The Journal: an exercise in awareness

Keeping a journal might seem to many like a trivial exercise, linked to female teenagers. It is, instead, an exercise in awareness.

Latin writer and Roman emperor Marco Aurelio discovered it almost two millennia ago.

“Memories in a journal are the traces of your life”

In a world of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, is keeping a journal a waste of time for those who cultivate excessive taste for their inner self and entertain themselves exaggeratedly with their emotions and obsess over their memories? Many seem to think so. Others even see journals as a relative new craze.

And yet, journals are nothing new. We can actually trace them back in antiquity, for example quoting Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180), a great master of this exercise of writing that he used as a cure for himself. He was a philosopher, and also a Roman emperor.

In this exercise of daily writing he paid attention to the thoughts and principles that guided him, and to those that he wanted to be guided by to lead his life. “Memories in a journal are the traces of your life”, he wrote, “and you need to look at those to better understand your present and plan your future”.

It is precisely by focusing on our very thoughts and regaining calm, he said, that we succeed in putting order and achieving greater stability.

While keeping a journal we can follow threads, traces, memories, dreams and desires that tell us about us or help us to say something to ourselves.

The writing of a journal for Marcus Aurelius is the collection of personal notes and reflections that can lead to a radical conversion, which accompanied him to completely transform his way of life. It can be the same for us.

Why keeping a journal can help you become a better person

We can write to better control our inner thoughts, to withdraw into ourselves and find the principles that renew us, putting them into words essential and concise enough to be effective.

A journal can also be written for others: notes and reflections that we will give to those dear to us intimate things to keep…think of a pregnancy journal or a travel journal: we write them when we are in love, or far from our home, and we do so for ourselves and our loved ones.

Writing a journal will make us more vigilant and more aware of ourselves. By being able to better tell what we want, we will be able to express to others who we are, or communicate to those we love what they mean, or have meant, to us.

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