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Should I read my old journal: The benefits of back reading

Updated: May 7

Going back and re-reading old books and novels is a completely approved practice and yet the idea of going back and rereading your own stories seems rather strange and scary. It shouldn’t be and I’ll explain why it's actually therapeutic and beneficial to go back in time…


Everything surrounding mental health is a journey to understanding. Understanding yourself or a loved one, understanding what is driving your particular stress or disorder.

We’ve all heard the phrase “The wolf that wins, is the one you feed”, well that is what you are doing, whether you know it or not, you are feeding fear and that fear is growing because of it and yet we can’t stop. It becomes normal, a compulsion to feed it because we see that fear as protection. I spoke before about how journaling is a fantastic outlet for those emotions and why it is so crucial to keeping those fears under control and the same applies to re-reading any old journals.

By looking back on days that have passed we are able to understand our growth as a person on a linear level. We start to see those days more clearly and remember what happened in a way we probably wouldn’t have done unassisted.

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As humans, we tend to associate certain emotions with places, things or people. We invest in certain things, it's why we take breakups badly and it’s why we find moving out of the family home difficult. We don’t find these things important, but we link memories and emotions to them, even to the extent of what we call them, where we live is “home” not “our house” and a person stops having a name and becomes “boyfriend, girlfriend, mother or father”. A diary becomes part of that cycle, as it is part of us at another time, by re-reading past emotions and past connections to things and people, we see a version of ourselves that no longer requires those things in the same way.

Re-reading a situation that made you so distraught when you’re in a place where now you feel nothing, allows us to understand that “this too shall pass” and to regain the strength to get through the next challenge.


It’s something that often passes us by, we all have busy lives and commitments, and we don’t “stop and smell the roses”. Growing up we often heard from our parents or grandparents “I know best” or “When you’re my age you’ll understand” and at the time you completely dismiss it as I did! But we all know that as we get older, the experiences we have and the people we meet cement our way of thinking, getting “older and wiser” with every day that passes.

By re-reading your own words you start to see how mushy your brain once was and on some of those days, how unimportant what you were writing about was. You see your younger self and you realise how far you have come and how much you have accomplished.

I find that when other people try and pick me up and give me motivational words of encouragement it often doesn’t go that far, but when you see it for yourself it's different. You see your handwriting, you imagine the scene and you think “Wow, I’ve come a long way since then!”

Just remember - Don't underestimate the strength of your own mind and the faith in your journey. Your life is a story and there is nothing wrong with starting from the beginning to better understand the next chapter.

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