Everyday Epiphanies: The Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal

Some time ago I read a line in an article that said something like this - instead of opening your phone and social media first thing in the morning, try journaling instead. Try asking yourself some questions like - what are my goals for today, what did I do yesterday, how I felt yesterday, today...

So, that is exactly what I did. Not responding to each of the questions from above every day, on most of them at least.

In this article, I want to describe my process, how I felt so far with the journaling, how it looks, what are some plans ahead...

How it all started?

As mentioned above, I started journaling on a whim. That specific line in the article was my trigger. The article is shared below.

Stoicism: The Ancient Remedy to the Modern Age
How the Ancient Greeks can help us navigate cyberspace

And the exact line was this.

Marcus Aurelius preferred to journal first thing in the morning so he could set his agenda for the day. (His journal, Meditations, is freely available to read.) He used journalling to get to know himself, and to set the day’s goals and the steps he’d take to meet them. Try this instead of doing what most people do when they awake—opening social media—which only allows strangers to set your agenda for you.

And before reading this article I didn't know much about stoicism. And it's still the case, unfortunately, I don't know much. But, this specific line got me thinking - why don't I try this for a week or so, and see how it goes? What can go wrong?

The week passed, and then another, and another. Time kept passing, but my will to keep daily journaling going remained.

Writing with a fountain pen
Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

How does the process look?

It's quite simple. When I wake up, after brushing my teeth, instead of taking my phone to check messages and social media, I take a pen, and notebook, and start writing.

Often, I write about what I did yesterday, how I felt, how I feel today, what I have to do today, and tomorrow, some general comments and notes about everything that surrounds me, and so on. Whatever I'm in the mood that morning. Whatever I feel like writing about.

There are days I'm not in the mood for anything. On those days I just write plainly what are my plans for today, what I did yesterday, and nothing more. Some days are to remember, and some are to forget, but both are equally mentioned in the journal.

The most important for me is to do this early in the morning, upon waking up. If I don't have time for that in the morning, on some rare occasions, I put a mental note to myself, and write in the evening or the next day. I started journaling in mid-August, and up until now, I filled one notebook. And, overall, I think I missed maybe 7 days in total when I didn't have time for writing.

For a week or so, I also tried to write in the evening. That didn't really work for me, however. I forgot some and missed the other days. That's when I decided to focus only on morning journaling.

One more thing to mention - reading what I have written is also helpful. I don't do it daily, but rather once a week. I go through what I have written down for the week and note some things that I want to return to at some point. This reading and rereading helped me learn a lot about myself and how I feel about my environment. In my opinion, this is the key part of journaling, besides writing itself.

When you read what you wrote it helps you put things into context. You can see better how some situations affected you, how you responded, what didn't work, and what could be changed. Reading what you wrote is one step toward understanding yourself.

Wait for me!
Photo by Fabien Wl / Unsplash

What kept me going?

This wasn't the first time I tried journaling. I have been trying to start a journal for a long time in the past. I have written down something, then stopped, then started back again. I was in an on-and-off relationship with journaling. Something similar to the topics in this blog. 😅

Oftentimes in the past I told myself - I need this specific notebook or a pen, and I will start writing, it's that simple! No, it isn't. It is simple to start, but you don't need a specific notebook or a pen. The problem lies in how to keep at it every day.

The thing that kept me going was, in fact, quite simple. I heard about it before but I wasn't aware that I'm doing just that. The process is called habit swapping. Swapping one habit (often a bad one), with another (a good one).

Instead of grabbing my phone every time I woke up, I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing. When it was too hard to write, I started with one, or two sentences, then I wanted to write the third, and fourth, and then I slowly lost count.

What have I learned?

The first thing I learned about myself was - Oh my God, I'm a difficult person to maintain. I thought that I was rather simple and easygoing, and I am, most of the time. But the complexity of me was the thing that surprised me the most!

Besides, I learned other things about myself as well. How I feel about the world we live in, the humans that surround me, and all other aspects of my life. It helped me put things into contexts, contexts into settings, settings into doings, and so on.

The only plan I have is to keep the morning journaling going. Because I feel this is sort of like a wildcard for all other plans. One plan to rule them all kind of thing. No pun intended.


Another article is finished. Congrats on getting this far! 🎉

Following are some of the key takeaways from this article, and overall things I found helpful in regard to journaling.

  • If you didn't think of journaling before, start thinking, and start writing.
  • If you thought of it, but somehow you didn't find the time, will, or something else, just stop all that, grab a pen and paper, and start writing!
  • Set a goal for yourself to write a couple of sentences each day. This will be enough to get you started.
  • Try swapping your morning habit of grabbing a phone with grabbing a journal.
  • Test if it's more convenient for you to write in the morning, evening, or some other part of the day.
  • Don't be mad at yourself if you miss one day. If you miss the next one as well, maybe you can address that by writing why you missed them in the first place.
  • You don't need to be a well-versed writer to write for yourself!
  • You will always know how to read your handwriting, so writing in a journal is better than writing on your laptop.
  • Read and re-read what you wrote.