The Journaling Habit (Part 1)

I prepared for this post, and the next one, researching my own personal journals, in addition to what my favorite writers said about it, to understand why I committed to journaling all this time and distill for you my personal process as an answer to a question I received many times but couldn’t seem to prove a satisfying answer before: What’s the point of journaling and how do you journal?  

My goal here is to share with you what I’ve learnt and encourage you to consider this habit as part of your daily routine, maybe when you are up at 5am too.

This outcome of my findings is divided into 2 parts. This post is part 1. where I will share my personal journaling journey, while the next post is a detailed journaling guide for you to kick it off.

Part 1: My Journaling History

When did my journaling habit start?

While I believe it was even earlier than that, the record shows I started Journaling 21 years ago. I wrote my first entry right before my 14th birthday, on a school notebook I dedicated for this purpose. I wrote about my intention to start this habit based on a spiritual book I read at the time. I wrote later on about my birthday which I happened to spend at my grandmother’s place in Irbid, one hour and half away from my parents’ house, where my sisters and I used to spend most of our summers,

Later that year, I received my fist official diary as a Christmas gift from my sister. My journals show I kept this habit through my high school years, wrote sparingly through university years, digitally as a young professional, and back to paper almost daily since 2015.

My first Diary

Why did I start Journaling?

I consulted my high school journals with scented pink paper that still have that distinct perfume till this day. I saw tiny circles instead of dots on every i and j. I met my intellectual, emotional, and confused past self in those pages. She taught me that I started this habit to find a way out of the roller coaster of changes my body and emotions were experiencing by starting my teenage years. I wrote about noticing people noticing me, or not, developing self-consciousness, crushes and first feelings of love,  wondering if it was one-way or not, so many prayers and faithful surrendering to God, and simply documenting my very ordinary days of coming and going, the places and the companions of these ordinary days.

I told stories about a deep friendship that continues to thrive today. I admired my best friend’s self-confidence and she was always reassuring about my appearance. We spoke for hours on the phone. We drove our parents crazy with these calls.

The pages were full of questions about why I was being hesitant or lacking confidence in some situations especially when I moved to a new school at a critical time, high school, which was a monumental step for me at the time. In my journal, I observed my emotions and actions and then wrote up my mind (see what I did there?) to act differently and start conversations with all classmates, even boys! This was kind of a big deal coming from a girls-only school.

My favorite English Teach Mr. Adel asked us one month after school started, when I was still the new girl, to bring a favorite item and talk about in front of the class, as a way to better get to know each other. I brought my diary or autograph as we used to call it at that time and shared about my habit. My teacher asked me curious questions such as how often I wrote, what language I used, which was English mostly, and whether I wrote about moving to this school, which I confirmed, but it got me so emotional that my tears started streaming down my face because I missed my old school and friends.

What and how often did I write through the years?

During university I got so busy with the freedom of the shiny new life, I was too adult to need journaling as much, so I used one diary for 3 years writing once every other week. Looking back, I wish I wrote more. It would have saved me some delay in self-awareness.

Starting my professional life, excited to have my first laptop, I felt I wanted to keep journaling while being able to access my writing anytime anywhere; therefore I started writing in google docs every now and then to analyze and let go of some negative emotions only. Skipping journaling to log my days.

In 2011 when I got my first touch-screen smart phone Samsung S2 I started keeping monthly digital gratitude documents on google docs, by writing 3 to 5 things I was grateful for at the end of each day or every morning using my phone.  I was shocked I completely forgot about this precious habit. I honestly thought I started gratitude journaling much later! I found about it while looking something up my old files as I was preparing for this post ese which definitely would have been published sooner If did not spend so much time reading these journals and my teenage ones.

In 2015, encouraged by the book Essentialism, I used a small notebook to journal every night to log the key events of the day, my mood, interesting conversations, or situations I experienced with promises to myself to do better next time I face them.

Besides highlighting the importance of this habit to connect the dots of every day’s life for more meaning and big picture view, the key advice in this book that helped me was (write less than you feel like) and (stick to one page a day). If we write more than that, we would be burdened the days after to match that writing, so we quit before it ever becomes a habit.

In 2016 I got a bigger notebook and I kept writing through my maternity leave ith my 2nd baby until I got back to work in April. After that I got so burnt out keeping up with my life and I let go of journaling altogether for few months, including the monthly gratitude documents.

In retrospect, I see that stopping journaling, especially gratitude journaling that I kept for years before, was a red flag that I was not okay.

Then , in the same year, I started waking up early and incorporated journaling as part of my morning routine instead of evenings.

Here’s a snapshot for you from September 2016 ‘s e-gratitude journal:

 September 12 2016

I’m grateful for…

  1. Finishing “love warrior” in 5 days. A book that has shifted something in my heart.
  2. The vacation. Having everyone on vacation too. What a rare thing.
  3. Enjoying my time with the kids more by waking up before they do. 
  4. Getting that 1-pm much needed nap

Finally, starting 2017, I am happy to report I have been committed to writing in my beautiful annual Moleskine Journals and Five-minute gratitude Journals every day. If this tells you anything, it must be saying I am okay. I know better than to stop it, always learning and still figuring out my life in those scribbles.

I love these notebooks so much and I want you to have this experience too. Keep an eye on the next post to read the journaling guide I developed for you based on my personal experience and reading about this habit that is constantly practiced by many of the best minds of our world, past and present.

Find my arabic podcast about my journaling journey here

The Journaling Habit (Part 1)

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