20 Ways to Get Started Journaling for Mental and Spiritual Health
“In the journal I am at ease.” Anais Nin
It’s amazing how the simplest things can have the most profound benefits. When it comes to healing your mind and your spirit, especially after a long school year, few things are better than journaling. Scientific evidence has proven time and again that writing dissolves mental blocks and allows you to better understand yourself and others and to process the world around you. It’s calming, lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety and depression, improves mood, boosts immune function…the list goes on and on.
You’ve heard it, you’ve read it. You may even make your students do it! And yet, you can’t seem to make the habit stick for yourself. For most of us, the most daunting part — of anything really — is getting started. So, to alleviate that first toe-in-the-icy-water feeling and help you push through the initial discomfort of setting your pen to paper, here is a list of prompts to get you started.
- Five things you’re grateful for. You’ve heard that gratitude journaling is a wonderful way to bring positivity into your life. But here’s the thing: It’s TRUE. If you can find five things you’re grateful for in a day — and they can be tiny things or huge things — you’ll set your perspective due north.
- A secret letter to the person who has hurt you the most. Writing your truth in the safety of knowing it will never be sent is healing. It lets you say what you normally couldn’t and release the negativity so you aren’t harboring it in your mind or body.
- A mindfulness observation. Peel and eat an orange, for example, enjoying it with all five senses. Then write about it in full detail. This is an awesome lesson in mindfulness because it forces you to bring your focus to the present moment.
- Stream of consciousness flow. Set a timer for 10, 15, or 20 minutes and write whatever comes to your mind. It might get weird but it doesn’t matter. Keep writing. What’s important here is that you don’t edit yourself. Don’t go back and read what you wrote. Don’t stifle the ink flow with self-judgment. Just write.
- A note to your future self. Give yourself a pep talk. Ask questions. Or explain how you made it through a problem you’re currently in the throes of. It doesn’t have to be formal. Just thinking about yourself in a different time can help you put your current state into perspective.
- A letter to your child self. So much of what affects us today was ingrained in us so long ago. Physical and emotional triggers. Fears. It can be really helpful to revisit little you and tell them everything is going to be all right.
- Set your intentions for the day ahead. Writing things down goes a long way in turning intentions into actions. So think about how you want your day to go and what it will include, and get it on paper.
- What three things could you not live without and why? Your cat named Cupcake, actual cupcakes, your nephew’s giggle…it doesn’t matter. Just reflect and give a little rationale to get you thinking positively and in the spirit of gratitude.
- One nice thing you did for someone else today. Knowing you’re going to have to write about doing a good deed just makes you all the more likely to actually do a good deed. Enough said.
- Draw a map of your heart. Draw a big heart shape in the middle of the page and include all the things that take up residence there. Your family may cover a big area in the center. And maybe music lives there too. And your lizard. Whatever you love, give it space inside the heart.
- Your bucket list. Compile a list of all the things you want to do and see in this lifetime. And then work to cross them off one by one.
- What you love most about yourself. Don’t be shy. You’re awesome. And even if you don’t want to scream it from the rooftops, at least write it down on paper. Being grateful is important, and your unique brand of awesome is something you should absolutely be thankful for. It also serves as a reminder that you are unstoppable.
- Your personal manifesto. Talk about empowerment and clarity of focus. A manifesto is a declaration of your values. Think about what you really stand for and then proclaim it on the page. This can be such a great thing to do at the beginning of the school year to mentally prepare you for the year ahead and boost your self-confidence so you bring your “A” game into the classroom.
- If you had no limitations, what would you do with your life? It can be difficult to peel away limitations — and a little intimidating to open your heart and your mind to the reality of your dreams. Do it anyway. It’s super helpful in determining who you are at your core and what’s truly important to your being.
- A detailed memory of bliss. That time you ate the entire pint of Americone Dream in your PJs while watching Failure to Launch? Check.
- Define success. Again, don’t overthink it. What does success mean for you? When you clearly define it, you’re more likely to achieve it.
- Recall your last dream. Dig deep and try to remember every single detail you can. The parts that felt so real you could have sworn they happened, and the hazy details too. It’s always interesting to revisit those fascinating movies your subconscious created for you.
- What makes you mad? While it’s not good to dwell in negativity, it IS good to determine what triggers that emotion so you can work to change the reaction to the trigger. This way, you don’t have to spread the negative vibes around.
- A love letter to the world. Think of everything you absolutely love about being alive in this world: The sun on your face, the silence of snow, how the salt in the ocean makes you almost weightless…write it all down.
- A prayer. Use your journaling time to talk to God. I mean, could there be a better way to spend your time writing?
Keeping a journal can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, reduce your stress, and promote self-awareness. It can help you solve problems, mend broken relationships, and free your mind and spirit through forgiveness.
The best part? It’s actually pretty fun once you get rolling. And it can make for some seriously intriguing reading material down the road. So grab an awesome notebook and a smooth-gliding pen, and let your words feel the flow.