Five Reasons You Should Keep A Journal (And How To Start)

Books, as well as journals, are magical! Reading and writing is magical! I mean, just think about all the ideas communicated, all the mental pictures painted, all the feelings stored in nothing but ink and paper! Writing is a gift to both the writer and the world. 

Without journals, we would only be able to guess how humanity got to where it is today. And certain inventions would be impossible without the ability to write. Everything would take so much more time, because we wouldn't have letters, emails, or textbooks to communicate. Writing and reading is such an important part of our world! 

Now, let's think of this in terms of your life. With a journal, you can delve into your own past, and you can communicate with your future self. You can sort through your feelings and find what is most important to you, and you can find purpose in your life! We live in a time of highlight reels and "like" buttons. But this is such an important time to keep a journal. Here's why . . . 

Really Get To Know Yourself

When I first started writing in a journal, it felt bizarre. It was like whoever was writing the words was a different person from the girl I already knew. I was outgoing as a kid, and loud. I was always looking for excitement in life. 

Then when I wrote about myself, I discovered a quiet, contemplative young women, and I thought that wasn't the true me. I thought that maybe I was unconsciously trying to be someone I wasn't whenever I wrote about myself. 

But, really that was the true me coming out. If I had never written a journal, I wouldn't have discovered that side of me.

Realize That You Don’t Have To Get Lost To Find Yourself

These days, society encourages travel as a means to find oneself. But you don't have to travel to get in touch with yourself, and travel itself won't be enough. You can write about your experiences even if you never go very far on the map.

One of my all-time favorite poems was written by Emily Dickinson. The first lines go like this:

"There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away."

Books can broaden horizons for those who cannot afford to travel. Keeping a journal is similar in the sense that you don’t have to travel the world to discover yourself. And if you do travel a lot, a journal will help you keep those precious memories much better than any pictures. Why? Because your future self can read what you truly felt when you stood in a beautiful new place.

Discover Where You Want To Go In Life

In time, keeping a journal helped me get to know myself. As a teenager, I didn't know what kind of a career I wanted to pursue but I did know what I valued in life. I knew what kinds of experiences I wanted such as where I wanted to travel, what kind of a man I wanted to marry someday, and I knew that I truly wanted to have children. I credit all of this to the practice of journal keeping.

We have millions of thoughts racing through our minds every day, and most of them are unconcious. It can be hard to sort through all the noise, but a journal can help you get all those jumbled ideas out of your head and out where you can see and make sense of them. 

As you write in your journal, it is likely that you will never explicitly say what you want to do in life. You may write about it and not even realize the significance of your words until years later, when you reread your entries and you discover where your dreams started.

Improve Your Memory Retention

There is good evidence that shows writing ideas by hand can improve memory. Students who take notes with pen and paper instead of a keyboard tend to need less study time right before a test.

This works because, as you are about to write, your mind evaluates the information before it even comes out on the paper. The fact that it takes more effort to write the words rather than type them is what makes the ideas stick to your brain better.

I haven’t been able to test it out, but I believe that I have been able to recall memories well because I have kept a journal for many years. Writing the events of my life along with the date helps me organize and retain other occurrences that happened around the same time.

This means that I don’t have to read my journals very often to remember happy times. In general, I can easily conjure up such memories when I am feeling down. Though, reading my journals gets me excited to keep going.

Create Your Legacy

A legacy is a gift, and a journal is a legacy that can be given to the future you or your descendants. And even if you never have kids, your journal will be something greatly treasured by other relations down the line, and even complete strangers. Think about everything that has been learned from journals kept throughout history! It's true that today we have Facebook and Instagram but, how much does your profile really say about you? We tend to post the highlights of our lives. So little of it is actually personal. Keep a journal so that your future self and your posterity can know the real you. Record your hopes and dreams, the things you are thankful for, and your moments of heartache and disappointment. All of it, every moment of your life, has value and is worth remembering.

In a world overloaded with social media, create something rare and truly lasting. 


