Keeping a journal has different connotations for different people. It could be old-fashioned and noble for one, practical and analytical for another, or stupid and pretentious for the next person. I used to be that next person.
What good is there in recapping the events of the day, laboriously putting down the details of all that transpired? I think the answer to this remains “not much.” But that is also not the best way of doing it. If you only wanted a record of what happened, a miniature camera could do a better job.
A journal can capture the things that no camera can: the thoughts and the feelings. When people include these in their writing and we ask now what good can that be, the answer is surprisingly a boost of immune system, better grades at school, getting a new job faster, lower blood pressure, fewer doctor visits and – not surprisingly – better mood. These are actually scientifically verified (See Pennebaker, J.W., & Chung, C.K. (2007). Expressive writing, emotional upheavals, and health. In H. Friedman and R. Silver (Eds.), Handbook of health psychology (pp. 263-284). New York: Oxford University Press.) results.
— Franz Kafka
Writing for just 15 minutes a day, even for only a couple of days, can have measurable, long-lasting benefits. I did not know that so my motivation for starting a journal was simply to escape from the digital world. Words on paper cannot compete with a computer powerhouse of editing and structuring such as Microsoft OneNote but they have the beauty of physical objects. Although it does not matter (Well, it does, otherwise I would not mind. But even though a book on a screen is not really there, it does not reduce the benefit of reading a book or writing something.), it was this desire for a real, nice book that moved me to investigate what journal would fit the bill.
After looking at different offerings, I settled for Guildhall Pocket Notebook. This superb product manufactured by Tollit & Harvey comes in two sizes, the cover and pages have a nice feel and you can bend the whole thing 360 degrees if you like. There is a detailed review with plenty of pictures.
People reap the benefits whether they write on a computer, paper, or literally with their fingers in the sand. A journal provides moments of reflection and insight. Just putting the thoughts and emotions into words and writing them down starts the magic that, for science, is easy to validate but difficult to explain.
There remain questions, such as whom the writer addresses the thoughts to: self, a projection of self, God, a future reader? Luckily, it matters as little as understanding why the whole thing works. Should that prevent you from writing, you can keep it simple and take the approach of agent Cooper in the TV series Twin Peaks when he simply addressed his audio recordings to “Diane.” Whatever you decide, there are compelling reasons for keeping a diary.