Spirituality • 13 Apr 2020
Deepen Your Journaling Practice
Monisha Vasa, M.D.
Board certified General and Addiction Psychiatrist, and SSIHI Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention facilitator
Journaling can be a powerful tool for emotional and spiritual growth. We can use journaling as a way to “touch base” with ourselves. Often, on a day to day basis, and especially during times of stress or crisis, we find ourselves lost in an overwhelming storm of thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. Like mindfulness, journaling allows us to observe our moment by moment experiences, with a sense of openness and friendliness.
Here are a few tips for starting or deepening your journaling practice:
- Allow it to be restorative: Sometimes when we begin a journaling practice, we set a schedule for ourselves, or expect ourselves to fill a certain number of pages, or write daily for a certain number of minutes. We don’t want journaling to be a place for high expectations or self improvement. Allow journaling to be a safe space for you to unwind, unload, and let go. Allow your practice to be flexible, so that you look forward to journaling, not dread it.
- Create a ritual: Journaling often works best when we create a welcoming ritual around it. For example, choose tools that you love–a beautiful journal that feels good in your hands, a variety of pens and pencils that give you freedom to express yourself, and perhaps a cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps you turn to your journal in the quiet of the early morning, or late at night when everyone has gone to bed and it is time for your own self care. Create an experience that facilitates your desire to turn to the page.
- Find freedom in your writing: Often journaling is just about downloading our emotions in the messiest possible way, or keeping the pen moving. While some individuals love to create works of art in their journal, for others, it is about the emotional expression and release. Let yourself forget all rules of punctuation, grammar and capitalization, and simply allow yourself to write what needs to be said. Don’t worry about perfect sentences and neat handwriting. This is your time to let it all go, including the need for perfection and beauty. Remember that you can throw your journal away or burn it later, in case that helps you to feel safer in what you write down.
Finally, here are a few prompts to jump start your practice. Of course you don’t need to begin with a prompt–only if it feels helpful for you.
- Today, plan to write once in the morning, and once at night. In the morning, without inhibition, self judgment or limits, brainstorm your intentions for the day. In the evening, return to the page and reflect upon the day in the form of a gratitude list. What went right?
- Right now, write down: five things you see, four things you hear, three things you touch, two things you smell, one thing you taste. It’s okay to be creative or use your imagination! Write whatever comes to mind as a way to note down what is true, right here, right now.
Create your dream self care plan. Use the pages of a journal to draw, brainstorm, list, or envision how you can best care for yourself right now. What is it that you truly need, and how can you best meet those needs, with kindness and care?