There are a vast number of articles that will tell you the benefits of journaling. It’s usually mentioned in “What Billionaires and Ultra-Successful People Do at 3am” and “121 Things You Should Do in the Morning” and “84 Rituals That Will Change Your Life.” Sarcasm aside, I have been journaling for years and it truly has improved my mental clarity. However, I often pushed the act of journaling aside because I felt that I didn’t have anything to write about. I relied on my spontaneous need to write and unreliable bursts of creativity, which meant I only wrote when I had something to process or rant about.
It became apparent that my writing thoughts also shaped my present being. I wrote a lot about my negative feelings, and while it was useful, I tended to neglect writing about my blessings and feelings of gratitude. It was easier to write about things I disliked. After reading different self-help books, listening to podcasts, taking personal development courses, creating a writing-for-mental-wellbeing community, trying different journaling methods and different journals, buying prompt cards, I decided to create my own journaling structure. Using this structure, I have been more present, more productive, and more action-oriented.
Before going into the journaling structure, it’s helpful to preface that while structure helps to make the journaling process easier it is equally important that you build this into a routine that sticks. What I found helpful:
- Do it first thing in the morning before you check your notifications and scroll social media
- Create a structured environment that works for you — find a cozy spot that you can focus, minimize variability in this environment, couple this activity with your morning ritual like drinking a cup of coffee or tea
- Remove all distraction — close your laptop, airplane mode your phone, sit in a quiet room
Alright, now the anticipated journaling structure.
Reflect on the previous day: self-awareness is key to this journaling practice. I sit down in the morning and reflect on my previous day. Here are some guiding questions if you feel stuck:
- How were you feeling yesterday?
- What were some moments that stood out to you?
- When did you feel at peace/at ease?
- What were you grateful for?
- What did you learn? What can you do better today?
Example: I am in awe of my own growth and I am pleasantly surprised by the impact I created. Yesterday, an acquaintance reached out to me and told me how great my project was. I am grateful for her, and I will continue doing this work to inspire more people.
A vision is your mental aspiration of who you want to be. Based on your goals and aspirations, ask yourself, “Who do I want to be?” and write this in the present tense. You attract what you radiate, so why not be the person who you want to be now?
Example: I am a successful entrepreneur who inspires and empowers people to use their voice through expressive writing.
Your intentions are what you are committed to doing or being. This differs a little bit from the vision because they are things you intend to carry out and do. Your aims and purpose are your intentions. Make sure they are aligned with your vision.
Example: I will act with courage and kindness. I am committed to letting go of limiting beliefs and creating space to welcome new and exciting possibilities.
What are three small steps I can take today to create my vision through my intentions? Translate your vision and intentions into concrete tasks. It’s much easier when we have something actionable and quantifiable that we can tick off at the end of the day.
Example: I will give five compliments today. I will meditate for 15 minutes. I will work on a partnership proposal for 30 minutes.
I usually meditate or listen to a quick soundbite for 15 minutes after my journaling time. I highly recommend the following:
I hope this helps you, especially for those of you who are currently stuck and would like to journal more often. While this structure works really well for me, it might not work for you. The best thing is you can modify this structure, experiment with it, and come up with new ideas! The most important thing is you take a small step today and journal. Start with five minutes. Start with two sentences. A sentence or two is infinitely better than an empty page.
Fair (Prima) is a co-founder of MindTerra, a global community and platform using expressive writing as a tool to care for mental well-being. She is committed to improving the health of communities through technology and compassion.
This article was originally posted on Medium on December 13, 2020.