I have always loved journaling as a way to get in touch with thoughts and feelings. It is a much better way to cope with uncomfortable feelings than keeping them bottled up. Writing out our thoughts can be very therapeutic and it can also be a great way to be able to see change. Often changes are subtle and we don’t recognize that we are growing but by rereading old journal entries one can see that progress is being made.
I always encourage my clients to use a journal to sort out thoughts and ideas, write out goals, and track successes. It can be used for anything from recording your mood, to tracking your food intake. The ways to use a journal are really as endless as your creativity. I am going to give you a few of my favorite ways to use a journal for health and healing as well as for creating change during time of transition.
A Reflection Journal
Often when we are in a place of transition we feel overwhelmed and it is difficult to actually articulate what we are thinking, what we want, what the next steps are, and on and on. So a great use for a journal is to just sit and write and see what comes out. You can absolutely just free flow, write out bullet points, or even random words and thoughts.
I am a fan of long hand, actually putting pen to paper, but I know a few people that really would rather do it on their phone or in a word document on their computer. Do what ever works for you so you will stay with it.
The idea with a reflection journal is just to see what comes out as you start writing. If you are having trouble starting you can also put a heading at the top of the page such as;
What do I want?
How do I feel about _________?
Where do I want to be in 30 days?
What brings me joy?
What am I passionate about?
What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?
What times in my life I felt the most complete, happy, authentic?
No right or wrong, just let it flow.
This is certainly not a new idea but a valuable one to revisit. A great way to do a gratitude journal is to write out 3 things that you are grateful for first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Every day add 3 new things. Sounds easy right? Well what you will find is that you need to start to get a little creative about 2 weeks in. This is where you start to look at things like I am grateful for my thumbs, or I am grateful I have eyebrows.
There are so many things that we take for granted and as the pages of your gratitude journal start to fill up you begin to realize that maybe things aren’t so bad. It’s a good idea to sit and read your lists from time to time not just write them out but really sit with all that you have to be grateful for, it’s hard to sit in a place of self-pity when you have 20 pages of things to be grateful for sitting in front of you.
I have recently been exposed to the idea of a rampage of appreciation, and although this is a great thing to do aloud in the moment to shift your state it is also a great way to use a journal. How does it work? Just grab your journal and start to write and for at least 5 minutes just keep putting down things you are grateful for. If 5 minutes isn’t enough to put you in a better mood do it for 10. Just start with;
I am so happy and grateful that……
The Three Things Journal
When going through a difficult time, or feeling down on yourself, it’s easy to focus on all the things that you feel you have done wrong or perceive as wrong in your life. Shame, sadness, loss, and guilt seem to be emotions that are at the surface during these times. The self-esteem takes a real hit. So at the end of the day take the time to reflect over the events of the day and write out 3 things that went well. This is a great way to start to build yourself back up again. They can be big things like, I got a raise, or just simple things like a random act of kindness such as opening the door for someone. Or it could be about self care, instead of reaching for the candy bar on my break I went outside and took a walk.
What you will notice about a week to 10 days in is that you are more aware of the good things because your brain is on the lookout for good stuff to write in your journal at the end of the day. And as with the gratitude journal, once the pages start to add up and you look back over the pages and pages of good things happening in your life you may just start to be more of a glass is half full sort of person.
Daily Goals/Tasks Journal
I got this idea from a T Harv Eker, he offered a workbook with a 90-day program where you had a set of daily tasks to complete. I think it is a great idea to have a daily checklist of self care and self growth or even healing activities during difficult periods or times of transition. For Example, you can include things like:
- Daily Affirmations – either have a list you read daily or write out one of your favorite ones
- Daily Tapping Exercises – tap on triggers, hurt feelings, have a list and tap daily for 5 minutes
- PSTEC – use it to shift negative emotions
- Read motivational literature or listen to inspirational or motivational podcasts
- Meditation/Mindfulness Practice
- Self Care Today – (Write out several things you did for yourself today, could be went to the gym, went to a meeting, got an extra 30 minutes of sleep)
- Journal Entry – write in journal
You basically have the same 5 sections on your journal page each day. For instance lets say you pick;
Journal entry –
Inspirational literature or video –
EFT or other Healing Modality –
In the space next to the task you would write out your affirmation, you would pick a topic to journal and do that, you would write out when and how long you meditated, write about what you read and finally what you tapped on (or whatever healing practice you used) and any insights you had.
This can be a great way to build daily habits and stay accountable.
By a vision journal I mean using the journal almost like a vision board. Writing out goals and affirmations, if you see pictures of things you want to do, be, or have you put those on the pages of the journal. You write out what the vision of your life is in different areas.
For instance put a future date, 1 to 5 years from now on the top of the page and start to write out your life as if you are in it at that time:
I am so happy and grateful that I have achieved my dream of ……..
I am so happy and grateful that I am enjoying my……
I am so happy and grateful that I am easily earning……
I am so happy and grateful that I have met…….
You can do this for relationships, finance, career, spirituality, health, leisure and fun, environment, any area really. Write out as much detail as you can, use a lot of feeling words and description, and as you read it imagine it is real, believing is seeing.
Look at it daily to stay focused and motivated. It can be the road map to the life you desire for yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to keep a journal. These are just a few ideas to get you started, I usually have a few journals going at the same time. Pick out a journal that you find attractive, maybe get a new pen, set aside 20 to 30 minutes where you won’t be interrupted and see how it feels to start putting thoughts on paper.