If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of journaling. It’s something I have personally done since I was a little girl and found immense benefit from. Research indicates that journaling can help free up the brain from worrying thoughts and improve mental health so it’s a great tool for self-reflection and addressing your perception of stress.
Journaling can be as simple as taking shorthand notes of the happenings of your day or it can be an in-depth process of putting your thoughts and feelings on paper. As a private process that no one else will ever see, you can really make it what you like. If you’re not naturally drawn to writing, staring at a blank page can be a daunting prospect. Maybe just the idea of journaling gives you writers block. Or maybe you’re just looking for some new ideas to expand your practice. Regardless, here are three journaling prompts you may like to try.
1. Automatic writing
In her excellent book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends ‘Morning Pages’ – three pages of longhand stream of consciousness writing as a way to start every morning. Automatic writing is in much the same vein. A great tool for helping you to get into a creative flow state, it frees you from having to think about what to write. The idea is to set a time limit (say 15 minutes) or a number of pages to fill and write without stopping for the duration. You are free to write ungrammatically and illegibly, to be clumsy and cliched, to write absolute rubbish, go completely off topic and repeat or contradict yourself. The only rule is that you must continue writing without any pause for the set time. Simply let the words pour out of you without having to ‘get it right’ or follow any structured format.
2. Gratitude practice
If you know you’re someone who tends to focus on the negative or future goals, gratitude journaling is a wonderful way to remind yourself of all that you have in your life right now to be grateful for. It isn’t possible for our nervous system to feel HERE gratitude and stress at the same time so whenever you are feeling grateful, you cannot be feeling stressed. To foster a deeper sense of gratitude in your life, try writing down one thing a day that you are grateful for. Be as specific as possible and deeply connect to how whatever it is leads you to feel – writing it down without the connection is entirely missing the point. You may like to consider what your life would be like without that person or thing to give your gratitude three dimensions as you consider what you have gained or avoided by having whatever it is in your life.
3. “I’m feeling…”
To help unravel your emotional landscape, you may like to start to jot down how you’re feeling each day and what happened that lead you to feel that way. This is a great way to understand more about your ‘meaning maker’ which is your unconscious interpretation of what happens in your life that helps you make sense of the world and your place in it. All of us have a meaning maker, yet we have a choice about whether it rules the show or not. Journaling your day-to-day feelings gives you an immense insight into your perceptions and reflecting on how your emotional state is affected by external happenstance can help you to recognise where change may be of benefit to your health.