there are many benefits to writing by hand). You write stream-of-consciousness, you write honestly, and you try not to edit yourself. You don’t share what you write with others.
You can literally write about whatever you want, but the aim is to include personal aspects. If you want to describe your day, great, but bring in the personal elements of it too – how did you feel today? What did you think about? What do you hope for tomorrow, or next week, or next year? What bothered you today? And so on.
There really aren’t that many rules when it comes to keeping your own personal journal. You can write as often or as little as you like, however, writing more often than not can be very rewarding.
I think the most important thing is to write for yourself, not for someone else – that means keeping the journal private and writing openly and honestly without censoring yourself.
Do you keep a personal journal? What do you include in it? Share your personal journaling experiences in the comments.