Why I Journal - How Gratitude Made All The Difference

Poleroid journal spread from The Gratitude Log - Why I Journal

“I’m beginning to recognize that real happiness isn’t something large and looming on the horizon ahead but something small, numerous, and already here. The smile of someone you love. A decent breakfast. The warm sunset. Your little everyday joys all lined up in a row.” - Beau Taplin

It took me years to understand that journaling could be more than a place to vent my frustrations. More than just a way to let out all the pent up feelings that, as a teenager, I didn’t feel I could express in any other way. But even as an angsty teen, I found that writing down why I was angry, or how badly a situation had gone, only served to grow those negative feelings within me. Even as I wrote those things I knew I would never want to return to the pages of those notebooks, and before long they were abandoned, barely even started.

As Alexandra Johnson put it in her book Leaving a Trace:

“millions of journals are abandoned for being a joyless collection of grievances. Observing the world turns a journal from a cloudy mirror into a window. A diary kept only to record misery or complaints gives no pleasure back. For a journal to be self-renewing, it must give pleasure as well as perspective.”

For me, it wasn’t until I came across the idea of gratitude journaling, of taking note of what went right instead of what went wrong, of watering the parts of my life that I wanted to flourish, that keeping a journal became something meaningful.

My husband likes to remind me that my journals are our most prized possessions, because in a way they hold our hearts in their pages — like pressed flowers, the delicate remains of bright, vivid blooms.

But journaling doesn’t just preserve the life we’ve lived so far. It also reminds us to recognize those little, everyday joys. To see the blooms while the are bright. And then, when either of us find ourselves in moments of despair, we open the pages and there they are. Those little everyday joys lined up in a row.

This is why I journal.

Why do you journal? If you don’t, what stops you?

I believe there are a no wrong ways to journal, so long as it serves you. Venting has it’s place, but for me that place is in a separate notebook. One where I can work through things no matter how messy they are, and then take what I learned while leaving the rest behind. I wish I’d known sooner that wasn’t the only way… so now I want to ask you: Is your current journaling style serving you? How could it be improved? If you used to journal, or want to but don’t, what’s stopping you? I’d love to know in the comments below.