Growing up, I remember my middle school English teacher getting us kids to write down some of the things we did and experiences we had that left an impression on us. She encouraged us to keep this up in the form of a written journal. She told us that one day we would really appreciate being able to look back and relive with fondness each of the coming-of-age milestones that were important to us at the time. Keeping a journal would also push us to ponder how these unique events impacted our lives and help shape us into the adults we became.
I’m sad to say that I didn’t listen to my teacher and faithfully take detailed life notes of all the memorable goings on of my teenage years and beyond. I do still have some of my old school notes documenting a few of these cherished memories, which I’m deeply appreciative that my mom saved so that I have them now.
My teacher was right: these written memories mean more to me now than I could ever have imagined. Not simply for purposes of nostalgia, but also as a type of family heirloom that I can pass on to my children, who can then pass it on to their children, and so forth.
How could childhood notes in any way benefit my kin, you might be asking yourself? Well, one of the things I’ve come to realize is that journaling isn’t just about scrawling the minute details of one’s personal life across the pages of a private diary in order to keep them under lock and key…
Though there are definitely therapeutic benefits to be gained from journaling for personal reasons.
But perhaps even more valuable is having the opportunity to share the treasure trove of one’s memories and life lessons, transcribed through the various lenses of age, experience, and emotion, from one generation to the next.
The written words you choose to leave behind as part of your legacy can have a tremendous impact on your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, and really anyone in your life whom you love and cherish. Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, it’s never too late to start journaling.
I would encourage you to do so (and also teach your children to do so), because the rewards are invaluable. Not only does journaling help you to get things off your own chest, in turn relieving tension and stress. But it can also enrich others who gain the unique opportunity to learn from the trials and errors of your personal journey.
Family Journaling to Forge Closer Bonds With Loved Ones
Sure, some things about your life are deeply personal and you don’t necessarily want everybody to know about them. But if you think about the process more like scrapbooking, except with a pen and paper rather than photos and mementos, you’ll better understand the type of journaling I’m talking about − the life story kind of journaling.
One example of this might be a shared family journal, into which each member of the family contributes their own personal life experiences in a narrative format. The experiences themselves might be isolated, meaning that family member experienced them alone. Or they might be shared, meaning that a family member is relaying a shared family experience from their own perspective.
Having each person write down their experiences in order to read them all later as a family is a great way to forge stronger bonds. It’s a way to maintain more intimate relationships with one another in a fast-paced and increasingly disjointed world. And over time, you’ll end up with a collection of short stories about your family that you can preserve as part of your heritage.
Personal Journaling for Healing and Refreshment
Keeping a journal for personal reflection, as I’ve come to appreciate, has its own benefits for all areas of health… whether it be mental, emotional, or even physical. According to acclaimed social psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker, spending just 20 minutes per day, three or four days per week, writing things down − thoughts, feelings, or whatever it might be − can actually help increase immune function and make one more resistant to disease or infection.
Numerous studies that Dr. Pennebaker has conducted over the years on the role of journaling in both mental and physical health reveal that keeping a journal offers steady and consistent relief from the stresses of life, which in turn helps boost the body’s ability to maintain a healthy state of homeostasis (balance).
You probably know that bottling up your emotions and inadvertently burying them deep within the subconscious can have devastating effects on your long-term health, but the same is true for your experiences.
Again, whether good or bad, the thoughts you think, the feelings you harbor, the experiences you have, the pains, the joys… all of these things are what make you uniquely human. If you keep these things locked away in the depths of your inner self, the legacy you end up leaving behind will be rote and barren, at least to those around you who likely never have gotten the chance to truly know you at a deeper and more genuine level.
Don’t deprive yourself or your family of the gift of knowing and being known through journaling. Do it for your relationships; do it for your own health; and do it to preserve a solid legacy that will enrich your family’s heritage for many generations to come. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Have you tried journaling? Do you journal on a regular basis? Please share your experience of how journaling help you in the Comments section below.