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 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 at least 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! You might also consider setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to pull out your journal.
My Experience with Gratitude Writing
I started back in 2013, inspired by Lindy Tsang, who would end her day with Gratitude pages. Of course, 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
When we talk about our Future Self, it is the image we hold of who we see ourselves being in the future. This image can really inspire us to better ourselves, and especially helpful for those that don’t necessarily get much external validation or motivation.
Future-Self journaling was first introduced to me when exploring the works of Dr. Nicole LePera, also known as The Holistic Psychologist. Her journaling prompts include a list of 7 questions to help you reflect on the habit you’re trying to change. This is sticking to the theme of where you want to see yourself going, and what changes you’d need to make along the way.
Here are the questions for future self-journaling. She provides a free downloadable template and an elaborate description on her blog with examples!
My Experience with Future-Self Journaling
I was quite influenced by this Instagram famous psychologist, and became acquainted with 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. I share more stories around the subject of abandonment in this series.
Another area that I was able to transform, was to start living more joyously and less seriously. A few months down the line when Dr LePera shared her reparenting guide, also available on her website mentioned above, 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, phone or tablet 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.
At times, you may find yourself expressing gratitude for 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.
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.
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 in 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 : at least 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. This technique can just as much be used in relationships that are already blossoming and you want to deepen the love, or figure out ways to strengthen dynamics if something isn’t working for you.
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 at 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 affected 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. If you forgive someone, that doesn’t mean you have to trust that person again. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves.
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 letter, 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
Inner Child Journaling means that you are talking to your younger version to resolve any kind of childhood trauma. It’s a part of what is called “reparenting“, the process of taking care of your needs and wounds and holding space for whatever couldn’t be taken care of when you were small.
There are a variety of journaling variations in inner child work, 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 still have personal belongings 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 though you are still a child. Ask simple questions, and try answering them with simplicity. Some of these questions can start off as:
- What makes you happy? (if you answer as a child version of yourself, it can sound like “playing hopscotch”)
- Is there anything I can do to take better care of you?
- What can I do when you’re feeling unheard or unsafe?
In essence, this is a conscious role play you do with your younger self. It might sound interesting and confusing at first. But don’t worry, this will be some of the deepest work you get to do with your inner kiddo!
Not sure where to begin though? I’ve got you – inner child work is my jam. You’re welcome to reach out and receive one-on-one support for your inner child’s journey. Here’s more information about that.
My Experience with Inner Child Journaling
Very quickly, inner child healing became integral to 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 complement to other lighter journaling techniques like gratitude writing
How to do Shadow-Self Journaling Effectively
Our shadows are hidden and unconscious aspects of ourselves that were born in our childhood.
This introspection is recommended for people with a reasonable sense of self-esteem and the ability to critically self-evaluate without letting it bring them 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 Zurita’s Instagram story prompts for several weeks. It set things into motion for me.
Best practices for shadow work include
- setting realistic expectations for yourself,
- and 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 will 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 : every day, 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 pajamas 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 be at least 3 things that sparked happiness or some kind of emotional response in you. Allow yourself to replay it in your head, but this time evaluate it from your heart.
My Experience with Awareness Journaling
I’ve noticed that when I don’t take my emotions to bed, it becomes easier to sleep. Otherwise, I might hold that energy exponentially longer, since my mind has done what it can to temporarily push the problem away while I was sleeping. So, 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.
Two In-House Journals You Might Enjoy
I’ve used up countless pages (both physically and virtually) to the point where sometimes, I like handing over my journaling prompts to my clients and readers. Here are two popular digital diaries that you can download and try on for yourself.
#1: Journaling for Enlightened Living
In this second edition of the workbook, you will experience a self-paced course designed to show the subtle flavors of your ego-mind and to unlock new insights on spiritual ideas such as:
– How do I resolve conflicts between my ego and soul?
– What does it mean for my ego to “hide behind healing”?
– How can I make friends with my inner critic?
– Why does my ego keep self-sabotaging my plans (and how to stop it)?
– and many more…
Enlightened Thinking and Being is NOT about renouncing the world or wearing orange robes. It’s about taking all the knowledge and “digesting it”.
In other words, embodying the intelligent words so that they can become intelligent actions.
Download your copy here.
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.
#2: Journaling for Emotional Awareness
Another important practice I would encourage you to take on is understanding your emotional states of mind and embracing your full range of human emotions. This is the second workbook I’ve created, to help you gain emotional awareness.
The human experience is NOT just limited to happiness or experiencing the positive end of the emotional spectrum. In order to be able to heal emotions such as anger, sadness, and loneliness, we need to learn how to befriend the full range of human emotions!
You’ll find the pages filled with 21 prompts to support you for the next 21 days of your self-reflection and supporting your transformation through tons of insights, examples, and deeper questions.
Use this powerful and editable digital workbook as your guide to understanding and working on your emotional awareness.
Download your copy here.
As you begin to understand the different ways you respond to situations, your vocabulary and self-acceptance will expand. And if you get stuck or need more help, you know where to find me – here!
Oh and before you do! Here’s some Science around why journaling helps before bed.
Well, when we sleep, a part of our sleep cycle called REM, Rapid Eye Movement helps us process the events of our day. As vivid dreamers, people can often wake up with strange dreams! And most of the time, 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 superconscious, 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. In fact, 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 the 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.
So try journaling, not just because it makes you feel good, but because it helps your memory and mind function better.
I recommend trying all the techniques and really experimenting in this area of self-healing before deciding whether or not you pursue journaling as a regular healing modality. At the end of the day, this is the basic work that goes into self-awareness and healing, and we need to genuinely put these ideas into practice. Like learning the rules of the football game and then playing it until we become a better player.
Also remember that no healing is linear, and neither is it instantly gratifying. So, sincerely try one technique for at least 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 judgment or opinion!
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Vasundhra is the Founder & Writer of My Spiritual Shenanigans. After seeing 11:11 on the clock one fateful night, her life turned around. Ever since, she has been blending modern psychology and ancient spirituality, to help herself and people around the world elevate the quality of their lives.
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