Self-Care: Journaling

One of David Robinson’s current journals.

Journaling as Self-Care

One of the 30 Ways to Practice Self-Care in this series of blog posts is the practice of writing in a journal, one of 10 Mental/Emotional ways to practice self-care.

You may be someone who has never kept a journal and also someone who would say this practice is not for you. Anytime I’ve stood before a group of people to teach on journaling, as I did last week, I ask a show of hands for who journals and who doesn’t. The count is always around 50/50. I’d love for you non-journal keepers to consider this ancient spiritual practice.

I’ve kept a journal for over 40 years of my life, and have stored in my house dozens and dozens of journals filled with my prayers, thoughts, insights, dreams, drawings, songs, poetry, ideas, todo lists, and personal growth. Rereading my journals has often lifted me up and helped me to remember God’s goodness and grace at work in my life years previously.

Every year, at the end of the year, I reread the journal I kept from the year before to recall places of God’s grace unfolding in my life, and to connect with places my mind and heart journeyed in the previous year.

Think of the greatest books ever written, including the Books of the Bible. Imagine if those writers had decided not to write down what they had in their hearts and minds. Imagine a world without the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four Gospel writers collected their eye-witness accounts of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and took time to write them down for us to read years later.

Throughout history, great men and women of faith have gathered their thoughts together on the written page of a journal, allowing us years later to be inspired by their lives, their faith, their testimony.

Here’s a list of some of the world’s greatest journals, by some of the world’s finest heroes and change-agents.

Great Journals from the Past

  • Marco Polo (1254-1324): Travel Journals known as Book of the Marvels of the World;
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): Notebooks of inventions and ideas;
  • George Fox (1624-1691): Journals of George Fox;
  • John Wesley (1703-1791): Journals of John Wesley;
  • John Woolman (1720-1792): Journals of John Woolman;
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Notebooks, Journals, and Letters;
  • Lewis and Clark (1804-1806): Journals for the Corp of Discovery journey across a continent;
  • Thomas Edison (1847-1931): he left thousands of pages of journel notes of his discoveries, inventions and patents;
  • Marie Curie (1867-1934): first woman to win a Nobel prize, Notes and Journals;
  • Albert Einstein: Travel Diaries;
  • Anne Frank (1929-1945): Diary of a Young Girl.

Steps for Beginning a Journal

  1. Obtain an empty book or spiral bound notebook. I prefer blank pages in a moleskine style pocket-sized journal. Some prefer lined pages. Of course, there are a wide-variety of empty journals available in local bookstores and online.
  2. Open your journal and write at the top of an entry the date and place where you are writing.
  3. Make regular time to write: weekly or daily if preferred.
  4. Carry your journal with you: have it available to fill in cracks in a day with an unexpected entry.
  5. Acknowledge blessings and write words of thanks.
  6. Set spiritual goals, and write lists of what needs to be done this week.
  7. Write prayers & answers to prayers.
  8. Reread and remember and reflect upon what God is teaching you.

R.O.A.D. Map: a Four-Step Approach to Journaling

READ: What you reading? Write out quotes you find interesting. Write names of books and articles others have recommended to you. Ask people: what are you reading? Read outside your normal area of interests. Read the Bible. Work on memorizing verses of what you read by writing them down in your journal.

OBSERVE: What are you observing or paying attention to today? Take time to observe life around you. Look into people’s eyes. Write out observations, insights that come to you during the day or during the night. When you wake up in the night, write what you’ve observed even in your dreams. Consider reoccurring themes. Listen to what music is playing.

APPLY: What goals or commitments are you making? Apply what you’ve learned in the Bible to your life. Ask the Lord to give you specific actions to take, steps of faith which you can apply to your life for personal spiritual growth. Ask a friend to hold you accountable to these actions.

DO: What are you called to do this week? Write out prayers. Write names of people you are praying for. Write out answers to prayers. Write out BLESS prayer asking for the Lord’s blessings in these five areas of your life: Body (health, fitness, sleep, habits), Labor (work/service), Emotions (attitudes, motives, inner life), Social (family/friends/people), Spiritual (relationship with Christ, Church, ministry, mission). Make gratitude lists: what are you thankful for at this time.

How to Keep a Spiritual Journal (by blogger Kelly R. Baker)

Here’s another list of how to keep a spiritual journal by blogger Kelly Baker:

  • Scripture passage that spoke to you;
  • wisdom God is showing you;
  • plans for strengthening areas of weakness or personal struggle;
  • progress for the plan of action;
  • a song that keeps playing in your head or song that has inspired you;
  • something that someone said that was wise or memorable;
  • notes from studying a topic or passage in the Bible;
  • an occasion of God testing you and how you responded to it;
  • direction you sense that God is giving you;
  • a hurt you are going through and how God is healing you;
  • questions you are asking God;
  • something you are praying about, with related verses;
  • an insight or revelation that God gives you about something;
  • temptations that are attack you and you plan to respond and find victory;
  • a dream you’ve had and what you think God is saying to you after praying about it
  • sermon or message notes
  • journal/

In the second to last chapter of the Bible, we hear a call from God to write down what we’ve seen and heard, as a testimony to future generations of God’s work of making everything new.

The one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5)