Turn over a new leaf: Why it’s time to get journaling in 2020

    How are you hoping to get organized this year? If your strategy includes a pristine new yearly planner, a stack of pens and some stickers, and possibly even an Instagram account, then mazel tov: You’re all set for a productive (and meaningful) year of journaling.

    Journaling is the wellness trend that’s taking over your nearest stationery department, with journals that encourage mindfulness and meditation, as well as planners for recording your travels, your workouts, and everything to do with your cat. Whether your goal for 2020 is upping your fitness levels or turning yourself into Michelle Obama, there’s a journal out there for you. Business information provider The NPD Group reported that sales of guided journals rose 40 percent in the year to 2018, and they were up another 30 percent in the first four months of 2019. Meanwhile, according to one millennial therapist, the hands-down most wanted gift for young people was a humble planner.

    What lies behind the new enthusiasm for journaling? After all, calendars, family planners, and to-do lists have always been with us, as anyone who can remember the Filofax craze of the 1980s will tell you. As for the flipside — writing a nightly journal to record the events of your day — there’s nothing new there either; just this summer it emerged that even Queen Elizabeth II has been keeping a daily diary throughout her reign. Clearly, though, “writing things down” has just had a significant re-brand.

    The bullet journalist trend

    One major factor is that planning got pretty. Bullet journaling (a methodology involving daily to-do lists, longer-term goals and yearly reflections) was invented by digital product designer Ryder Carroll, who launched it online to an unsuspecting world in 2013.

    By 2015, his original video explaining the system had been viewed over a million times, and at the time of writing, there were over 4.7 million #bulletjournal posts on Instagram. With its customized symbols and infinite possibilities, the system has spawned a whole new aesthetic: think neat to-do lists, cute calligraphy, and artfully composed still life shots of notebooks and coffee cups. And thanks to its flexible nature, bullet journaling is one way to solve the Jewish person’s planning bugbear: merging the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars.

    Using stickers

    But if all that sounds too much like hard work, you can always just use stickers. In 2018, graphic designer Hadassah Levene decided to get more organized and bought herself a paper planner. It looked good — “It’s very important to me that it looks pretty,” she admits — but it was still missing some key functionality.

    “I need the Jewish holidays marked in my planner so that, for example, when the doctor says book another appointment for three weeks time, I can know for certain that that date doesn’t happen to be Yom Kippur,” she explains.

    So Levene made a set of Jewish stickers, stuck them into her planner, and loved the result so much that she improved on the originals and listed them on her Etsy shop as well. These days, she offers comprehensive sets that cover every single date in the Hebrew calendar, as well as the Chagim. 

    Doing some reflection

    Of course, modern-day journaling is about more than just planning ahead; there’s also an element of reflection. And it turns out that recording your thoughts and experiences is a very effective wellness practice. While it sounds fluffy, this is increasingly backed by science: A 2018 study found that journaling was associated with decreased mental distress and an increase in wellbeing; a year earlier, a study of health care professionals had found that expressive writing had a positive effect on their work satisfaction.  

    So: if you received a journal for Hanukkah, don’t just consign it to the back of a drawer. Make a resolution to actually use it, and not only will you never miss an appointment again, but you might also enjoy a spiritual uplift.

    Susannah Cohen
    Susannah Cohen is a fashion journalist, e-commerce editor (specialist subjects: lingerie and diamonds) and Jewish mom. Recently relocated from London to the West Coast, she’s feeling a lot more spiritual these days.