Even by the standards already set by 2020, the current moment certainly feels… strange. These last few months, with wildly unpredictable weather and an ever-changing set of rules to follow, have only amplified this sense of uncertainty. The future remains unknowable, yet somehow it’s become no easier to exist in the present; we’re all a little more anxious, a little more on edge. What’s more, most of us are still without access to many of the things that would normally help to alleviate these problems: our families, social groups, even our favourite sports and live events all remain just beyond reach.
In times of turmoil, we often need to take things back to basics. As we’ve covered before with our #LoveYourLife campaign, one of the simplest and most effective ways to turn down the noise and soothe our mental disquiet is through journaling. A quiet moment of self-reflection and self-care, and an opportunity to draw out some of these muddled thoughts and feelings and set them out on paper can have an immeasurably positive impact on our wellbeing. This week we’ve once again been in contact with some of our friends in the blogosphere to get their thoughts and feelings on the value of a handwritten diary.
Our lives and our experiences, both good and bad, leave indelible marks upon us. In fact, so often our most damaging behaviours – self-criticism, self-censorship, conformity – are not inherent but are learned as we get older. A handwritten diary can help us to reconnect with our true inner selves.
“I think that as we become adults, we lose most of our opportunities to express ourselves,” writes Suzanna Jay from Scribe In Her Study.
As children, we heartily splodge paint onto paper, write magical stories, talk freely about how we feel. We roar and we create.By the time we are adults, our souls have learned to whisper in an attempt to fit in, to be perfect, to conform and be liked… Keeping a journal allows our souls once again to roar.”
Your diary is an almost sacred space. It is yours and yours alone, free from the prying eyes of your peers. There are no right or wrong ways to use it, and there’s no fear of judgement, interference or influence from others. It can be your confidant, your counsellor, and your safe place all in one. Sonia Constant, from mummyconstant.com, uses her diary to “capture her thoughts and whatever is whirring around.” She notes the positive effect this has on her mental health, saying: “If I am feeling frustrated about something, I write it down and it helps to get off my chest… Off-loading your thoughts can help to free up space in your brain, allowing you to concentrate on something new. “
The health benefits of handwriting have long been documented and regularly extolled by this very blog. The physicality of pen and paper creates a much more natural, free-flowing rhythm than the alternatives, allowing your thoughts a direct channel to the page.
"A physical journal gives you something tangible to work with and there’s something gratifying about the feel of a paper notebook," writes Kiran Singh from kiransinghuk.com. "Beyond that, though, writing stimulates and engages your brain better, making it easier to retain information. Writing forces you to slow down, and the very act of writing forces you to focus on what’s important. It makes you more mindful." We couldn't have put it better ourselves.
Far be it from us to shun technology and it's myriad benefits - you're reading this on your phone or laptop after all! The computerisation of typing and word processing has utterly changed the world, mostly for the better. All that said, there is still something fundamentally lacking in typing when compared with handwriting. As Becky Bowden from lifestylelinked.com says: "There is nothing quite like the process of putting pen to paper. Being able to hand-write my thoughts, feelings and notes is so therapeutic. I find it far more relaxing than staring at my laptop and tapping keys to write."
Kiran Singh agrees: "As much as I love my gadgets, digital planners, notebooks and apps, the essence of using pen and paper is just something else and can't be compared. Every morning and evening, I will light a candle, put on some indie-folk music, make a cup of tea and sit down with my journal and thoughts - it's pure bliss." Relish the opportunity to disengage from your notifications and blue lights, and enjoy going analogue.
Memory is a funny thing. It bends and distorts as time passes; the further from an event you get, the more unreliable our memories are, even if they still feel crystal clear. Keeping a diary can serve as a time capsule, and particularly in a year as tumultuous as this one, it could one day prove to be a valuable artefact. "I love to be able to pick it up and flick through the pages and remember how I felt when I was writing," writes Becky Bowden.
"Having something to hold in your hands and to look back on in years to come is really special. There's nothing quite like it!"
Keeping a handwritten diary serves as both catharsis in the present, and as a letter to your future self. A unique a chance to capture the experiences and emotions you might otherwise forget, to ensure the lessons you learn are long-lasting.
We all have our good and bad days, but this year is undoubtedly presenting huge and unforeseen challenges for all of us. Isolation, loneliness, anxiety and stress have become part of the fabric of daily life for many. With everything that's going on, it can be difficult to understand and process our emotions day-to-day. Becky Bowden uses her diary to help unpack these feelings. "Writing has always been a creative outlet for me. During the first few weeks of lock-down when businesses were not in the office, I found myself with far more time on my hands than usual. I began to jot down thoughts, feelings or poems, something I would love to keep going."
When Kiran Singh and his daughter moved to a new town in the midst of lockdown, his diary was an absolute blessing.
"It's given me the opportunity to cope with my thoughts, feelings, emotions and fears. Journaling has been life-changing during this uncertain time. It gave me clarity and peace of mind."
Every single one of us has a beautiful, strange, unique story to tell. This remains true for us all regardless of if we share it with others, or choose to keep the details entirely to ourselves. Whatever you want to do with your story, taking time out to write in your diary can be a truly profound experience, the benefits of which continue to echo throughout your life. Use your journal to help you through the bad times, give thanks for the good times, and as a way to remember all times.