The Traditional Journal

I know this one is obvious, but it is my favorite type of journal. I love having a blank canvas where I can write a story that is entirely my own. I can write as much or as little as I want on any given day. I do sometimes fear that I might “ruin” my pretty new journal with my less than perfect handwriting, my scribbles, and misspellings. 

It can also be daunting to sit with a brand new journal and wonder if I will ever fill its pages. For that reason, it may be a good idea to start with a small journal, and maybe even one that you don’t love all that much. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just find something with low-acid or acid-free paper so your journal will still be around generations from now.

I also like to print pictures to add to my journals. I take a glue stick to an edge of the photo and then it in between the pages.

This way, I don't have to make room for photos or try to make a pretty layout. 

The Calendar “Journal”

I learned this trick from a roommate while I was living in South Korea. When she didn't have time to write in her journal, she would sum up the events of the day on her calendar. So, when she did have time to write, she had that little reminder to jog her memory.

I tried it out, and decided to keep the calendar even after I went back and wrote all the details in my actual journal. When Josiah and I got engaged, I bought a calendar and wrote down a few things that we did every day for our first year together. We started dating just before Christmas, so the calendar made the perfect gift for our first Christmas as a married couple! 

This is a great method to try if you are new to keeping a journal or if you just don't have the time!

You can also try a One Line A Day journal. There is just enough space to sum up what you did during the day without feeling like writing is a chore. Just keep it on your night stand and jot down a couple sentences just before bed. It lasts for five years, and it is fun to look back on all the little details that you may have otherwise forgotten.

I personally don’t like to expect myself to write every single day, but I will elaborate on that later.

The Pinterest Board “Journal”

I often forget to take pictures or even write about something that happened. But I have a private "Memory" board on Pinterest where I have collected photos and pins that resemble things I have done throughout the year. 

I have a section for each year and I even have sections for my childhood, junior high, and high school years. I can't remember exactly when I did some things or in what order, but that's okay. 

This Pinterest board gives me a visual overview of the things I have seen and accomplished in life. 

It's really fun to find pins and to look through them when I have just a few minutes to reminisce. 

The Gratitude Journal

I love lists, and I often don't have time or I simply don't take the time to write out my daily activities in my journal. 

With a gratitude journal, I can just list a few things I am grateful for on any given day. When I flip through these pages, I have an idea of what I did that day. 

It's always nice to look back on the good things in life in a quick and easy way. Plus it is not something you have to do every single day.

The Burn Journal

Initially, no one wants to remember tough times. My gratitude journal helps me stay focused in the positive side of life, but sometimes I just need to vent. 

It can sometimes be healthy to talk with a friend, but venting can lead to gossip which is always poisonous. 

Venting can also bring down the people around you. So, sometimes I just need to sort out my frustrations and feelings without anyone giving me advice. 

Plus, this is a practice in validating my own feelings. 

I keep a burn journal where I can write a brain-dump and move on. I don't even pay attention to my grammar or punctuation as I write. I just let my pen fly and when I am done, I feel so much better.

When I look back through these pages, I can remember that my life wasn’t perfect. So many real, but ugly details of our lives are edited out so we can post a highlight reel on Instagram or Facebook. 

Don’t let your journal be a highlight reel. 

After all, a burn journal is only for you.
As I read my burn journal, I am often surprised by the things that used to bother me, but no longer have an effect on me. 

It feels good to realize how far I have come in life. 

And when I am ready, I can tear out certain entries and burn them or simply throw the notebook away. 

I will say, there is something empowering about destroying your past heartaches with actual fire!

There have been some things that I have written and let go, and some that still bother me. But it feels better to get it out there, to express myself, and then do my best to move on.

Some of my most cherished entries started in my burn journal. So much healing and self-discovery has come from it and I will never burn those pages.

My only regret is that my burn journals are actually composition books. Even if you plan to throw away, or literally burn your journal someday, my advice to you is to buy a simple, inexpensive journal with low acidic paper so that it will last.

At the end of one of these burn journals, I took extensive notes as I read Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. These notes are a treasure to me as well as many of the passages I never thought I would want to keep. 

