My first attempt at journaling was awkward. Back in 2012, my journal entries looked plain jane, because I never knew what to say. And the cliche “dear diary” was amusing because I didn’t believe in the idea of talking to an inanimate object.
I share this to reassure you how peculiar such one-on-ones with ourselves, can be at first! Nevertheless, the 2012 version of me persevered long enough. And now, most of my solutions come from ‘writing it out’. And yours’ can too.
Whether you already enjoy journaling and just want some new ideas, or would like a more closer look at how journaling can help you, here are the 7 methods I practice and recommend.
NOTE : two of the techniques, #4 and #7 are developed by yours truly. So if you try them out, you let me know your experience! 🙂
#1 – GRATITUDE WRITING
Why you should do it : more joyous living, acceptance towards reality, retraining your mind from pessimism to a more optimistic mindset
Time it takes : 2-5 minutes, your choice
Recommended frequency : everyday or atleast whenever you can remember to, as an ongoing practice
Best Time of Day : Night/evenings
How To Do Gratitude Writing Effectively
Pretty straightforward, so this makes a great journaling practice for beginners. I consider this a journaling practice for the lazy ones, like me, because you can do it snuggled in bed!
So, at the end of every day, unwind, get into your pyjamas, and take out time to write down 5 or more things that you’re grateful for. If you can’t think of much, don’t forget the basics such as good food or clean drinking water. Eventually however, you’ll be able to recognise the more finer miracles of life.
A great tip is to keep the journal next to your bed so you can remember to use it!
My Experience with Gratitude Writing
I started back in 2013, inspired by Lindy Tsang, who would end her day with Gratitude pages. Ofcourse, I was never that consistent, but I started seeing results immediately.
Even as life is busier and I’m juggling a lot more than my college self, I still try to write gratitude at least once a week. Over the years, this simple practice has helped me see each day for the good that comes from it, not just the bad.
#2 – FUTURE SELF & REPARENTING
Why you should do it : retraining the brain to change your deep-seeded behaviours, setting intentions for the future-you that you want to create
Time it takes : upto 15 minutes
Recommended frequency : everyday, at least for a few months
Best time of day : mornings
How to do Future-Self Writing Effectively
Future-Self journal comprises of a list of 7 quick questions to help you reflect on the habit you’re trying to change. I’d recommend checking out Dr. Nicole Lepera’s website, The Holistic Psychologist. She’s the one who created this method.
She provides a free downloadable template and an elaborate description on her blog with examples! She is also the creator of Reparenting Journaling, which is a compliment to Future-Self but can be done on its own too.
My Experience with Future-Self Journaling
I was quite influenced by this Instagram famous psychologist, and became acquainted to her work in the summer of 2019.
Through the Future Self Journaling Practice, the first issue that I started working on was abandonment. As I progressed, I realized how different day-to-day actions and behaviours reflected my abandonment wounds. Another area that I was able to transform, was to start living more joyously and less seriously.
A few months down the line when she shared her reparenting guide, I added that to my morning routine and it really gave a boost to my inner child work.
#3 – MORNING PAGES
Why you should do it : great way to vent mindless thoughts; become more creative and free; discover inner blocks and learn to be honest with ourselves; finding solutions to problems through automatic writing;
Time it takes : 20 minutes or less, your wish
Recommended frequency : everyday, continued practice
Best time of day : morning if you want to vent and clear your head so that you can focus on your tasks; but evening works great too if you want to purge your emotions from the day and not take them to bed.
How to write Morning Pages Effectively
This technique is recommended by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way.
The modern way to practice the pages is to use a digital diary. As in, if you’re too lazy or out-of-touch with the habit of writing by hand, keep a Word document on your laptop to spill your thoughts.
Whatever your choice of format, the intention is to be able to write our thoughts everyday, for about 3 pages (or less, your choice) without holding ourselves back.
Also, two rules apply – don’t go back and read it, and do NOT let anyone else read it either. You are doing this activity so that you can let these thoughts out of your mind, and process them into healthier thoughts.
At times, you may find yourself expressing gratitude to the things that have happened to you, or in contrast, start thinking about an old fight with a childhood friend that you never got closure on.
You may even start digging into your hidden desires and ambitions. Every and any thought is fine – you just have to persist through 3 pages to make sure your mind is cleared out largely.
