I recently read Etty Hillesum’s Holocaust-era diary and was struck by these words:
“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
I think one of the greatest benefits of journaling is that it helps us “to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves”. In what ways does it do this?
For me, journaling is a way of thinking in that it provides me with a place to put my thoughts so they’re not stuck in my head where they will be fodder for endless rumination. With my thoughts on paper, there is more room in my mind for being present in the moment, and this, in turn, reduces my stress.
Instead of my thoughts swirling around in my head, making me anxious, confused, and stressed out, I can write them down and thus create some distance to them. In this way, I come to realize that I am not my thoughts; my thoughts are out there, on paper.
Journaling helps me to process life, to find meaning in both the present and the past, as well as to plan for the future. It guides in decision-making, which I otherwise find very difficult, in that it allows me to explore how I truly feel about things. It gives me the opportunity to hear my own voice.
Another way to put this is that journaling provides me with a safe place to practice expressing myself, to have my own voice. As such, it is a place to discover who I am, to reclaim myself.
Deep down I think we all know what is our most authentic self. As Lao Tzu put it,
“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”
Journaling helps me to access my inner wisdom. It reminds me of who I am and how to live an authentic life.
This is how journaling brings me peace: by bringing me back to myself.