How Journaling Saves My Sanity (and How You Can Start)

A Page form my Journal... Sorry.. nothing scandalous here

A Page from my Journal. Sorry… nothing scandalous here.

Some times, I feel like I will go (figuratively) insane.

With the tour business, a nine-to-five job, driving for Uber, developing tours for Stray Boots, Freemasonry, Wolf PAC, the Rand Paul Club, a working family history book, managing my finances, and maintaining my personal relationships on top of all that (or rather as a base for all that, because that’s what is most important) I sometimes can’t keep the thoughts in my head straight.

The solution?…….Journaling.

Now, I’ve always had various notebooks for writing raps when I was younger, taking notes on things, and a bit of strategizing and planning; but never a sort of narrative to collect the thoughts in my head.

I first started journaling in July of 2013 when I left for my round the world trip. I felt like it would be a great way to keep track of where I’ve been, things that have happened, and people I met. I thought that I would use it to formulate blog posts to monetize and pay for my travels.

My journal ended up being a way to keep sane by writing down all of these crazy things. All sorts of things happen when your traveling solo with a backpack in a foreign land. Some are fun, but some are just downright weird, confusing, and possibly stressful. Maybe writing would help me figure out what my next destination will be if I’m having trouble deciding. Sometimes you get lonely or miss home. You make lots of friends on the road, but it’s generally fleeting and occasionally you find yourself missing the permanent relationship that you have back home. My journal acted almost as my confidant in celebrating, theorizing, and complaining about what happened. My last entry is a week after I get back.

Never got around to putting any of it on that blog, by the way. I’ll share some stories on here.

But I have found out that it’s a useful tool all around. I have so many different things pulling my attention, that putting them down on paper and laying them out in front of me helps me keep it all together.

Not only that, it’s very theraputic. Every time I get this clutter in my head out in a narrative or list format I tend to feel better.

Great men through history have had journals. What do you think historians use for research? People I admire such as Dwight Eisenhower, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt,  and countless others have kept journals. It’s not because they think that they are so important that people will want to read them later, it is so that they can gather their thoughts.

Getting Started Journaling

Just write. Write anything you have been thinking. If you met somebody interesting today, write that down. If you had a mundane day at work, write that down. If you saw a shiny car that you liked: you guessed it, write that down.

Admittedly, it feels a little akward and “Dear Diary-ish” at first, but you get use to it. And after the first 2 or 3 entries, it feels natural. The words tend to flow more easilly. Even if those words suck. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s only for you. Unless you are lax with storage, or you show people, nobody will read it until after you’re gone.

At that point, you won’t care what they think about your back and forth with yourself when you were 23 about whether or not growing a handlebar mustache is a great idea.

It’s funny, when I started journaling on the road, I thought I would be writing down some sort of mind-blowing insights of cool things I had seen.

Nope, it was basically complaining about how it’s 2 AM and still sunny during my layover in Iceland and how I had had my carefully packed backpack searched 2 times on this trip, and had a 7 hour layover overnight in airport with bright lights.

Eventually, the insights came as I got more use to writing.

One of my favorite things to do is a “Mind Dump.” I read about this method on Art of Manliness (AOM) that President Dwight Eisenhower would use. You basically write down everything that’s stressing you out in a bullet point list. Everything. From a tough situation at work, with your girlfriend, all the way down to that that pimple on your forehead and the fact that you forgot to shave today and you’re worried that you’ll forget tomorrow. It is quite possibly the most relieving thing you could do.

Another AOM suggestion that I use is the letter to a loved one. I lost both of my parents within three months of each other when I was 21 ( I am 28 as of this writing) and I often find myself thinking about things that I would be saying to or doing with them and feeling a bit down. Well, all I need to do is open my journal and write them a letter. It feels good to get stuff off my chest even if they aren’t really hearing it.

You also don’t have to write every day. I have been known to go a week or two without writing (which I do not like to do). Every 2 or 4 days is what I try to stick to. I don’t always have time, but I tend to make some time on nights when Melanie is at fencing practice.

I recommended journaling to my girlfriend who is a CPS worker and she started doing it and it helps her collect her thoughts of some of the messed up stuff she has to deal with.

There are a slew of other ways to kick-start journaling. I highly recommend two articles from the Art of Manliness (they are useful to either gender):

How to Jump-Start Your Journaling – a 31 Day Challenge

30 Days to A Better Man – Day 9 – Start a Journal