My Experience with Morning Pages
I started in June 2019. The pages give me a newer sense of clarity to problems that I originally suppressed. But for me the biggest win, is that writing morning pages consistently for a few months helped me clear my writer’s block.
The blog started in 2018 and only had 4 or 5 posts. I closed 2019 with 43 blog posts. And at any given point of time, I’m ready with several weeks of content written in advance.
I can’t recommend this technique enough, especially if you’re a struggling writer!
#4 – UNSENT LOVE LETTERS
Why you should do it : healing your relationships by getting closure, letting go of resentment, working towards forgiveness and so forth
Time it takes : atleast 10-15 minutes
Recommended frequency : whenever you feel angry, resentful or bitter about somebody (including yourself), sometimes you might want to continue for a few days regularly writing towards one specific person
How to write unsent love letters effectively
When you reflect on some of the past arguments you’ve had with important people in your life, you may often feel like the problem wasn’t even worth fighting about. So many times, it’s just a difference of opinion. But in that moment, things got heated up anyway.
What if you could write a letter to yourself, on behalf of this important person? What would they say to you? Here’s an example.
“I know I hurt you when I said/did x-y-z. But my intention wasn’t as such. I only wanted to express my truth. I did this because at the time, it felt necessary and right for me.
I’m truly very sorry that you were effected so much by what happened between us. I wish well for you and want you to know that from one soul to another, I love you.”
Do you know how difficult it is to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes when we’re mad at them?
I know, I know. You have your reasons. But forgiveness and compassion isn’t even necessary around people that don’t hurt us in the first place.
And we need to learn how to forgive people even if we don’t get an apology.
We need to learn how to forgive through the people that affect us the deepest. That’s where true healing lies for ourselves. So really, this has nothing to do about them. It’s about giving yourself the closure and peace of mind you deserve.
Once you’re done writing that latter, store it away for a day. And come back and read it again the next day, as though they really wrote it to you. Then check-in with yourself, how do you feel?
The objective isn’t to fix the relationship, but as a consequence if that happens, that’s great!
My experience with writing unsent love letters
Writing a letter to myself on someone’s behalf helps me hold space for both of our perspectives and feelings without judgement. And it encourages me to close the loop by forgiving and moving back into a space of loving kindness.
#5 – Inner Child Healing
Why you should do it : for self-awareness, strengthening your relationship with yourself, and deepening self-love
Time it takes : 10-15 minutes
Recommended frequency : a couple times a week, or as often as you feel inclined to connect with your inner child
How to do Inner Child Journaling Effectively
There are a variety of journaling methods and the one technique I believe works well when you’re just starting off, is to sit with one of your childhood pictures. Even better if you have personal belongings still stored, like favorite clothes, old games or that cute blanket from when you were 5.
As you spend a couple minutes getting into the energy of that memory, it becomes easier to talk to the younger version.
Ideally, you should try inner child journaling, as through you are still a child. Ask simple questions, and try answering them with simplicity.
I’ve been working closely with several adults to help them reconnect with their inner child. Over the span of a week filled with delicate exercises, you can start building that relationship too. You can read more about this digital workshop here.
My Experience with Inner Child Journaling
Very quickly, inner child healing became integral in my Spiritual growth. I had started with Past Life Regression and having understood the essence of self-hypnosis, I gradually uncovered many current life subconscious wounds.
#6 – Shadow Self Journaling
Why you should do it : to reevaluate your unconscious behaviors and patterns and admit difficult but critical truths about yourself, a complimenting modality to ‘light’ work.
Time it takes : actual journalling time can be a few minutes, but the introspection can run quite deep and stretch over days to come!
Recommended Frequency : once a week when you’re getting started, use in compliment to other lighter journaling techniques like gratitude writing
How to do Shadow Self Journaling Effectively
This introspection is recommended for people with a reasonable sense of self-esteem and the ability to critically self-evaluate without letting it bring themselves down. At a certain point in your healing, you will start feeling ready for this.
A great way to get into shadow self journaling, is to use prompts to provoke yourself into shadow work. I thoroughly enjoyed Jo Rowyn’s Instagram story prompts for several weeks, and later found her free download beneficial too. It set things into motion for me.
