Let me tell you a secret: Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with millions of little worries and thoughts running through my head, and my super active monkey mind refuses to let me go back to sleep.
I used to get very frustrated whenever this happened, especially when I knew I had a long, busy day ahead.
Luckily one of the tools I have in my Beacon’s bag really helps me during these times: writing. Now, instead of lying in bed frustrated, I get up, take out a pen and the journal I use for free writing, and write for a few minutes. Journaling helps me to clear the emotional clutter so I can relax and go back to sleep.
Journaling is cathartic for some people. For others, the prospect of journaling—or of committing to journaling—can seem overwhelming. Here’s the thing: I don’t journal every day. I don’t always use the same type of journaling. I alternate between different journaling techniques, and I only journal when I want to.
Do you journal, Beacon? What does your journal look like? What’s your favorite technique for journaling?
Let me share some of my favorite approaches to journaling.
- Free writing journal
This is the “Let it all out. Don’t read it later!” journal. Writer Anne Lamott likens this style to vomiting on the page. Just write! In our case, we are not writing to be writers; we are writing to clear out the emotional clutter in our minds and bodies. For free writing, I use simple notebooks, not fancy ones. I sit down and write whatever is on my mind: what’s bothering me, what scares me, what I’m angry about…
- Inspirational journal
I use the Leuchtern 1917 notebook for my inspirational journal. Although it’s pricier than the frills-free notebooks I use for free writing, I like it because the pages are paginated, and there’s a table of contents you can fill in. I use the table of contents to help me find the topics I’ve written about when I need to return to them later. In my inspirational journal, I write down ideas, messages I receive, notes on articles and podcasts, ideas for my blogs, quotes I want to remember, etc.
- Morning pages
You may have heard of morning pages. The idea comes from Julia Cameron’s famous roadmap to “creative recovery,” The Artist’s Way. The idea behind morning pages is similar to free writing. The first thing you do when you wake up is journal whatever is on your mind until you fill three pages. It’s stream of consciousness writing. As Cameron says, don’t overthink it. Morning pages are not meant to be read. They are simply to clear your mind before moving on with your day.
- One-sentence journal
If the idea of keeping up the habit of a “proper” journal (by the way, there is no “proper” journal!) makes you nervous, Gretchen Rubin’s (The Happiness Project) one-sentence journal is the approach for you. At night, write one sentence (or a few, if you’re inspired) about your day. It’s a way of keeping your memories fresh. If you’re going through a hard time, it may help you to look back at your journal for a record of a happier, “easier” time—and vice versa. Remember, good or bad, “this too shall pass.”
- Gratitude journal
A gratitude journal is a useful way to center yourself. On its pages, list not only what you’re grateful for but also why you’re grateful. When you can, go deeper and write the reason each thing on the list helps you to shift your energy. From time to time go back and read your gratitude lists, especially when you need to upshift your energy.
- Creative journal
A creative journal is a place for you to unleash your artistic side. You can write in your creative journal or reserve it only for drawing, painting, collaging, scrapbooking, or whatever kind of art you desire to create. One of the Beacons in our community, Jillian, said that she usually collages on the left-hand pages of her creative journal and then leaves the right-hand pages blank for journaling. For her, the act of creating is as cleansing as writing—and sometimes even more powerful.
Writing professor Trina O’Gorman’s MindMosaic technique is easily one of my favorite types of journaling. Divide your page into quadrants, and give each quadrant a short, bold header that corresponds with a thought you can’t get out of your head. Start in the upper left quadrant (quadrant one) and write without stopping until you fill the space. Then move on to the upper right quadrant (quadrant two) and do the same. Repeat with the third and fourth quadrants. The point of this practice is to give yourself enough space to “worry” on the page but not so much space that you find yourself ruminating. Of course, you can always return later to the topics you just can’t get out of your head.
- Wisdom Journal
Choose a card from your favorite oracle deck and use it as a prompt for reflection in your writing. This is a more guided technique for free thought journaling that capitalizes on the wisdom of the universe that influenced your selection from the deck. There may be some days when the universe knows better than you what you need to write about.
This will probably come as no surprise to you, but one of my favorites practices to integrate with journaling is Reiki. Here’s how I do it: I meditate while giving myself Reiki. Then I journal based on the thoughts and ideas that come up. But sometimes I do the opposite. I write first, and then I let go and turn things over to the universe by giving myself Reiki. Take the Reiki quiz to test your Reiki knowledge and learn something new about the practice.
There are so many ways to journal. You can commit to just one of them, integrate all of them into your life, or choose different styles at different times depending on your mood. My point is, journaling is one tool in your Beacon’s bag that can help you to expand, set boundaries, get unstuck—whatever you need in the moment. Sometimes, all we can do is write our way through to the other side.