Diaries aren’t just for Bridget Jones or children. Even though sometimes it gets a bad reputation as being something childish or silly, diary-writing is an excellent mental health tool. Speaking as someone who has been keeping a consistent journal since age 12, I can pretty much attest to its amazing perks. Writing a diary lets me take charge of the minutiae of my life — everything from what I need to accomplish this day, this week, or even this year, to my thoughts, emotions, and concerns of the everyday. Whatever medium you choose, whether it’s digital or paper, here are the top seven reasons to start journaling:
1. Make to-do lists.
I use my diary to jot down everything I need to get accomplished during the day or during the week. I like having my to-do list in my diary better than having it in my phone, because the feeling of accomplishment, for me, increases tenfold. I also love to look back and remember the tasks of my everyday life months from now so that I can remember how far I’ve come. Somehow, ticking off boxes on a screen just doesn’t do it for me. It has to be cataloged, so I feel that much more pride.
2. Vent everything about your day and be honest with yourself.
If you’re a private person like me, then you try to work through problems by yourself before turning to a friend or S.O. A diary lets me do just that. It’s also my place to be completely honest with myself about how I feel about things, without fear of being judged or misunderstood. It’s a cathartic, healthy experience to have a safe place to vent about everything, and the process of writing it down is therapeutic. It’s almost like going to a therapist.
3. Preserve your brightest memories.
In my opinion, preserving the best moments of your life is the best reason to have a diary. Memories fade with time, and even the best ones fray and furl at the edges after a while. But if you write it all down when it’s fresh, you’ll be able to make an external memory you can look back on whenever you want. When I read my diaries from high school, even college, it’s like reliving it — every wonderful moment that made me who I am. Of course, not every moment will be wonderful, but I’ve even learned to love reading the bad parts of my story, because it reminds me how much I’ve grown and changed. Imagine watching a tape of your life — but less creepy. Diaries give that to me.
4. Write letters to your future self.
Similarly, I also use a diary to get in touch with who I aspire to be. Setting goals and meeting them is a necessity, but I also like to remind my future self of a few important things: like to remain childlike and have hope, to keep striving toward a dream, to love myself — things that even present me has trouble doing. But reading those letters when I get older will be like peeking into a window from my past, like an epistolary time capsule.
5. Use it as a scrapbook.
You probably take hundreds of pictures of your life. Why not paste them (physically or digitally) into your diary? That way, the whole entity becomes like a personal blog or scrapbook of sorts — where pictures and words create this complete picture of a snapshot in your amazing life.
6. Jot down ideas for creative projects.
Every writer, artist, musician, or what-have-you will tell you that a notebook or other similar means to jot down notes is pretty much essential. A diary, at least for me, sometimes doubles as a place to take notes, draft story ideas, and have that conversation with yourself that needs to happen to create anything. My diary is often the place where I write down terrible first drafts of anything I write, because for me, my diary is like a haven. I also may be a little obsessed with documentation, but hey — who isn’t? We are the Instagram generation, after all.
7. Use it as a dream journal.
Anyone who has ever struggled to remember their dreams will tell you that a dream journal is invaluable. I use my personal journal as a dream journal too, jotting down what I remember right when I wake up so I can get to know myself better. My journal has, throughout the years, become a mishmash of photos, lists, emotional venting, and early drafts of creative projects I can go back to and read whenever I want. It’s my autobiography in multimedia form, and it’s taught me so many important lessons about who I am and who I want to be.