Originally published in March 2020
There is no better way to understand the way you think and what’s going through your head than to journal. The problem I’ve found is that the act of journaling is so open-ended that when it is most beneficial for me to do it, I avoid it.
Sound familiar? If this is one of the roadblocks you face when it comes to journaling, this post is here to help. I want to take the guesswork out of how you can journal effectively, without the impending paralysis that sometimes results from an open-ended prompt.
If you’re in the market for a new journal, give one of these a try:
My first tip? Start by writing “Morning Pages.”
Whether you are new to journaling or are just here to get some new prompts to try, consider doing a “mental download” first using the “Morning Pages” method. (“Morning Pages” is a writing practice developed by author Julia Cameron. Wit & Delight contributor Ellen Koneck wrote a helpful post about this topic, which you can read here.) It’s a great way to get your mental gears greased and clean out any fragments of unfinished tasks, things to remember, or notes to self. It’s also really effective in priming the pump per se when it comes to getting the most out of more targeted journaling sessions.
Next, dive into journaling prompts.
Once you’ve done around ten minutes of subconscious, nonlinear writing, I suggest moving on to journaling prompts. I keep a list handy that I can refer to and take inventory of what I’m up against that day or at that moment. If I’m feeling anxious, I know which list to focus on.
Sometimes we journal to connect with ourselves; other times we journal to find perspective in moments that feel out of control. Given the bizarre times we’re living in and the spread of COVID-19, journaling is becoming an incredibly handy tool for this worrier.
When done correctly, journaling can be calming and clearing for your mind. It can help in releasing pent-up feelings and everyday stress. It can help you let go of negative thoughts while exploring your experiences with anxiety in a safe way.
The truth is, writing your thoughts down in a journal can positively impact your anxiety on a holistic level. When done correctly, journaling can be calming and clearing for your mind. It can help in releasing pent-up feelings and everyday stress. It can help you let go of negative thoughts while exploring your experiences with anxiety in a safe way.
When we get in the habit of writing about our struggles AND our successes, we begin to see enhanced self-awareness while also teaching ourselves about our triggers. Below you’ll find some of my favorite journaling prompts that have worked wonders for me.
Journaling Prompts for Self-Discovery
- What do I know to be true that I didn’t know a year ago?
- What distractions get in the way of being my most productive?
- When do I feel most in tune with myself?
- If someone described me, what would they say?
- What can wait until next week?
- How does every part of my body feel at this moment?
Journaling Prompts for Managing Emotions
- What emotions am I holding on to?
- How can I detach or neutralize this emotion?
- Why am I doing X?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What is causing these feelings?
- Have I tried to take my ego out of the situation?
- How can I detach my emotions from the behavior of others?
- Did I use healthy boundaries before I began feeling this way?
Journaling Prompts for Anxiety and Depression
- What hurts right now? How can I find relief?
- When I look in the mirror, what do I see?
- What are the things in my home that are the most “me”?
- What am I doing right now?
- What happened before I felt a shift in my mood?
- Write down an entire list of what you are worried about. Star the items that you know are 100% true and not solely a feeling.
If you aren’t convinced, research shows journaling can greatly improve your overall well-being. Now grab a notebook, pour some tea (or whiskey?), and let the words fly.
Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.