Quite often, our thoughts and emotions have the ability to overpower our actions, distracting us from daily goals and activities. Journaling—in all varieties of the word—is a dynamic, useful tool for settling the mind and clarifying a rapid stream of consciousness. Whether you are looking to encapsulate the memory of an experience, or need an outlet to free stagnant emotions, there are several approaches to journaling that add a bit of structure to the helpful practice.
How Journaling Can Change Your Life
Daily journaling creates a space for you to commit to a habit or practice, which is a key component of creating life-changing transformations. If you want to get in shape, start a healthier diet, stop worrying about the small stuff, or just make a little tweak here of there, keeping an active journal is the way to go. The following approaches are just some of the ways you can incorporate daily journaling to change your life.
1. Morning Pages
From the instruction of Julia Cameron, Morning Pages—as she describes in her book The Artists Way—is a daily practice that involves writing a free-hand stream of consciousness to express the ideas and feelings that have developed overnight. In this freeform style of writing, there is no need to focus on storytelling, creating a coherent message, or reaching a specific creative goal. The exercise acts to clear out the base level of thoughts and make room for a focused mind. Most importantly, write without judgement and try not to plan ahead or expect a specific outcome. Doing this practice each morning, no matter the state of your mood, will strengthen your writer’s voice and set your mind to take on the tasks of the day.
2. Lists of Gratitude
Particularly during times of extreme or ongoing stress, creating lists of gratitude or simple pleasures can be helpful for moving out of a mental rut. These are not intended to overshadow or diminish the problem at hand, but instead to remind you of basic events, things or people that add joy to your life. These modest thoughts act as a reminder that difficult times require a day-to-day approach, and taking note of these gifts is way to find small moments of lightness during heavy times.
3. Daily Reflection
For those who process thoughts and ideas in a more linear manner, writing a few simple sentences to reflect on each day is a great tool for providing insight into a year’s experience. Many companies offer one- or five-year journals—providing space for a few sentences each day—or you may consider further ways to personalize this practice through blogging or photography. Most importantly, taking a moment to pause and think back through the day increases gratitude, insight for the future, and a sense of accomplishment and closure.
4. Daily Drawings
Words are not the only way mark the passing of daily experiences. Whether at work or sitting in the center of nature, sketching an image of your daily surroundings provides perception into your current state for years to come. Looking back on the sketches will highlight the details you were specifically drawn toward in that moment, sending you back in time to that day and emotion.
5. Personal Letter Writing
Identifying an intended audience—even if they will never receive the message—is an easy way to hone an early writer’s voice. When feeling stuck emotionally, it can be helpful to write daily, private letters to either people in your life, yourself, or even inanimate objects. The important part of this exercise is simply getting the emotionally charges words on paper and out of your mind, opposed to allowing them to stew and grow over time. These letters are for you and you alone, but the words and thoughts have been properly articulated.
Creating journals are an excellent way to both track your daily patters, honor past experiences, and create a home for strong thoughts and emotions. For those that seek structure, there are plenty of ways to build your journaling practice, honoring the writing process that most ideally aligns with your way of thinking.