Fatima Barkatulla shares the benefits of keeping a journal for your own personal growth.
A journal is essentially a daily record. It could be a record of things that happen to you from day to day, memories of your experiences or even observations and thoughts. Usually it takes the form of a notebook or diary. The type of journal you keep depends on why you're keeping one. Perhaps you want to record memories of the precious moments you have spent with your children. Or maybe you want to capture the feelings you experienced on a trip abroad to somewhere new. Or maybe you simply need a place in which to think things through and bring some order into your life so that you can move forward confidently.
A journal is the ideal place for you to fulfil a range of your own personal objectives.
The act of writing things down can be like taking a heavy load off one's shoulders. If your mind is full of overwhelming feelings it helps to write things down and hence organise your thoughts so that you can feel more in control. It helps to see your thoughts in front of you, in black and white, so you can objectively put things into perspective.
Here are some guidelines for making the most of your journal:
Use your journal to write about where you are in life in the present. Think about what you have achieved so far in terms of being a mother, or as a wife or a student or a daughter or in your vocation. What are you doing well? Thinking about what you are doing right will help you to feel confident about your abilities. What could you be doing better? What are your priorities and what can wait?
Which of your goals have you achieved so far? They may be raising and educating your children well, or doing well at University. What unimportant things are you spending your time doing? If you think about where you are now, you can evaluate where you are heading and whether there are ways in which your time could be better spent.
Where do you want to go?
Write a mission statement for your life in your journal. It can be as long as you want. In it you should write what your principles are and what you want to achieve in life as well as what the most important things in your life are. Then regularly refer back to your mission statement to see if you are living up to it.
Make a list of the things that you personally want to do in life. Maybe you've always wanted to be involved in da'wah, calling people to Islam. Maybe you've wanted to learn a particular language or set up your own business but keep putting it off. Now make an action plan for how you could achieve your goals by doing a little a day.
"I like to write down poems and wise quotes I've heard about different areas of life, then when I read them I get a real boost." Sakeenah
Write down iman- inspiring stories or your own realisations and observations. What do you want to improve about yourself? Do you want to improve the quality of your salah? Would you like to memorise the Qur'an? Maybe you would like to pray tahajjud (the night prayer), but have never gotten round to it…writing it down is like consolidating in your own mind your intention to do that thing. Studies show that people who write their goals down are more likely to achieve them.
"I write down all of the goals I hope to achieve in my life in my journal, from improving my salah or getting fit, to setting up my own business…then I think of how I can realistically go about achieving them, then I work out how I can work towards my dreams by doing one thing a day to bring myself closer to fulfilling them." Umm Yusuf
Have you ever written down all of the good things you have in your life? We find it so easy to think about what is bothering us or what we haven't got, but what about the wonderful pleasures of the life that Allah has given us? Our eyes, our senses, the fragrance of the lavender bush in your garden or a tranquil view from your living room window, wealth, health, and a loving family, all deserve a mention. Then every time you feel Shaitan encouraging you to be ungrateful, you can have a look at that part of your journal and it'll be sure to make you say:Alhamdulillah! And get a true sense of perspective and gratitude for the blessings you have been given.
It's easy to turn your journal into a dark closet to hide skeletons in. If you make it a store cupboard of negative feelings or bad experiences, you may just reinforce those feelings in your mind and wallow in pessimism. As Muslims we have to be careful about what we write, just as we would be careful about what we say. We mustn't mention sins we have fallen into lest someone read about them later, nor should we backbite or say hurtful things about anyone, even if it is in writing. Many a family-feud has resulted from letters and diaries falling into the wrong hands. Besides, as Muslims, we should be pro-active about the difficulties we find ourselves in. If you're facing a difficulty, use your journal constructively not destructively. Try some of the techniques mentioned above to tackle your problems.
"My previous journal was where I unloaded my feelings, but it became too negative because I think I used it in the wrong way. I used to write about all my worries and negative things that happened to me in it, so although it helped me to reflect on my problems, it was so depressing to read! I eventually got rid of that one and now I'm trying to keep a more positive journal." Umm Muhammad
This article was first published in SISTERS, the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. Visit the SISTERS website at www.sisters-magazine.com to read more articles - and download a complimentary issue!