Self Care

5 Ways to Use Your Journal For Self Care

March 7, 2016

I’ve always loved journaling, but before this year I’d never made it a regular habit. It was usually something I’d pick up whenever I bought a new journal, but after the initial buzz of ‘oooh, pretty blank pages’ wore off I’d lose my enthusiasm. The journal would end up cast aside, usually never to be seen again.

But then this January I made daily journal writing part of my Intention Plan (my monthly plan to live with intention and love) and I’m pretty proud to say that since then I’ve managed to write in my journal almost every day.

What I’ve learned after several months of consistently writing is that my journal is one of the most powerful ways I practice self care. Without fail, journaling almost always improves my mood, leaving me feeling calm, centred and capable.

Because I know how tough it is to start (and stick with) a journaling habit, I wanted to share with you a few of the ways I use my journal for self care. I think one of the biggest road blocks is not knowing where to start with writing, so hopefully you’ll find a few of these super simple ideas/prompts helpful in your self care practice (and if so be sure to let me know in the comments!)

After several months of consistently writing I've learned my journal is one of the most powerful ways I practice self care. Without fail, journaling almost always improves my mood, leaving me feeling calm, centred and capable.  Here are 5 strategies I use, including journal prompts and ideas.

OBSERVE + EXPLORE YOUR FEELINGS

Have you ever caught yourself having one of those out of nowhere, ‘please don’t talk to me, look at me, or touch me’, everything’s driving you crazy, bad mood sort of days – but you have no idea why?

(Slowly puts hand up …)

I know when I’m feeling this way it’s easy to write it off as ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed’ or ‘just feeling off’ but I’ve found that when I take time to examine my feelings I can usually find there is a specific worry or problem that needs to be addressed.

And trust me, in the long run this is much more productive than writing it off to some sort of bad mood fairy. So instead of brushing it off, I use journaling to help me dig deeper and get to the root of the problem.

WRITING PROMPT: “How do I feel?” (And let your heart pour out.)

Be honest with yourself; I often start with is “I’m having a bad day, but I don’t know why” or “I wish a plague would wipe out the human population so I could have a few minutes of peace.” (Just kidding … sort of.) But from there I explore different ideas, let my feelings flow without filter or judgement, and write.

I almost always find that with time I can distill my negative feelings down to a specific cause (such as resentment, jealousy, self doubt, or disappointment) and that awareness helps me to address the issue head on (or to simply accept what I cannot change.)

RELATED POSTS: 4 Ways to Stop Letting the Little Things Bother You

CLEAR YOUR MIND

I learned a few weeks ago that one of the greatest acts of self care is enjoying a quiet mind; it’s such a luxurious feeling to stem the tide of to do lists, emails and ideas running though your head and to just STOP thinking. The silence is priceless.

One simple way to find this silence is to do a brain dump – open your journal to a blank page and let loose; write down everything that is on your mind until there is nothing left.

When I’m done writing I usually feel tired, but in that good, post-workout sort of way. I know that my thoughts/worries/to-do list are safe and sound, so I can just relax, let go, and enjoy the moment.

RELATED POSTS: A Practical Guide to Being Present (How to Live in the Moment)

WRITE A GRATITUDE LIST

Practicing gratitude is an act of self care because it shifts your mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance. Instead of feeling stressed and worried about what you feel your life is lacking, you feel blessed and thankful for all that your life is made of.

A simple way to start practicing gratitude to write lists of everything that you’re thankful for in your journal. It’s a simple yet power way to ease your mind and lift your spirits.

FURTHER READING: If you’re interested in reading more about creating a daily gratitude practice, check out this post from my friend Daisy at Simplicity Relished.

FORGIVE YOURSELF

I have a rather unfortunate habit of beating myself up when I make mistakes. I’m pretty sure that, sadly, I’m not the only one.

When I make a mistake at work, or say something awkward around new friends, or make a regrettable impulse purchase, I dwell on it and my inner voice can sometimes be a nasty piece of work.

But I am getting better at being kind to myself and through journaling I’m learning to:

  • accept that I’m human and imperfect.
  • forgive myself.

Journaling works for me because it helps me remove myself from the situation and view it objectively. (Sometimes I even think of myself in the 3rd person, because let’s face it – for some reason we are so much more forgiving to others than we are to ourselves.) When I look from the outside in it helps me to accept what has happened, move on, and most importantly forgive myself.

INDULGE IN YOUR DREAMS

I think that sometimes it’s scary to indulge in big dreams. For example, I dreamed about starting a blog for a really long time, but I was scared to tell anyone about it. I was afraid of looking silly and I had a lot of self doubt.

So instead I wrote about it. It was so therapeutic to explore my dreams and ideas in a safe place without fear of judgement and even better – with time, manifesting my dreams helped me grow the confidence I needed to launch the blog.

WRITING PROMPT: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid …”

However you use your journal, my best advice is to pick it up and write. Don’t be afraid of getting those pretty white pages messy, just scribble whatever comes to mind (start with your grocery list, song lyrics, a rant against your neighbour – whatever.)

Journaling encourages self awareness and once you understand your needs, you can start to take care of yourself.

How do you use your journal or what are your self care tips? Let me know in the comments! x

photo credit : Karolina Grabowska // Used with permission

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  • I just love this post, friend! I think it’s easy to forget about self-care when we’re busy, but that’s when we need it most. I loved journaling as a child but haven’t done it in the past couple years. I think I need to go hunt one down and start writing again! Definitely sharing this everywhere!

