3 of my favorite go-to journaling exercises

I received my first journal when I was 9. It was a gift and it felt like a magical object to me – a beautiful red hardcover, a golden lock with a key…and pages and pages inside of lined paper just waiting for me.

That first journal ended up being my faithful companion – and a lifesaver of sorts – through a really tough year when I was so young and my mother was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Intuitively, my 9-year-old self somehow understood that I could use the journal as a tool to process my fears about my mother’s illness, to also have a space to write down my wishes about her recovery and our future.

That was almost 40 years ago, and to this day  – many, many fancy journals and everyday notebooks later – journaling remains one of the most potent tools in my self-soothing, self-awareness, self-evolution toolbox.

As with all things in life, I go through cycles with journaling: there are periods where me and my journal are BFF and I write every day…and then there are other periods where I will go a few weeks before writing.

Hands down, the periods when I am more actively journaling are the periods when I am more able to feel connected to myself, my soul, and Spirit.

I also use journaling as a coaching tool with my clients (& in fact in the Sacred Depths training, we spend a full module exploring how to effectively create journaling assignments for your clients based on your sessions with them!).

When working with clients, I suggest really tailoring their assignments to the content that comes up in session. And to get creative – “journaling” doesn’t have to mean only writing.

But for today, I wanted to share with you just a few of my favorite go-to general journaling prompts that help me go deeper in my self-connection and self-awareness, no matter what is going on in my life. Over the decades I’ve developed dozens, and these are some I thought you’d enjoy!

1.     What’s feeling most important to me today?

It’s such a simple question to journal on, but one that can really draw out the feelings underneath the feelings, the concerns underneath the concerns, and the beauty of really honoring exactly where you are in any given moment. When I journal on this question, I like to give myself space – at least 5-7 minutes to continue to see what else is there for me.

2.     Gratitudes/Celebrations/Learnings

Such a powerful way to assess a day, to mine the resources of the day, and to feel a deeper sense of satisfaction & meaning from the day. I make three separate lists (I love making lists!).

The first list: I write down as many things from the day that I can think of – at least 5 -that I feel grateful for…and as I write each thing down, I make a point to really feel the gratitude for it. This list can contain anything: a loving exchange with one of my kids or a delicious meal I had or having air conditioning on a really hot day.

Second list are things from the day that I feel proud of and want to celebrate. Not totally different from the gratitude list, but this one is more focused on acknowledging myself. Items on this list might look like celebrating filling a training program or celebrating a really great client session or celebrating how I handled a tricky situation with my kids. With each item that I list, I take a moment to really feel the celebration of myself in my body.

And the third list is all about things I’ve learned from the day. Maybe I had an argument with Jon and I learned that I need to take 3 minutes to breathe before lodging a complaint. Or maybe I got to an appointment late and I learned that it takes 20 minutes to get to this location, not 15. Or maybe I learned that I really dislike a certain food. The purpose of this list is to mine the perceived failures of the day into lessons and wins to take forward with me. Listing lessons can really change my perception of a bad day!

3.     Writing a letter to or from Spirit

This journaling exercise almost always hits the spot for me when I am feeling low and needing a connection with something bigger than myself as well as assurance that I am OK (& valuable & enough, etc.). My favorite way to do this exercise is to first close my eyes, connect with spirit, feel spirit all around me and ask for it to tell me what it wants me to know. And then in my journal, I write from the voice of spirit. I start with “Dear Joanna,….” and write a note to myself from this higher perspective place. It is always comforting, reassuring, wise, and feels like great, strong loving hands are holding me and seeing me in all my value and power.

If any of these exercises are speaking to you, I invite you to experiment with them….or adapt them to really align with your own needs…and enjoy the experience of having some time and space that’s not about productivity or “getting ahead”, but instead that’s about self-connection and finding meaning in your everyday life.

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