I dread the day when these notebooks will begin to yellow with age and eventually fall apart!

The Smash Book (Sort Of)

A true smash book is a project that usually follows a vacation or life event. The idea is to keep tickets, pictures, and other memorabilia from your trip, and then you glue them into a journal when you get home and fill in your thoughts. It’s fun, though I rarely have enough tickets from one vacation to fill a whole book. 

When I was about 14 years old, I came up with my own version of a smash book without realizing it. I wanted to keep a journal but I usually didn't have much to say. Writing was new for me and it felt weird to write about myself. So, I found a pretty composition book and experimented with it.

I glued pretty scraps of paper onto the pages. I sometimes added pictures of me and my family or friends. I wrote a list of baby names I liked at the time. (None of them are on my list anymore.) I dedicated one page just for splattering craft paint. I wrote poetry in it and put stickers all over it. Sometimes I actually wrote stuff that was happening in my life, but the pictures and paint made it more interesting.

This actually made keeping a journal fun for me. I felt no pressure to make the pages look perfect, but gave myself an opportunity to practice creativity. This type of journal is really fun to look through and takes less time to read than a traditional journal. 

The Bullet Journal

As I stated earlier, I like to write lists. I like bucket lists, to do lists, grocery lists, lists of my favorite books, and so on. For me a bullet journal is an easy way to save my ideas and memories. I have a little book that my brother bought for me in Paris where I keep lists of everything. Some examples are: places I have traveled to, favorite books, movies, music, qualities I hoped to find in the man I married. (He has all of them, by the way!) I even have a list of weird things I want to do when I am old and apparently senile.

And sometimes, I even write out a list of events that happened in the last week or month, when I don’t have time to write an actual entry with actual sentences.

My version of a bullet journal is a simple book full of lists scrawled in my awkward cursive. I’m not about the bullet journals that require much planning and visual creativity, but that might work for you. I’ll talk about this more in the next section . . .  


The Elaborate Bullet Journal

Bullet journals are a huge trend right now. They are very pretty but not ideal to forming a habit of writing regularly.

This is a great method for people who like to keep scrapbooks and make uniform, and pretty pages. For me, this is a lot of work and not so much fun. A bullet journal can be daunting when you sit down to write and all you can think about is how much effort it's going to take.

Keeping a journal is best done when there is no expectation of perfection. Make it messy, make it yours and it will be beautiful. 

The Daily Journal

Writing everyday can be beneficial. So much of our day-to-day routines are forgotten years later. But this is a goal that is so often forgotten about. It's difficult to find the time to write in a journal every single day. This does not mean that you are not good at it, or that you need to make a greater effort. Even if you don't write every day, it is still worthwhile. Writing something once a month or even once a year is better than never.

Remember that you can always start again. And you don't have to back track and write everything that happened in the last month. Just start where you are again and again. It will be so worth it years from now. 


I love my One Line A Day journal! I have had it for over a year now and it's so easy to right down a few details of my day in just a minute or two. 

The Prompt Journal

A list of prompts or ideas to get you started in your first journal is a great idea. However, in the long run, a journal printed with daily prompts is hard to stick with. 

It's like having a book of worksheets for you to fill in; it's less personal, less meaningful. This method may work for some people but I find that it gets in the way of my own creativity.

A journal should be something with endless possibilities, a clean slate that is ready to be filled with the beautiful world inside your head.

Besides, there may be a day when you have something on your mind and the prompt in your journal happens to be totally off topic. I feel it is important to allow myself to write the things that are on my mind at any given time.


My concluding advice to you is to start where you are, accept that it won't be perfect and it doesn't have to be. 

Try multiple methods until you find what works for you. Maybe none of the ideas in the post will help you, but I hope that you feel inspired to record your history in some way. 

My greatest physical treasures are my journals, they are unique and irreplaceable. 

Whatever you write, it is worth saving simply because you wrote it, you can create something that no one else can, and no one can tell you it's not valuable.

So, try it out, keep going, and hopefully you will find yourself along the way. 

Hi! My name is Kait. Follow this link to learn more about me and my blog.


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