    • Thanks so much Daisy! I’ve definitely jumped on the self care bandwagon these past few months and I feel so much better for having done so – and journalling is one of the easiest (and most fun) ways to practice it! x

  • I used to journal way back when, but stopped doing it when my career picked up. I’m now thinking of getting back into it; the writing prompts are a great way for me to start. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jenn S

    I have always loved to journal — started in Grade 5, when a friend gave me my first diary for my birthday. 🙂 Journaling, for me, is the way I work through things… I write through my questions and doubts, and usually (not always, though) come across the insights/answers I need.

    • It’s such a good habit, isn’t it! It’s probably the best thing I’ve done for myself this year. You’re so right about finding insights/answers – it’s amazing how things become clear when you write them down. Thanks for sharing your experience with us Jenn! x

  • tishushu

    This was such an awesome post! I was simply habit tracking, but these suggestions, especially the writing prompts, are helpful!

  • Great post Jennifer! Thank you!

    I used to journal a bit sporadically at best, UNTIL…I found the bullet journal (thru Ryder Carroll…and better yet, Kara Benz of Bohoberry). I read all I could get my hands on last December and started my bullet journal journey in January 2016. Now I wouldn’t trade my daily entries for anything in the world. It’s changed the whole landscape of my journaling. FANTASTICALLY!! It is as you say…total self-care which we, as women, tend to put on the back burner to care for others.

    I have a group on FB that I’ve been growing and nurturing for a little over a year. (Barefoot Journaling Chronicles) I carefully post all kinds of creative journal inspiration on our closed group page, that I think will appeal to our members. We even have a quarterly short story writing contest, members can sharpen their skills on and win a prize centered around their story. Just finished our 5th contest with a lucky winner.

    If you, or anyone reading this would like to join us for more inspiration, please feel invited. I often enjoy showcasing my partners in craft for mutual benefit. It really does take a village. I would enjoy personally welcoming you into our group.

    Blessings on your journey,

    ~Evon Robinson
    Barefoot Journaling Chronicles

    • Hi Evon,

      I just sent a request to join – it sounds like a great group! I have tried bullet journalling and loved it but never really found my rhythm. Hopefully your group will give me some inspiration!

      Thanks for the invite and for ready! x Jen

      • Hi Jennifer,

        So happy you decided to join us! Happy to have you.

        I hope we can fuel your interest to give it a try…and to peek into our other treasures as well…we have a lot, and I’m adding all the time. if you’re interested in our short story contests, you can check out our articles section to see the previous contest winners, and our current winner is listed in the feed as of Aug, 12, 2016.

        You can also find plenty in our pictures/albums section. I love it when members share what they’re doing. I share occasionally as well.

        Let me know if you need any help getting around, okay?

        Blessings,

        ~Evon xx

    • Julia Spadaccini Clemens

      Hi Evon, I just requested to join – I’m struggling with Journaling these days, and need to get back to it. I’ve been looking at bullet journaling, even have everything I need to start mine, but I’m almost afraid to mess the pages up, if that makes sense. I guess I’m from the old ‘write it in a notebook’ school, and desperately need to try something new!

      • Evon Robinson

        Hello Julia,

        So happy you found me, here on Jennifer’s page. You couldn’t have found me at a better time. I will be starting my blog, “Lessons from… On the Wings of My Pen”, on January 30th. We will be breaking down the HUGE subject of bullet journaling baby step by baby step, giving you the much needed care, comfort, confidence, and assurance you need to begin…minus the fear. We have a lot going on and planned for BJC this year, 2017, so strap on your seat-belt! Ha ha!

        I will look forward to seeing you on BJC…shortly! We have many treasures to share with you to help you on your way. And we encourage our members to share their journey with us as well. We love seeing your growth and progress. My blog will be interactive, so feel free to ask questions as the need arises. I will do my best to help you any way I can.

        Blessings on your Journey,

        ~Evon Robinson
        Barefoot Journaling Chronicles
        “Lessons from…On the Wings of My Pen”

  • Martha VanEtten

    This is fantastic! Thank you so much!

  • Great tips! I’ve been journaling since I was a teenager and I’ve learned so much about myself year after year. I recently created my own journal called The Free Your Mind Journal to help people gain clarity of what they want and I’ve received a lot of positive responses from women who haven’t journaled in years.

    I agree with you journaling is a form of self-care and I like to write down 5 things I’m grateful for each day. Thanks for sharing!

    Siobhan
    http://www.befreeproject.com

  • Rachel

    I’ve been writing out my feelings for a little while, and it has become a big part of how I process things!! I’ve never really journaled about my dreams though. Great idea!

    • Journaling is so great for processing things, isn’t it! Definitely try writing about your dreams, I promise it makes them feel more real 🙂 Thanks for commenting Rachel!

  • A writing friend of mine gave me the tip to write without lifting your pen off the paper, don’t worry about punctuation, commas, full stops or any other grammatically correct filters. Just write. For me this was the most therapeutic moment. It was raw and the words came right from my soul. Your post is a great reminder for me to do that again 🙂

    • HI Jeanette – sorry I missed this comment when you initially left it – but thanks so much for your comment! I think that a lot of people struggle with journaling because they get caught up with it being “perfect” but I think this tip really helps. Thanks for reading 🙂 x Jen

      • Oh no worries Jen, it’s easy to do! Loved the read. J x

  • I’ve been journaling since I was in elementary school, and I’m so thankful that I created the habit early on in my life! It’s certainly become a huge outlet and self-care tool to help with my anxiety as I grew older, especially in times of high stress. Thanks for sharing!

    https://www.sara-katherine.com

    • Hi Sara – that’s amazing to hear you’ve been journaling for so long! I definitely wish it was a habit I picked up at a younger age. Thanks for reading! 🙂