Best practices for shadow work include
- setting realistic expectations with yourself,
- reminding yourself that nobody is perfect and that everyone has a shadow self.
- be there by your own side to continually forgive yourself and say, “now that I know better, I’ll do better”.
It’s vital that this modality uplifts you, not put you down. And that’s only possible when you work on other areas of healing and build yourself up first.
If you’d like some more shadow journaling prompts, you can download them from the spiritual newsletter resources. This is exclusive for members only, so sign-up and grab your copy! 🙂
My Experience with Shadow Work
My cheeks always flush when I’m confronted by my own shortcomings. The shadow self tends to hide, to play blame-games and when you corner the shadow, it can almost feel embarrassing.
But the truth is, only when you put light on the shadow, is when it stop being a shadow and can be transmuted. Shadow work has now become a deeper part of my journey, and I continue to peel off layers, like an onion!
Read More : Everything You Need to Know About Shadow Work
#7 – AWARENESS JOURNALING
Why you should do it : more present moment awareness, more joyous living, more conscious living and better sleep.
Time it takes : 10-20 minutes (depending on your dedication)
Recommended frequency : everyday, for a month or two, or until it becomes an ingrained habit to reflect and release your daily thoughts
How to do Awareness Journaling Effectively
I created this method because I wanted to heal myself one day at a time without carrying it forward anymore. I no longer wanted to sleep angry.
At the end of your day, once again, in your pyjamas and snuggled up in bed, start reflecting on the following questions.
- What significant events happened today that were out of the ordinary?
- How did each event make me feel?
- For negative events – how can I release the emotion so it doesn’t carry on to tomorrow?
- What are any other thoughts, behaviors or patterns from the past that arise from today’s events, that I can now feel and heal?
There will atleast be 3 things that sparked happiness or some kind of emotional response in you. Allow yourself to replay it in your head, but this time evaluating it from your heart.
Is Awareness Journaling Effective?
I keep this last, because it’s like a sum of all the fore-mentioned techniques, and then some. I believe this is where some of the deepest sense of inner healing can happen, when you start working on a daily basis to clear the mental gunk.
Why does it work?
Well, when we sleep, a part of our sleep cycle called REM, Rapid Eye Movement helps us process the events of our day. We often wake up with strange dreams – most of the times, this is our mind stacking up the information from the past days.
As a side note, I do believe that dreams can reveal many wise secrets of the subconscious and super-conscious, but that’s a conversation for another time.
Anyway, as I was saying! It takes several days to fully integrate events into our system, that too only IF we get proper 8 hours of sleep. Otherwise, events may not even fully register into our memory! Nervous? I know. Personally, I don’t get enough sleep either.
Plus, we are so checked-out all the time, we are rarely in the present moment. Infact, sometimes, notice how people say “I’ll sleep on it”?
It’s as if we know, that we aren’t able to process our thoughts properly in wake-state, and thus we leave it to the subconscious to handle after we’ve put the conscious to sleep.
I believe that there’s a way to reduce the aforementioned gap between what happens in life and how long we take to actually process it, to a large extent, by just being able to spend a couple minutes consciously processing our life.
You might not be very ‘in the moment’ around the clock, but you can still sum up your day’s events, by being tuned in, at the end of every day, with the simple act of writing the highlights of your emotions, in a journal.
Bonus: Journaling for Enlightened Living
Over the past couple of months, the idea of Silent Retreats has really impressed me. And as I began observing hours of silence every week, I started asking myself the no-BS questions to recalibrate my pace and direction on this spiritual journey.
Through journaling on these prompts, I’ve been able to bring back my focus towards walking on the path of enlightenment.
If enlightenment sounds too far-fetched or overwhelming for you, just focus on walking on the path of peace. Put in sincere effort to practice silence, self-reflection and move inwards, to attain lasting inner peace.
I recommend trying all the techniques and really experimenting in this area of self-healing before deciding whether or not you pursuing journaling as a regular healing modality.
No healing is linear, neither is it instantly gratifying. So, sincerely try one technique for atleast a week, and see how it makes you feel.
If you feel the motivation to keep going on day 8, you’ll know it’s worth pursuing. But before the 8th day? Just plug away and put in the work, without judgement or opinion!
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