Last year, about this time, I purchased a 5-year journal by Hobonichi. I was captivated by the idea that you would write one journal for five years. Each page has five different spaces to write for five consecutive years on the same date. The small space helps you write succinctly, yet it is big enough to ramble a bit longer if you wish. I am already excited for my future self, reading what I have written years later when I am on the same page. That means on the same page on December 16, 2027, I can see what I was thinking five years ago in 2023. Isn’t that intriguing?
All my life, I have been a journal keeper. Whether that is a list of practice strategies for the day or a long, rambling entry to clear my mind, keeping a journal has been a part of my life since my youth. If there is one tool for me that shapes my life and allows me to navigate in a desired direction, I would say that is “journaling.”
One of the benefits of journaling is documenting your life. The author of Die with Zero, Bill Perkins, emphasizes that your life is the sum of your experiences. This means that everything you do in life—all the daily, weekly, monthly, annual, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences you have—adds up to who you are.
People retire on their memories. When you’re too frail to do much of anything else, you can still look back on the life you’ve lived and experience immense pride, joy, and the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia.
Experiences keep on giving in the form of fulfillment through your memories. Over time, the ongoing memory dividend can sometimes add up to more experience points than the original experience provided.
Of course, unforgettable memories live in our hearts. These can be captured in the form of videos or photos, which I take all the time as well. For me, however, the best way to capture the joy of seemingly mundane daily life and its unique offerings is by writing.
On September 13, 2023, I wrote the following:
“Today, I looked at the calendar; there were ‘zero’ appointments. Somehow, the space I created in my day made it possible today to be one of the most productive days, filled with things I would like to do without any deadlines. I was feeling satisfied, productive, and creative. What a power of space in your mind and life. Let’s declutter the time and energy more.”
I don’t remember exactly what I did that day, but I distinctly remember the moment I realized that I had such an amazing day with the space of time, promising myself the power of a blank canvas. I did not write any details about the day, but I captured my moment of enlightenment of the day.
When it comes down to journaling, here are five things that I have learned that have helped my process:
1. There is no minimum. Years ago, I kept the “Morning Pages” according to The Artist’s Way, which is to write three pages of anything on the page each morning. As much as I loved the process and recommended that anyone try it at least once, I couldn’t keep up with the three-page rule. When it comes to journaling, I like to free style in any way you wish. It can be a series of words, not a complete sentence. It can be just one word. We are often caught in the mindset that journaling has to be some longer writing or trying to fill the space, but when I take the pressure off from word counts and think of how I want to capture this moment and what is relevant, it becomes more fun.
2. You need to be honest with yourself. It is funny that no matter what method you are using, we often feel that someone will eventually read the very thing you are writing. Thus, we keep our protective mode on, consciously or unconsciously, holding back what we are actually thinking. This step is especially important if you use journaling for mental clarity. You have to be completely honest with yourself and let your guard down. Just be yourself, as journaling is for yourself. Be unfiltered.
3. Look for a story-worthy moment in a day. I don’t write all the same things I do every single day as a daily journal entry, but I try to look for interesting thoughts or experiences in an everyday moment. Maybe I looked at the sunrise differently, had another thankful moment, taught a dog a new trick, and finally, the moment he did it (but only with a treat in my hand) and had teary eyes in a particular scene of a movie or book. When I look for those moments, it becomes easier for me to notice them.
4. Write from a stream of consciousness. When I feel stuck in life, I start to write what is relevant to me at that time. Then, from there, I begin to write whatever I am thinking on the page. This way of writing helps me to clear my mind and see myself more objectively. I recommend using a pen instead of a pencil when writing. From the beginning, you eliminate the need to erase and encourage the flow of your writing.
5. Try using old-fashioned pen and paper. I have a journaling app and other documenting applications that help me capture my thoughts quickly and more efficiently, but I always keep a notebook as my journaling companion. Taking time to sit down and write down my thoughts with a pen, even if only for a few minutes, has a therapeutic and calming effect on my mind.
For me, the best part of documenting our lives is to relive those precious moments more vividly and have an effect on slowing down our lives.
I couldn’t believe we were already in December 2023 when I looked at this month’s calendar. December? Really? Then, when I read my journal entries for this year, one by one, I realized that many moments of 2023 were full of memories that I cherish. The conception of time wasn’t as fast as I thought when I relived each day again. It’s another life hack! That alone, for me, is worthy of journaling.
Do you journal? What is your method of documenting your life? Please share your experiences with me!