For the longest time I would start and fail to keep up with maintaining a diary until I made these changes to the way I journal.
It’s Not Always About What Happened Today
Thinking of journals in terms of dates or what happened on a particular day limited my scope. Instead of recording daily events, I assess how I feel about an issue, event, a person, or an idea. Of course, what happened that day might spark ideas, but it doesn’t have to be the case. What triggers my topics can range from a movie, a social media post, what happened to a loved one, global news, or an intimate conversation with a friend.
Dictionaries define a diary and journal as:
Diary: a book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences.
Journal: a daily record of news and events of a personal nature; a diary.
Straying away from these definitions helps with recording richer and more thought-provoking ideas. Moreover, research shows that writing down your thoughts relieves stress and quiets the mind, so think of events or issues that occupy your thoughts regardless of when they happened.
It’s Not About Me
Although I make it a point to assess how something affected me in a journal, I broaden my analysis and consider how others are affected. These entities can be a person I know, certain social categories be it age groups or gender, countries, religions, or economies. In this sense, the act of journaling becomes a form of personal and social reflection. It’s an opportunity to not just learn about myself but also the world around me. An added bonus, the process translates to an exercise of empathy.
Sometimes, I write letters to people that have impacted me. These can be people I know personally or not, people I still keep in touch with or not. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations inspired this part of my journaling. He wrote down what he admired, loved, and learned from people who impacted his life. This is also a great way to foster gratitude and the process acts as a reminder of why we hold someone or something dear to us.
To make journaling a form of meditation, consider it a self-interview. What would you like to know about yourself? Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, have a list of questions to ask yourself. To get started, here is the Proust Questionnaire.
The More You Know
Marcel Proust, a French essayist and novelist, popularized (not wrote) a questionnaire played in parlor games during the Victorian era, hence the Proust Questionnaire. Interviewers often use these questionnaires and Vanity Fair has a section where they ask celebrities questions from the list.