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Journaling to preserve memories

“My memories are inside me – they’re not things or a place – I can take them anywhere.”

Olivia Newton-John

Memories are arguably our most prized possessions. They are ours and ours alone. They are uniquely portably and precious. Nothing is more special than the memory of our grandparents, the first time we saw our beloved, or the moment our children were born. We all have precious memories and they are only ours, noone can share them. They may have been at the same event but each person has a unique perspective and recollection of it. 

One of my favourite ways of preserving memories is through my journaling. I journal in many different ways, but often, especially if something significant has happened, I write about my experiences and emotions. This isn’t a diary. It is more than that. It is a record of my feelings and experiences throughout time. I write about where I have been and who with, but how I feel about it and any thoughts that resulted. It is a record of my state of mind. A way for me to process my emotions and also a record of my life.

Memory keeping

This weekend I went to visit my daughter who has just started university in York and I have documented this special weekend in two ways; journal entries and photos. These are my go to memory recording strategies. They are deep rooted too. My Dad is the ultimate recorder of memories. He has written a diary every day for over 40 years. As a result the majority of my life can be recalled in the finest detail with the turn of a page. This is such a valuable gift, especially as someone who is currently writing a memoir!


Dad’s diary is very different in form to my journal but serves an equally valid purpose as a memory recorder (arguably more so because he documents every place he visits, world wide events, the weather and even what he has eaten). This level of documentation takes serious dedication.

A wonderful example

He has also always been a meticulous photographer. He takes photos of every event and life change. As a child I found this annoying because every time I did anything there was a camera to record it. As a teenager and young adult, it worried me because I was concerned he may be missing out on experiencing the events because he saw everything through a camera lense. As an adult and parent, I now understand completely. I am not as efficient as my Dad, but I do make sure I record my life. It is important to me to have memory jogs to help me remember important events. I have seen too many people lose their memories due to dementia to not do everything in my power to record the moments that bring me joy so I can look back and be reminded should I ever need that memory reminder.


As a result I journal almost every day. Writing without any thought about everything that is in my head. Usually this includes key events and people I have had interactions with, but also anything that is on my mind, any worries I have and any emotions stirred by recent events. It is a wonderful way to work through challenges you are experiencing or any worries you have as well as documenting key moments of your life for future reference. So this morning I am still thinking about the magical weekend I have had. 

Not only did I get to see my daughter after a month apart, I also saw my parents and my sister and her family. I also spent an afternoon with my daughter’s friend, who is quickly becoming another child of mine, which is magical. I love spending time in York because I studied at the same university my daughter is attending so I have many wonderful memories of my time there. These are all stirred when I visit too. So this morning my journaling was about my emotions around seeing my daughter and family. The wonderful bookshops and shopping streets, delicious food, stunning architecture, all these elements are woven carefully together with reflections on my own time at University and the life long friends I made there. Interestingly, my time at university was when I started writing a daily journal. There have been times I let the habit slip but I still have those first writings to remind me of all my feelings and adventures as a trainee teacher in the 1990s.

It may not be as precise an art as my Dad’s diary writing, but it helps me to work through my emotions, process the events of my life, and also keep a record of what I did when.

I cannot recommend starting a journal habit enough. It honestly has changed my life in the years I have been writing every day. I feel calmer, I regularly have revelations about how I am feeling or actions I need to take while I write my daily pages. Just the act of writing something down means you have a greater chance of remembering it, so you will be boosting your memory while recording your memories. Grab a notebook and get writing, you might be surprised at what appears on the page and even if you just write down everything you have done that day and how you feel about it, what a wonderful way of preserving your memories.

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