“I stayed in all day and didn’t even go to Rena’s. Mama doesn’t want us to go around more than we need to.”

Violet Harris, the fifteen-year-old author of this diary entry, could be one of our neighbors. But she wrote this entry in 1918, at the start of the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

In an Atlantic article, Noah Y. Kim explores the similarities between then and now:

“Reading through newspaper articles and diaries…I felt an eerie flash of recognition. The dark jokes, anxious gossip, and breathless speculation reminded me of scrolling through Twitter over the past few weeks, watching people wrestle with life under quarantine…”

We are all now in isolation. More and more, historians, mental health professionals, and other experts are telling us…”Journal!”

During these strange times, and in all other stages of life, taking time to journal helps in many ways:

Journaling Helps Process Emotions

WiFi goes in and out. Many of us aren’t fortunate enough to have access to advanced technology. And even the most privileged of us are not supposed to be within six feet of our friends and neighbors. Humans are social creatures. We have a need to express ourselves. So, while your close ones are at arm’s length, a pencil and paper are within arm’s reach. Whatever you need to express, all of it can go down on the page.

It’s like screaming into a pillow. But while screaming into a pillow stops at emotional release, writing is a way to process thoughts. You can use a journal to keep lists, make drawings, write down details of things you don’t want to forget (or don’t want to remember, for that matter). To journal is to put the chaos of daily life onto the page in whatever way is best for you.

Journaling Documents History For Future Generations

Isn’t there something relieving about hearing how normal a fifteen-year-old from over 100 years ago sounds? The boredom, the orders from “Mama.” It’s all the same. Writing records of our daily life is a way of connecting to the bigger picture of our human experience. A journal is a time capsule. Maybe, in 100 years, people will be in a desperate, terrifying situation. And maybe your words will help guide them through their own frantic thoughts.

Museums are now collecting journals, too!

Journaling Turns Negatives Into Positives

Paper has the same charm as memory: through its lens, the imperfect and ugly becomes beautiful. Getting through traumatizing situations takes a great deal of faith. But as someone who journals every day, I can assure you this act of faith will not be wasted. Life right now may seem horrible, impossible to navigate, and more. But write it down, leave it in a drawer, get through this, and give it time. And that trauma may emerge from the pressure as something glimmering and bright.  So, get writing!

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