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Why should I keep my journal by my bed?

Keeping a journal on a bedside table seems in many ways like the natural thing to do. A journal is, of course, a very private thing, and we tend to keep our most precious items, and those we wouldn’t want other people leafing through, close by. But there are other reasons we may want to keep our journals, specifically, near our bedside. They can be useful things to use right before, right after, and even during sleep.

Journaling right before bedtime

A lot of people who journal daily do so right before bed. Why? Well, the daily journal-writer often uses the journal as a place to collect experiences and thoughts. A natural time to do that is at the end of the day, when we’re reflecting back on what we saw, heard, said, and felt that day. In addition, daily journal-writers tend to write at the same time every day, in order to establish a real routine around the writing. Bedtime is a part of the day that happens each day for everyone, so for some people who write daily in journals, it’s a perfect fit for a daily routine.

Journaling in the morning

Those who keep dream journals tend to wake up and immediately write in them. Why? Dreams are not only most fresh right after we’ve had them, but sometimes, that’s the only time we can capture their details. People who keep dream journals do so for a variety of reasons. Some look to dreams for meaning, and so they want to remember every detail so that they can then go in and see what parts of the dream might be symbolic of something they’re dealing with in their lives. Other people just find dreams interesting, and they want to keep all of the details because of their vivid, imaginative quality. Either way, the writing is best done when it’s fresh. So people who keep dream journals often wake up and journal right away.

There are other purposes for morning journaling, too. Some people like to wake up and set an intention for the day. A journal is a great place to record that intention. Or, maybe instead of reflecting on the day prior at night before going to sleep, you like to rest, let sleep sort your thoughts, and then reflect on yesterday before starting your new day today. There are all different reasons why someone might want to journal in the morning, and having the journal by the bedside is a great way to do it.

Managing nighttime anxiety

This one is perhaps less common but can be really helpful for people who need it. If you know this feeling, then you know it: for some people, the middle of the night poses a problem. If they wake up, their mind starts reeling. They start thinking about all of the things they need to do the next day, or all of the things that they wish they’d done the day before, or all of the things to worry about. I’m a person who this happens to sometimes, and for me, the thoughts that find me in the dark of the night always feel huge and insurmountable — and more importantly, they feel urgent. Like, I have to think about them right now. And they’re usually stuff that either I can’t control (i.e. that time I said something awkward in fifth grade) or they’re things I can give attention to but will do a better job of giving attention to in the morning, when I’m not lying in bed trying to fall asleep while solve the world’s problems.

Person sleeping. Thanks to Lux Graves for sharing their work on Unsplash.

A friend gave me this tip and it can be really helpful. When your thought start racing, or when something is just keeping you up at night, grab your journal and write it down. Give yourself the promise that you will handle it in the morning, however the morning version of you sees fit. In my own experience, there’s a good chance that in the morning, you’ll see what’s written down and think, “How silly. I don’t need to handle that.” That’s a bit of the point. The more you do this, the more you’ll train yourself to realize that the things that keep you up at night are just that — things that keep you up at night. They’re not earth shattering truths, nor revelations that need oxygen right then and there. They’re just the things that go bump in the night; the shadows that make us feel creepy. In the morning, when the sun is up and all is quiet, their importance — and the anxiety it drives — seems to disappear.

Journaling at night

Journaling at night, or first thing in the morning, can make a difference in a variety of ways. You can do it by keeping a literal notebook by your bed or, since so many of us are never away from our phones these days, by using an app like Diarly on your phone for all of your journaling needs. That way, whenever you feel like you need to add to your journal, you know it’s right there, along with all of your other apps and messages and things you can’t be apart from.

No matter how you use your journal, I hope the suggestion to keep it in proximity to you is one that is helpful to you over time. With journaling, as with so many things, the journey is all about figuring out what works for us personally. Happy writing!

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Lauren Harkawik
Author

Lauren Harkawik

Lauren Harkawik is a journalist, essayist, and fiction writer based in Vermont. You can read her writing on her website.

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