When I think about journaling, two things come to mind:
- My mother keeping several different journals — a dream journal, a personal journal, and an art journal — for most of my childhood and into my adult years.
- Being required to keep a journal (and actually loving it) in my middle school English class. Thank you, Mr. Diskin, for the encouragement all those years ago!
These days, no one has to force me to keep a journal.
In fact, over the years, I’ve kept several different kinds of journals. Art journals, travel journals, personal journals, gratitude journals, tarot journals, a 5-minute journal*, and even a failed attempt at a bullet journal.
(Any excuse to buy a new notebook, ya know. 🤷♀️)
These days, I find myself gravitating towards a few specific styles of journaling. They have helped me get to know myself better, dive deeper into my own limitations, and even shift my perspective in profound ways.
Here are the 5 journaling techniques that have been most impactful in my life for gaining clarity and understanding why I do the things that I do (for better or worse).
You knew I was going to start here, right?
From my early days with gratitude journaling a la Make Miracles in Forty Days* to my more recent stint with shameless gratitude a la Thank & Grow Rich, gratitude journaling has made a profound impact on my life and emotional wellbeing. It has the power to get me out of a funk, to ease my anxiety, and to get me focusing on the lessons in any given situation.
Gratitude journaling can be as simple as writing a list of 3-5 things you’re grateful for each day, can incorporate writing prompts, or be written on a slip of paper and stuffed into a jar. Regardless of how you choose to keep track of your gratitude, it can have profound and positive effect on our health, our moods and even the survival of our marriages.
A few years back, when I was still in the thick of running a health coaching business, dealing with a long list of food sensitivities, and trying to get pregnant, I signed up for a Money Bootcamp* that focused on mindset, decluttering practices, EFT or tapping, and forgiveness work.
Throughout the course, I found myself keeping a journal of all the money stories and memories that came up each day, any steps forward that I had made, a list of anyone I needed to forgive (most often myself), and what goals I had as a result.
After a while, those daily entries began to include stories and beliefs around fertility, health, relationships, and success. It was really eye opening and profoundly helpful to see what was triggering me and where I could stand to tell a different and more supportive story.
Related: Mindset Journaling template.
Morning Pages is a style of writing that was made popular by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artists Way*.
At it’s most basic form, Morning Pages involves sitting down first thing in the morning and writing three pages of stream of consciousness writing. Don’t be fooled by this seemingly simple process. The level of clarity, the profundity of connections made, and the way it helps to clear your mind of any and all noise is second to none.
I find myself becoming more and more obsessed with art journals. Not because I love keeping them, but because I love looking at them. Art journaling is a space where you can let loose and play with colors, lines, textures, materials, and words. It can be a profound way to make connections, explore emotions, and understand experiences that are hard to put words to (including trauma).
As a kid, I would hoard magazines and clip images and words that resonated with me and turn the front and back of every journal and sketch book I kept into a visual representation of myself. I would also play with scribbles and stamps, draw out my emotions, doodle, and just plain explore through the paper.
Even as an adult, the process of creating art gets me into a meditative state and helps me to lose track of my rational brain, making it easier to get into a flow state and have serious a-ha moments.
This is one of those styles where there is no right or wrong, no rules, no experience or artistic talent necessary, and absolutely no need to share it with anyone.
This has to be one of my absolute favorite styles of journaling and the one that I gravitate towards most these days. Automatic writing is said to be a way to connect with your higher self or spirit guides and “download” their perspective or guidance.
I’ve found that I do best by writing it down with pen on paper, but you could also use a computer to connect in this way. I like to begin by setting the intention for staying open, take a few deep breaths to center myself, and then start with a question like, what do I need to know right now? so that the writing can unfold. Once I get going, I find that the answers just naturally pop into my head and find my hands are able to simply transcribe what’s been said.
If you’ve never given automatic writing a try, it can feel funny or like you’ve lost your mind a bit and are simply talking to the voices in your head. Don’t let that scare you off, though, because there are so many great nuggets of wisdom and insight that can come from this process if you let it.
Your turn! Have you tried any of these journaling techniques? What did you like (or not) about each of them? Any favorites that I didn’t mention?
*This is an affiliate link