journaling can be a powerful tool to help you stay present to this moment. It can help you push through the chatter in your head to instead get the words onto the page. It can gently push you to see the beauty even when the day has been full of really hard things. And it gives you an opportunity to gather evidence of the way you’re living your life.
Journaling, also known as expressive writing, is also good for your health. In the article “‘Expressive Writing’ Is A Super Easy Way To Become Way Happier” on the Business Insider’s website, they cite a study discussed in The British journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment that indicates it improves moods and feelings of general well-being. There are also more specific health benefits like lowered blood pressure and improving immune function.
Here are six of my favorite journaling ideas to give you a place to begin when starting your own journaling practice.
photo by Liz Lamoreux
photo by Liz Lamoreux
Stream of Consciousness Journal
A stream of consciousness journal is one where you capture all the tumbling thoughts onto the page. You just start writing and you don’t pick up your pen until you’ve written for a set amount of time or number of pages (or until you feel done).
A few ways to keep this kind of journal:
Write in the morning or evening
Write for a specific amount of time (set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes)
Write for a set amount of pages, for examples 4 pages in your journal
If you’ve read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, you’ve probably tried this kind of writing. She calls this writing morning pages, and encourages you to write three pages of journaling every morning when you get up. I suggest playing with a few different ways to see what way works for you.
Decomposition Books, which are like the composition books from our high school days, are my favorite journals for this kind of journaling.
I often encourage people to keep a gratitude journal because the act of sifting through your day to find 3-5 positive things can change a person’s entire outlook. There have even been studies done about the positive effects of having a gratitude practice. For real.
I remember the first time I heard about this practice – watching Sara Ban Breathnach talk about it on Oprah in the late 90s. Since then I’ve kept a gratitude journal from time to time, and each time I do, I find myself looking for gratitude during my day so I have things to add to my journal before I go to bed. My life feels more infused with gratitude and joy.
To keep your own journal, simply take a few minutes at the end of your day to list 3-5 things that you’re grateful for. Keeping this journal by your bed is a good idea so you don’t forget. I love using little pocket Moleskines for this practice because, due to their small size, you can tuck them just about anywhere.
photo by Liz Lamoreux
photo by Liz Lamoreux
A Creative Journal
A creative journal can take many forms, and often the ritual of coloring, gluing, cutting, and doodling invite in a sense of presence. Here are just a few ideas:
Get a blank journal and start filling it with sketches, watercolors, crayon drawings and anything else that makes your heart happy. Zentangle is another practice that blends art and mindfulness that would be a good fit for this kind of journal.
Start with a Smash journal, which has thick pages that have patterns and words already on them. You can paste and tape in photos and ephemera from your day (like ticket stubs, notes, and those random things that gather on your kitchen table).
Use a simple blank notebook and start pasting in magazine clippings that catch your eye. You could focus on colors you love, places you want to travel, images that invite you to feel peace, or just things you love. The act of cutting and pasting can be very calming.
I also suggest checking out some books on art journaling if this practice intrigues you.
An “I want to remember…” Journal
This is one of my favorite prompts to use for everything from blog posts to scrapbooking. It can be especially grounding when you simple sit with a notebook and make a list of things you want to remember. You could list moments from today, and as you get into the list, you might start to think about things you want to remember from your past. Let yourself just list whatever comes to you. You could do this daily, weekly, monthly, or even at the end of the year.
While you write, no matter if you’re focusing on today or the past, let yourself try to just be right here breathing and writing and noticing.
My friend Elise Blaha Cripe shared a beautiful idea on her blog about using this prompt to fill an entire journal for her daughter. A long list of things she wants to remember from her daughter’s younger years. Love this.
A meditation journal is one that you literally keep in conjunction with a meditation practice. After you meditation, you take a few moments to write about your experience. This becomes a log of sorts to help you reflect on the ways meditation is supporting you.
Another way to keep a meditation journal is to write in it before you begin to meditate. This could be similar to the stream of Conscious Business Magazine where you just put anything and everything you need to on the page to clear some mental space for meditation.
If you’re new to meditation, check out my guide on Four Meditation Practices to Quiet Your Mind, which shares accessible meditations for beginners.
A Journal Full of Letters
Remember when you read the Diary of Anne Frank and she wrote her letters to Kitty, her imaginary friend? There is something very powerful about writing letters to someone. You could fill an entire journal with letters to yourself (including your younger and future self), to loved ones, to your heroes, to fictional characters.
Here’s a really important thing that I want you to know: There is no “right” way to journal. You don’t have to write every single day. And you don’t even have to stick to one way of journaling. In fact, one journal could hold all of the types of journaling I’m sharing in this guide. If you’re drawn to the idea of journaling, put your pen to the page and get to it. That’s the only way you’ll ever really know if journaling is a good fit for you.
To get a peek at some of my favorite journals, check out my Because Journals Make Me Happy collection.