How to journal: A nurturing practice for deep healing
Journaling has been a huge part of my life. I began to journal in high school after my dad and sister died, and the book was my constant companion. My French teacher even took it away from me once because I wouldn’t stop writing during class! (Don’t worry. I stole it back from her desk!)
The practice has been such a big part of my life, that until recently I didn’t identify it as one of my foundational spiritual practices. Looking back, it’s probably all those hours spent writing that caused me to become a writer, study journalism, and today, write about the depths of the human spirit, making them more accessible.
This deep clarity is due in large part to journaling.
Journaling is a massively healing practice. It helps you unearth insights from deep inside your subconscious. It helps you process life experiences and identify areas of life where you’re not showing up for yourself, those areas that are out of balance.
It helps you find clarity when you’re confused, uncover new solutions to nagging problems. Journaling is a space to feel understood and heard when it feels like nobody else in the world could possibly comprehend.
It’s a safe place to express your true feelings — even those feelings you can barely acknowledge to your conscious mind, let alone anyone else.
My journal continues to be my constant companion, my safe place. I explore epiphanies, plan how I will change the world, release my sadness, and express my frustrations.
Why is journaling so healing?
When we write thoughts on paper, several things happen. First of all, they’re no longer in our minds, taking up space.
Second, even if a thought felt monstrous in your head, it typically reduces to a tiny nothing once on paper. You see that the world will not end, you’re not the worst person in the world, and there is a way out.
Journaling allows you to work through it all and ultimately see that this is just another swing in a life of ups and downs and the sun will soon shine again.
And even if the situation you’re facing is serious — the death of a loved one, an illness, a traumatic event — journaling will help you work through those thoughts and feelings. It helps you heal.
Are you ready to start yet? I hope so, because this practice is awesome.
How to journal
The start of a new habit is always the most critical time to really nurture the seed of your desire and transform it into a full-blown practice that in turn nourishes you.
It’s helpful to select a specific time every day, whether that’s in the morning or night, or even in the afternoon.
Each time has individual benefits. Writing in the morning helps you clarify your intentions for the day while tapping into the beautifully empty morning mind. Meanwhile writing at night allows you to release the worries of the day, identify any lessons or areas for improvement and celebrate things that went well.
What should you journal about?
Journaling is such a personal practice, and your writing can include some, all or none of the ideas below. I encourage you to make it your own, to truly begin to connect with your truest, deepest self, along with allowing the practice to help you release the mind’s worries and concerns.
The key is simply to start. Once you do, I know you’ll have all kinds of words pouring out of you. Let the words flow without censorship. This is your sacred space for being exactly who you are.
1. Gratitude list
Many people love to start off or end the day by writing a list of things they’re grateful for. This is a wonderful practice and can truly help to heal a mind that’s always searching for the negative.
2. Morning pages
This is a practice I recently heard about and have only tried a few times, but some people swear by it. It involves writing three pages upon first waking, before you look at your phone or eat breakfast.
Write whatever comes to mind and see what arises. Morning pages seeks to harness the pureness of the morning, that empty energy of raw potential just waiting for the impression of the day to come. With morning pages, you ideally direct more of that raw potential in a way that truly serves you.
3. My day went…
One super simple way to start journaling is to describe how your day went. You never know where this will go. It could help you process good or bad things that happened, help you uncover thoughts or feelings you didn’t know existed or simply create space for you to release the events of the day so you can drift peacefully off to sleep.
4. I’m worried about…
Worrying is generally not a good idea for health, but sometimes if you’re going through a stressful time in life, it may help to schedule worry periods. This could be 10 or so minutes where you simply allow yourself to write down everything on your mind.
Simply write a list of things you need to do to reduce overwhelm or even explore worst-case scenarios. I know that sounds weird, but sometimes it helps to see that the (realistic) worst possible thing is really not that bad after all.
If worries arise outside of this designated time, simply tell yourself that you’ll literally worry about it later. You could even keep a list of things to worry about so that way you don’t forget anything.
This technique won’t work for everyone, but give it a try and see if it works for you.
5. I feel…
I love to start with, “I feel,” and then just explore what comes out. Perhaps my writing will lead me to explore a specific situation that’s out of balance and needs shifting, or perhaps I’ll explore something within me that needs to shift.
Many times outer life changes start within, so even if something outside needs to change that shift typically will begin within.
6. I’m struggling with…
This opens up the door to a dialogue with your inner self, again searching for possible outer solutions or inner shifts. You could write, “I’m struggling to understand why Sally is always so mean to me at work,” and then just see where it goes.
Don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to continue with whatever thoughts arise. This is a healthy, safe place to release and let go. This is your journal, your sacred space that exists for the sole purpose of creating space for self-expression.
7. Talk to the deceased
This might sound a little out there, but on death anniversaries or when I’m just having a hard time and missing a departed loved one, I’ll write, “I miss you,” and just work through my feelings. Sometimes it truly feels like the spirit of my loved one takes over and channels messages through my pen.
8. Dialogue with your higher self/angels/the Universe
If you’re struggling with indecision or need guidance about a specific problem, sometimes it’s nice to create space for inspired guidance from your higher self or the great beyond.
This guidance is always there for us if we ask for it, but because of free will, we must ask first. You could start with a declarative sentence such as, “I’d love to receive guidance on whether I should move to this new city,” and simply start free writing. See what comes up.
This is another cool instance where it could eventually feel like inspired wisdom is literally channeling through your pen onto paper, but the key here is not to force it. Simply start writing and cultivate a sense of relaxation and trust as you tap into unseen forces to make the most of your time here on Earth.
Do you journal? Share a piece of your practice in the comments below!
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