I have kept a diary of some sorts since a child. Back then it was a real 'dear diary' and full of names that I no longer recognise and enough cringeworthy sentiments to make me want to laugh. But there is also a lot of uplifting snaps of my life. Dramas long passed that I navigated, some times with dignity, grace and laughter and some with wretched, heartbroken truth.
We all go through hard times. Challenges. Disappointments. Grief. And if you haven't then, I'm afraid I feel a little sorry for you, because it is the experience of those hard times which show who we truly are. I'll admit that I actually wouldn't choose to have a life with too many hardships as I am a bit of a wuss but writing in a journal through those times can be inspirational.
We have books, the internet, especially Instagram and Pinterest for words that resonate with us. We have poems. Mantras. Prayers. Photographs, paintings, works of art, scenery, landscapes, seascapes. Holiday destinations and the 'one day I want to live here' pictures.
When starting and keeping a journal we can choose what we want to fill it with and where to find the inspiration which gives us what we need. Do we need to wallow in the pain. The darkness. Or do we want to fill in as much optimism and positivity as possible which can have the same effect of eating too much sugar and leave us slightly nauseous.
For me, the art of keeping a journal is to nourish you. To nourish your soul, your heart and your mind. To make you feel less alone. Less weird. To fill it with not only your own words but others who have suffered fates far worse than your own and have come through it with the total hope that you may be able to as well. I use my journal to find pockets of peace. Simple things. Simple pleasures which gave and give me moments of calm, peace, amusement, clarity and observations on life on the very specific times that we are living in.
In my opinion some do's and don'ts to keeping a journal
DON'T use it to be mean about other people.
DO use it to look at a situation and how each played their part, the outcome and how you felt about it. Could you have done something different?
DON'T obsess about a situation, if you can't get over something and find that you are filling a journal about one specific situation in a very set way of looking at it then it may be that the problem is too big for simply writing in a journal
DO get some professional advice if you need to talk things over with someone detached from the situation and able to help. There is no shame in asking for help.
DON'T use it to wallow on how horrific your life is.
DO acknowledge if you are going through a traumatic time, that yes, actually, phew, this isn't easy. Acknowledge that you are in pain and look at different ways to help yourself. Emotions change rapidly and in a truly awful time you can get stuck in the ' ALWAYS AND FOREVER' mode of thinking.
eg; I've ALWAYS felt this way and I will do FOREVER.
Highly unlikely. No one can stay in any one emotion forever. Rage. Grief. Happiness are so interchangeable and we are a myriad of emotions in any one day, depending on everything and anything else going on for us. Keeping a Journal gives you an idea to see what works for you.
DO practice the art of Gratitude. What are you grateful for; from other people, your environment and about yourself. Are you grateful that all your limbs work? That you are capable of living independently, and if you can't are you grateful for the people who help you.
DON'T however be so grateful that you miss the fact that actually you're in the wrong job, relationship or environment.
DO no harm to others and yourself.
I grew up in Portugal and one of the best sayings I have ever heard and became part of my psyche, is that 'the best revenge is to live a happy life'
Don't waste your time looking for revenge. Its poison and the person you end up poisoning is yourself. As is talking incessantly over a situation that's not yours to resolve. Use your journal to analise if you need to but eventually write the story that encapsulates what happened and let go. Let Karma do the rest.
DO find inspirational stories, pictures which help you feel less alone, hopeful and soothe your soul.
DON'T compare yourself unfavorably. You are you. I am me. Its not a question of being in competition or judgement but observing and admiring the differences and fortitude which we all have.
None of us know how another person is feeling. We can empathise and we can sympathise. We may do one or we may be able to do both. But we can't truly know. Therefore we can't expect anyone to truly understand our pain. They can only use their own understanding and experience. Using a journal is YOUR way of understanding how YOU deal with things, what YOUR struggles are and ultimately what works for YOU to help YOURSELF.
Sometimes it is a case of sitting in the emotion you are feeling and if you're not used to feeling emotions then sometimes recognising that you don't need to distract yourself but be in it can be a revelation. Remember if you choose to sit in the pain be also ready to sit with happiness, joy, contentment, peace and fulfilment. Just as some people can't bare the thought of being unhappy and distract themselves, so can the same be said of happiness. The 'something bad will happen if I feel happy' mentality can stop us from seeing, feeling and being happy.
Everything is transitory. Nothing lasts. Everything, including ourselves change. Isn't that wonderful. We are constantly evolving and mutating.
Your journal is a snapshot of who you are at that time, in that year, in that period of time. Give your older self something to read in future years, with a smile, a tear but also a sense of pride at how you navigated life.