Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, a record of her personal life amidst the Holocaust, is the most famous diary and a renowned book, read widely across the world.
Keeping a diary is a habit of a lot of people but the fundamental question here is why do we feel the need to pen down our thoughts, memories, dreams, worries, joy on paper? Is it because of the need of leaving behind something that captures the highlights of our existence or that we need a tangible record to be remembered by?
A diary is akin to a written photograph or a hardbound repository of our experiences
If we go back to the history of writing, keeping journals dates back to the 10th century Japan although they don’t have diurnal records. Many famous people had the habit of keeping diaries including Presidents and authors. Oscar Wilde, 19th century playwright, said: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”
BENEFITS OF JOURNALING
Provides Clarity –Penning down our thoughts bring structure to the vast inner world of fragmented emotions and thoughts that goes on in our hearts and minds. When our thoughts are laid down in front of us, we are able to discern and untangle the intricate web of our musings, hopes, secrets and fears.
Problem Solving – When we write we are able to take ourselves out of the current situation, look at the big picture, have a holistic outlook towards our present concerns. It also helps to connect dots backwards and sometimes even seemingly unrelated incidents, ideas or thoughts which might not have made sense earlier. It might help us to even gain recognition of the patterns of our thought process that we might not notice otherwise
Self discovery– Journaling helps us to introspect, to gain great insights into ourselves- our strengths, weakness, ambitions and obstacles which is a step towards personal growth and development. It is one of the roads to self discovery
Self Expression/Venting Out– When voice fails us, we can express ourselves through written words. While writing down our emotions and thoughts, boundaries of topic, structure, punctuation, grammar and syntax can be transcended to free flowing expression of ourselves. When we write, our thoughts fly from the cage of our restless minds and are clearly displayed on the paper in front of us.
Alleviate Stress– Expressing our anger, frustration or sadness on paper reduces the intensity of our emotions and makes us feel calmer hence helping us to gain more clarity and make rational decisions. It lets loose the negativity that we have festering inside us and reduces its deleterious effects. Psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps us come to terms with them, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on our physical health.
Now one might wonder how it is different from talking to a close family member, friend or a confidante?
It’s not always easy to discern and express our emotions especially when we are going through dark storms in our lives. At that time we might have a cornucopia of turbulent thoughts and emotions which might not be easy to voice.
While writing, we don’t have to fear that the paper or diary will have any bias or prejudice towards us or we have to make sense in order to clearly express ourselves.
Writing a diary has been proven to be a form of therapy and is advised to overcome negative experiences including negative experiences like trauma. Researcher Joshua Smyth emphasizes that to tap writing’s healing power, people must use it to better understand and learn from their emotions rather than solely venting out.
Paper has more patience than people – Anne Frank