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Keeping a Journal Reaps Rewards

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As part of your summer “habit building” routine, I suggest that everyone who can hold a pencil or maneuver a keyboard should start keeping a journal. Writing in a journal offers many rewards. It is safe, private, and productive. For me, it is a way to work out problems, reflect on situations, and keep track of ideas for my other writing.

A personal journal is not a diary. It is a collection of random thoughts and ideas that are of interest to the author. Instead of “this is what happened today,” the writer will reflect on the why’s, what if’s, the consequences. I had a very strange dream last night about a snake getting ready to attack a kitten. In my journal I might look at situations involving underdogs or my fear of snakes or my need for a new pet.

Entries might include thoughts about a recent vacation or family reunion. But rather than focusing on the events, the emphasis is on the people, their interactions, your feelings when you looked over the rim of the Grand Canyon or realized your favorite aunt was suddenly aging.

Journals help us work things out. They can also help us get things “out of our system.” Sometimes when we write down our thoughts and feelings, we suddenly see answers. Or we realize we’re really over reacting. Or we notice that something we think wasn’t important, actually is; or the reverse – something we thought was a big deal really isn’t.

One of my personal journal rules is that I have to at least think about solutions. So if I’m writing about a bad day at work, and I’ve figured out why it went bad, then I need to find a way to keep it from happening again. I may even have to work on apologizing to someone.

Journals can be more formal and directed. You can write about a daily topic. There are all kinds of “thought for a day” collections in book stores and online. For families, there are flash cards that ask specific questions appropriate for kids and parents. There are some that are specifically for grandparents. Academic Toolbox carries Chat Packs and similar items which are designed to be conversation starters.

I think you’ll find that in only a few minutes a day, you will be less stressed, more relaxed, and more insightful. You learn things about yourself and others that will surprise you and, usually, please you. And it’s fun!

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