On a spare afternoon recently, I was answering a set of questions about myself in a book I had been given for my birthday. One that sparked an idea for me was the question ‘What item would you save from your house in a fire?’ Without a second of hesitation, the answer that immediately came to mind was my collection of diaries. This is when I realised the significance of these diaries for me.
Writing in my diary every night before bed has been part of my daily routine for as long as I can remember. The shelves in my room hold about one notebook for every year since I was fourteen (I did write diaries before this, but I think those are being stored in the attic). And now, I want to encourage you all to start keeping a diary, and I have three main reasons as to why this routine will change your life.
The first, and probably most obvious, reason to keep a diary is that you can record what you have done in your day and look back at it later. Diaries are a way of storing memories. Today we are all so keen to take a photo of everything as a way of holding onto memories, something I am very much guilty of; however, I would like to advocate for this as an alternative method. When writing it down, you have the ability to not only record exactly how you were feeling in that moment, but by doing so, you are also able to re–live it. You can write down any feelings that cannot be captured on camera. You can make note of anything from a wonderful fleeting moment, to a whole event. You have the freedom to write whatever you wish, creating a personal account of the memory. Photographs are often taken in a way to capture the best elements of a memory and to show off to others, but a diary is an authentic documentation of how you perceived something to have happened. It is the most private and true record of memories that you can cherish.
The second reason I encourage you to all start writing a diary is for the immense healing capacity of the introspective process. The process of sitting down at the end of each day and writing down what happened and how I felt about it allows me to figure out what is going on in my mind. As someone who is often consumed by unnecessary worry and overthinking, my dairy allows me to untangle the mess of thoughts in order to make sense of them on the page. It is almost like a fuzzy ball of thread becomes straightened out when I begin to write and decipher it’s meaning. As it is an entirely private process, you are able to be completely honest with yourself and try to understand what you are thinking and what this could mean. Usually I finish writing with a much clearer mind than when I began just minutes earlier.
In this same essence, the diary can act as a harmless buffer for emotions rather than directing these at people who you may unintentionally hurt. By writing down all of your thoughts first you can plan your direction in any conversation or confrontation rather than diving into it with no prior planning. The diary serves as an ear to listen to your rant, thus avoiding saying something irrational, and also avoiding an unhealthy build-up of negative emotions.
Another crucial benefit of keeping a diary is that you gain perspective and you learn more about yourself. By looking back at the years and years of diary entries, I have been able to track patterns and cycles of my emotions. This means that even when it seems as though I have never felt so sad or worried about something, I am able to look back and see that I have felt this way before and I have recovered from it. This means I can recover from it again. Often, I may feel so helpless and it seems like there is no way out and no end to my worries, but actually I can look at how I overcame these feelings in the past and learn about myself. Similarly, I may be feeling irrationally angry or upset one day, but by looking in my diaries I can see that the same thing happened around the same time last month, and therefore it is perhaps my hormones that are making me feel like this.
By writing my honest feelings into my diary every day, I am able to track my own emotional progression which has helped me to realise that everything is temporary. What once seemed to be the most important, most daunting, or most consuming thing in my life, is now nothing but a page in a notebook. Emotions evolve, and you do recover from them. People whose names would appear on every page eventually disappear and worries that seemed so significant are actually only temporary. This perspective is healing. Writing a diary opens up a whole new understanding of yourself, both mind and body.
Overall, though many may decide the commitment of a diary is too much for them, I would encourage some sort of note or record every now and then. Either as a personal memory log, or as a process of introspection, it is truly beneficial. I am not saying that everyone should stop taking photos as a way of capturing memories, or that they should write pages and pages of emotional rants every night, but what I am doing is presenting an alternative way of thinking and being in our day to day lives. This may not even work for everyone, but I hope at least you feel persuaded to give it a go.