As we flip through family albums and cringe at our high school prom photos, we notice how much we’ve changed. How was that hairstyle ever fashionable? Pictures create a timeline of our physical changes through the years, but how often do we think about how we’ve changed internally?
For centuries humans have used journals to reflect on life, think through problems and learn about themselves. Journaling brings to mind images of writing in leather-bound diaries and famous examples like Anne Frank. For many of us though, picking up pen and paper before bed every night can be a daunting task. Writing a journal becomes that New Year’s resolution we fail to keep. But the process of self-reflection doesn’t have to be so laborious and journaling doesn’t have to be confined to daily writings in your favorite notebook headed “Dear Diary”.
Snapping photos has already become part of our everyday lives and our smartphones can also be great tools for jotting down our thoughts, feelings and stories. With apps like Arkiver, you can add to your multimedia journal of life whenever and wherever you want. Got a couple of minutes waiting for the subway? Snap a picture and write a quick note about what you love or hate about your morning routine. Before you know it, you’ll be hooked and a few minutes spent here and there will have produced a precious collection of memories. Your stories of daily life, your triumphs and your struggles will be preserved in rich detail for you and future generations to look back on (if you choose to share them that is).
As we go through life, we invariably hit bumps along the way. Maybe you’re reminded of a grandparent that passed away as you look at photos of family gatherings. Maybe you look at an old report card and remember that subject you could never quite figure out. Whether you realize it or not, you learned valuable lessons from those hard times. You recall how talking to your friends helped you deal with your grief in a healthy way and how focusing on the subjects you were good at helped you embark on a career you’re passionate about.
Consciously revisiting captured memories can spark new connections between our past and present selves and prepares our future selves by asking: how are these situations similar? How did I solve that problem and how can that solution help me now? It’s in the spark of realization that we learn and grow. Without our captured moments, we’d lose the connections to our past selves and the prospect of deep reflection. By looking back and recognizing patterns in our own behavior, we gain a self-awareness that allows us to be better prepared for difficult situations we may face and strengthen our relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
Thankfully we’re no longer bound to pen and paper and can record our lives on-the-go by combining photos and videos with our written notes so our journals can be a much richer representation of our lives. Asking ourselves “Why?” and “How?” when reflecting back can seem more intimidating than simply capturing life’s moments, but by questioning why we’ve done the things we’ve done or why we believe the things we believe, we become more aware of our own motivations and feelings.
Retrospection through journaling and engaging with memories we’ve collected creates a better future for ourselves and those closest to us. So, now you have the tools to journal wherever, whenever and however it suits you, don’t wait to make a New Year’s resolution to give it a go!
Thanks to Cory Bailey for his help in putting together this post.