A journaling practice is a powerful way to connect to yourself, to connect to your deeper, subconscious parts, like your heart and soul. It helps you to get still, to get quiet and to listen. For many of us this listening doesn’t occur that often. Because there are to-do lists and responsibilities and fires to put out on a regular basis.
But taking even a few minutes every day or every other day to hear what’s happening inside your heart, inside your soul, can be transformative. It may help you to process an emotion that’s felt stuck. It may help you to figure out how you’d like to handle a difficult situation. It may help you to feel inspired and uplifted and better understand how you’d like to care for yourself.
Below are five journaling techniques you might want to make part of your regular practice.
- Start a “heartsong journal.” This beautiful idea comes from Rachel Wilkerson Miller on BuzzFeed. According to Miller, “The best way I can explain a heartsong journal is that it’s basically an ‘encyclopedia of you.’ It’s a special notebook, separate from your day-to-day journal/diary/notebook, where you can write the meaningful things that are really close to your heart, and that you want to reference again and again.” For instance, you might include everything from your go-to self-care ideas to quotes, poems, prayers, meditations, or mantras that speak to you, she writes.
- Spontaneously sketch your emotions. “Concentrate on the emotion [you’re experiencing], and let yourself explore shapes, lines, colors, and composition,” said Natalie Foster, LAMFT, ATR, an intuitive mentor and registered art therapist who sees families at Integrative Art Therapy in Phoenix, and adults at True Self Institute in Scottsdale. “Don’t think— just let it happen.” Then journal about your art, she said: “What do you see? What do you feel in your body when you look at parts of your art? What does this art mean to you? What if your art could speak, what would it say? Would you speak back?”
- Create an altered book. According to registered art therapist Lanie Smith, you might browse a used bookstore, your own book shelf, or the library (which often gives away or sells old books for dirt cheap). When picking your book, she said, “let the book find you.” Maybe you’re drawn to the content or cover or color. Smith likes to add images and quotes, and glue envelopes inside for old journal entries she wants to keep or remember. You also might create collages within the pages, paint the pages, sew pages together, carve into them or circle words to create poetry, said Smith, also a vitality coach who helps helping professionals that’ve lost their zest for life regain vitality for whole life success.
- Respond to others’ words. Smith also likes to write three pages every morning (inspired by Julia Cameron’s morning pages) in response to a word, quote, or passage from a book, which she finds by “spontaneously opening and using whichever lines stand out.”
- Pen letters from your different parts. Foster suggested writing a letter to your heart, asking what it’s feeling. Maybe it’s contending with another part of you, such as your head or your gut. You can even write out entire conversations between these different parts. “For instance your gut may say, ‘speed up and work, get things done! We have to perform in order to win or achieve _________!’ Meanwhile the heart might be saying, ‘slowwww down.'” When writing your letters, Foster stressed the importance of being compassionate with yourself.
Journaling gives us the opportunity to pause and to sit down with ourselves. It gives us the opportunity to listen. Fully and deeply. It gives us the opportunity to say I am here. I am here for you. And I always will be.