When I tell people that I love journaling, they ask me what I journal about and whether I just free-write my thoughts and feelings. They share that they are curious about journaling but are not sure how to start. That’s when I enthusiastically tell them about the specific journaling practices that have helped me improve my life — and how you can, too.
All you need is a pen and paper and a few minutes a day to reap the benefits of journaling, which include stress reduction, increased mental well-being, and greater self-awareness. However, it can be overwhelming to stare at a blank page and not know where to begin.
Using guided practices helped me get into the habit of effectively journaling — whether I am looking to process my emotions or set goals and reach them. Below are three of my favorite practice, which I come back to over and over again (I have stacks of old, filled-out journals to prove it!)
Journaling Practices That Will Make a Huge Difference
1. Gratitude Journaling
Taking five minutes daily to list all the things I am grateful for, which can range from appreciating my health or my loved ones to listing little things that bring me joy such as a delicious cup of morning coffee, has turned me into a more positive person and increased my overall sense of happiness.
“Flexing” my gratitude muscles on a day-to-day basis in my journal has also increased my ability to feel grateful and look for silver linings.
“Gratitude journaling helps us turn our focus away from our challenges and the negative things in life (and we all have some negative things to deal with). If we only dwell on the bad, we’ll never be happy. Seems like a no-brainer but so many people live their life just looking at what’s wrong,” says author and life reinvention coach Karin Freeland.
“Your overall happiness and satisfaction will increase as you practice this habit regularly. It can also help reduce stress and anxiety. When we realize all that we have to be grateful for, there is less stress worrying about what we don’t have or still need to accomplish. And where there is less stress, there is more well-being.”
2. Mind Magic
Mind Magic is a 90-day challenge created by mindset coaches Lauren Saunders and Tara Brunet. It’s one of the journaling practices I use when I feel stuck and frustrated in a specific area of my life.
Here’s how it works: You choose an area of life you want to focus on improving, like money or relationships. Through guided prompts, you deconstruct the current story you’re telling about that area of your life, perhaps without even realizing it. For example, “I am always broke” or “I am terrible with money” or “There are no good men out there.” The Mind Magic process is about rewriting that story and anchoring your new desired reality in your subconscious mind through a five-minute daily journaling practice that you keep up for 90 days.
“We wanted from the beginning to create a safe space and community where people got support for what they were going through, while also learning how to reframe situations to work in their favor. It really all comes down to the simple premise that the story you’re telling about your life, is the one that’s manifesting. Within Mind Magic, participants tell a different story about where they’re at so they can transform it swiftly and to their liking,” says Mind Magic co-founder Lauren Saunders.
“I think Mind Magic is an effective practice because it’s backed up by an understanding of the power in repetition and neuroplasticity, or in other words our ability to change the way we think through practicing new thoughts.”
3. Future-self journaling
Future-self journaling is about imagining your ideal future and having conversations with your future self. It allows me to tap into my big dreams and goals and bridge gaps between the person I am now and the person I want to be. And it has helped me accomplish things like land a dream job or turn my love life around.
It’s science-backed too: A study showed that the more people feel the continuity between their present and future selves, the more they are likely to make decisions with their future selves in mind. In other words, the more you can feel connected to that future self, the more you will become that version of yourself in the present moment, which will show in your decisions and behaviors and help you turn once-distant goals into a reality.
I personally approach future-self journaling in two ways. When I am going through something challenging, I write letters to myself from my future self. It’s amazing to see the words of encouragement and wisdom that flow through and the positive impact it has on my perception of the situation and how I navigate it.
Also, when I set a goal, I write about what it would be like to have achieved it. What would my daily reality look like? How would I think and feel? How would I act? How would I make decisions? I then notice where there are discrepancies between how I show up now and how that version of myself shows up, and I aim to embody my future self in the present moment. It’s powerful and also fuels my motivation to keep moving towards my desires.