Journaling has exploded in the last few years, and for lots of good reasons. It can help you achieve your goals, grow your confidence, reduce stress, feel more creative, and even sleep better!
Not to mention, there’s something so satisfying about looking back on your journals from the past and seeing how much you’ve grown. Journaling is a great way to track your progress and see just how far you’ve come.
But if you’ve never journaled before, or haven’t been sure what to write about, starting a daily journaling practice can be intimidating. If you’ve ever stared at a blank page and wondered, “what the heck should I journal about?”, you’re not alone. Coming up with ideas isn’t easy if you’ve never done it or had any guidance before.
What Should I Journal About?
Here are five ideas you can use to get started with journaling (or deepen your existing practice) now. Feel free to use the ones that resonate with you and leave the others behind. At least one of these ideas is bound to help you improve your life – whether that means making progress towards your goals, feeling more at peace, learning more about yourself, or growing your self-love and confidence.
Goals & Dreams
Did you know that people who write down their goals are up to 97% more likely to achieve them? Simply putting your goals and dreams down on paper makes them more real, and gets you one step closer to actually realizing them.
You can simply write out a list of all the things you want to accomplish in your life, but I recommend going a little deeper with the following questions:
- What’s a really big, crazy dream you have for your life?
- What’s something you’ve secretly wanted, but haven’t fully allowed yourself to want?
- What things or experiences are on your bucket list at a soul level?
- What adventures do you want to have in your lifetime?
- When you’re at the end of your life and look back – what will make you the most happy? Proud? Satisfied?
- Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
- What’s something you want to accomplish in the next 12 months? 3 months?
As you answer these questions, think about what YOU truly want – not what you’re supposed to want (what your family or society wants for you). Start to define what success means to you – you get to decide!
We’ve all heard about how a regular gratitude practice can have a positive effect on our lives. Research has shown that it can improve your health, lift your mood, help you sleep better, be more compassionate, and feel more alive.
Go ahead and write a few things you appreciate in your life, but don’t stop there. Instead of just listing the things you’re grateful for, identify how each of these things make you FEEL. In addition to helping you soak up the richness of your gratitude, this extra little step will help you tune into the energy of the positive things you want to create. What you focus on expands!
For example you may say, “I feel grateful for a fridge full of fresh and yummy food.” How does having that food make you feel? You might write something like, “I feel abundant” or “I feel nourished and energized.”
In the famous words of the Buddha, “what you appreciate, appreciates”. Whatever things and experiences you give your attention and gratitude toward, the more they can grow in your life.
Processing Your Emotions
In Western culture, we’re taught to suppress or ignore our negative emotions. Even though it may be socially inappropriate to express sadness or rage in public, very few of us let ourselves feel these things even in private. We tell ourselves to “suck it up” and move on with life.
Unfortunately, this isn’t actually very healthy. When we don’t process and release heavy emotions, our body stores them and they can manifest as physical pain, disease, anxiety, or depression. For example, you might feel super stressed out at work, and if you don’t take the time to acknowledge and let yourself feel the stress, you may end up with a migraine or an upset stomach. Has this ever happened to you?
Simply writing about your emotions helps you process them, and actually release them much faster. Instead of feeling stressed out all day long, when you let yourself feel the emotion, you can get let go of it quickly. It may be counterintuitive, but it works!
So here are some questions you can ask yourself to help process and release negative emotions:
- What emotion am I feeling right now?
- Write: “I am willing to feel this emotion right now”. Imagine yourself welcoming the emotion as if it’s walking in your door, instead of pushing it away.
- Describe what the emotion feels like in detail. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? Is it in your chest? Stomach? Shoulders? Neck? How would you explain the energy of the emotion in your body to someone else?
- Witness as the emotion lessens, even if it’s just the tiniest bit. If you’re still feeling resistance around the emotion, repeat steps 2 and 3.
- It’s ok if the emotion isn’t totally gone. Write, “I accept this emotion and it’s ok. It’s part of being human.”
- Write “I am willing to love myself unconditionally, no matter how I feel”, or a similar statement that resonates with you.
You’ll notice that this process isn’t about ruminating on a topic or experience that led to you feeling the negative emotion. It’s ok to write about external circumstances, but don’t dwell on them. You can’t control what happens outside of you, but you CAN control what happens inside of you.
Insights, Lessons, & Reflections
Whether you want to grow your career, get into the best shape of your life, or attract love, reflecting on what you’ve learned can be immensely beneficial. Spending a few minutes writing down your thoughts can help you identify patterns that are both helping you and holding you back.
Here are some questions to cultivate insights, learn about yourself, and grow:
- What’s something you’ve learned in the past week? What are you going to do with this insight?
- What negative stories do you tell yourself, about yourself, over and over? How are these stories holding you back?
- What’s a challenging experience you’ve had recently? What can you take away from this experience? How can you use this information in a positive way?
- On a scale of 0 to 10, how much do you like who you are being in the world? If your number is below a nine, what do you need to shift to make the number higher?
- What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in the last week/month/year? What positive actions are you going to take from this knowledge?
In modern society, most of us are programmed that when we achieve something, we should downplay it or just keep on running on the hamster wheel to the next achievement. We’re so conditioned to judge and punish ourselves, that we barely acknowledge the amazing things that we’ve already created.
However, when we take the time to celebrate our successes (no matter how small!), we amplify our success. When we really let ourselves feel the positive emotions associated with accomplishing something, we not only feel really good, but we also develop neural pathways in our brains that empower us to create even more success in our lives.
The following questions are based on a transformational process I learned from my mentor, Dr. Eve Agee. Spending just a few minutes answering these questions will help you move from negative emotions to more positive ones, which will help you manifest more reasons to feel successful and celebrate!
- Write down a success in your life – it can be something big like receiving a promotion, or something much smaller, like getting dinner in the oven. Honor yourself for your success, no matter what it is.
- Acknowledge who is responsible for this success. This is always going to be YOU. Express gratitude to yourself for this accomplishment. If you want, you can also acknowledge anyone who co-created this success with you (it could be your spouse, your coworker, or God or the universe – whomever you want to acknowledge in addition to yourself).
- Describe in detail what the success feels like. What does it feel like in your body? Does it feel light? Energizing? Exciting? Really soak up this success and describe the emotions you are experiencing. Imagine this feeling expanding throughout your whole body and being.
- What would it be like if you let yourself live in the energy of this success all the time?
- What would it take for you to allow more of this positive energy into your life?
- In addition to answering these questions, I also recommend you take a moment to find a physical way to celebrate – you can do a little dance, pump your fists in the air, or give yourself a hug. Take another minute to really celebrate and soak up the positive emotions you’ve just generated – you are amazing!
If you’ve ever wondered what you should journal about, hopefully something on this list inspired you! Feel free to combine any of these ideas and make them your own.
As you’re journaling, a good rule of thumb is that the more you enjoy it, the more you’ll get out of it. It’s ok if not every single session feels amazing – but the more you’re willing to explore and experiment, the more you’ll learn. Be light with this process and go easy on yourself, especially if you’re new to journaling (or even if you’re a seasoned journaling veteran!).
I’d love to hear your biggest takeaways from this post! Which ideas have you tried before, and which ones are new to you? Which idea are you most excited to try next? Share in the comments!