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10 Journaling Tips to Help You Heal, Grow and Thrive

“The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be.” ~Shakti Gawain

Keeping a journal has many positive benefits. Journaling can help with personal growth and development. By regularly recording your thoughts you will gain insight into your behaviors and moods.

Journaling can be used for problem-solving and stress reduction. It’s been proven to improve mental and physical health. It can lead to increased self-esteem.

Dr. John Grohol, CEO of Psych Central, estimates that one in three people suffer from a mental illness.  Anxiety disorders, mood disorders and substance abuse can be treated with a combination of medication and counseling.

In addition, writing in a journal is an effective tool for use in the healing process.

I started keeping a diary at age 8. As I grew up, I wrote the normal kinds of teen angst entries but eventually I turned journaling into a more sophisticated practice. In my 20’s I read all of Anais Nin’s Diaries.

I studied Ira Progoff’s At a Journal Workshop and implemented his methods—an elaborate design for generating the energy for change. Using his methods I was able to sort through turbulent emotions during the divorce from my first husband and discover hidden lessons from the experience.

To this day I continue to use some of his techniques as well as others I’ve learned. Recently I’ve discovered a new creative world in art journaling. Using mixed media has helped me express myself in refreshing and unusual ways.

There is a lot of power in the written word but occasionally words are hard to find. By drawing or making a collage I have been able to create a representation of how I feel that moves beyond my analytical writing.

Writing has helped me to process not only failed relationships but also to recover from grief and loss. 

Reading back through my journals has helped me reflect on where I used to be and where I am now in my life. It’s a method of allowing the light of understanding and compassion to shine on my past.

In The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron suggests writing three handwritten pages or 750 words every morning.  At first there is a lot of “dumping” but eventually little jewels of wisdom and direction emerge.  I found myself creatively energized when I participated with a group for 12 weeks using her book as a guide.

If you want to improve your perspective on life and clarify issues, start writing in a journal. 

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. Be sure your journal will remain private or write online so that you are writing for your eyes only.

Here are 10 tips to get started:

1. Start writing about where you are in your life at this moment.

Describe your living situation, your work, and your relationships. Are you right where you want to be?

2. For five to ten minutes just start writing in a “stream of consciousness.”

Don’t edit your thoughts or feelings and don’t correct your grammar. Don’t censor your thoughts.

3. Start a dialogue with your inner child by writing in your subdominant hand.

Answer with your dominant hand. What issues emerge?

4. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by maintaining a daily list of things you appreciate, including uplifting quotes.

Keep it in one journal or in a separate section so that you can read through it all at once. When you feel down you can read through it for a boost of gratitude and happiness.

5. Start a journal of self-portraits.

You can take pictures, draw colors or shapes or collage images. Learn to love and accept yourself just the way you are today.

6. Keep a nature diary to connect with the natural world.

The world we live in is a magical and mysterious place. Record the things you notice about the sky, the weather, and the seasons.

7. Maintain a log of successes.

Begin by writing the big ones you remember then regularly jot down small successes that occur during the week. As you pay attention, your list will grow and inspire you.

8. Keep a log or playlist of your favorite songs.

Write about the moods they evoke. When you hear a song that triggers a strong memory, write down how you feel and explore that time and space of your life.

9. If there’s something you are struggling with or an event that’s disturbing you, write about it in the third person.

This will give you distance and provide a new perspective. Write down what you learned about yourself.

10. Develop your intuition.

Write down questions or concerns then take a deep breath and listen for a response from your Higher Self.  Let yourself write automatically. If you don’t get an answer right away, look for signs during the day.

We all have dark days, black moods, and anxious feelings. Use writing in a journal to explore the darkness. You will find your inner light when you do.

Photo by JuditK

Avatar of Loran Hills

About C. Loran Hills

Loran is a travel guide on the spiral journey of life.  Her business, Loran’s Heart, is filled with journaling prompts, nature photographs, and inspirational products to help you grow and develop spiritually. Her e-course, The Seeker’s Journey, will take you on the quest to discover and manifest your inner truth.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Grace

    Excellent post. I’ve struggled with journaling – and it didn’t help when an ex found my very personal journal and read it. 
    I will definitely try out these methods.
    Thank you.

  • http://hanofharmony.com/ The Vizier

    Hi Loran,

    I was aware that journaling is helpful for personal growth.  But I never knew that there was so much depth to it the way you have described in your tips.  I certainly never journaled in this manner.  

    I generally keep a journal of the divinations I make each day about my life to practice.  In this way, I train my intuition.  But I will probably keep a separate journal for my successes and uplifting quotes.  I know this will be helpful to me as well.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!  

    Irving the Vizier

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Hello Irving the Vizier!  Journaling has infinite possibilities!  I’m glad you will incorporate a new method into the way you journal.

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Grace, knowing that someone else read your journal feels like such a terrible violation of personal space.  I encourage people to take great care in making sure the journal stays safe.  You can use a lock box or write privately online in a place such as 750words.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/ginarafkind Gina Rafkind

    Writing out what I was feeling and experiencing when I was going through anxiety and panic attacks was a huge healing tool for me! It calmed me down, brought me into the present moment and made me more aware of what I was feeling………..and I believe that is why journaling and writing it so powerful………because it brings you into the present moment.
    Thanks Loran!

  • Fran

    Thanks Loran,
    Great ideas

  • unionmaid

    something i find helpful in journaling: Copying and pasting (electronically or the old-fashioned way) thoughts/quotes posted on facebook sites devoted to the positive. This includes beautiful art work (i particularly like butterfly images!) Later, while it would take a lot of time to sort thru all the facebook sites to re-read that quote or see that work of art i can easily find it in my journal. Sometimes i print & copy the best ones and keep them in a folder to peruse for a moment of uplift. Thanks for a great article!

  • Valle

    You’ve convinced me! I will try it! :D

  • http://www.suntra.ca inderpal wig

    Thank you for sharing these tips. I’ve been journaling on and off just for the last year or so. I was really noticing a difference in my attitude and expression/feelings when I did it regularly for a month, but then I slipped, and it ended up feeling like a task.. I’ve started again this year, but I’m trying to do it on video instead. The first few days on video, I felt like I wasn’t being myself, and was holding back, so I actually tried doing both at one point, but that became too much, and I felt I was being redundant…although now I’m becoming a lot more comfortable on video, and open with it, and feeling more confident. Do you think journaling on video can have the same benefits, or is writing more effective? I can see how making lists and being able to review them would be different and a lot easier to refer to later on, and take encouragement from. Looking forward to trying some of the techniques and seeing if I can incorporate some of them in my video journaling. 

    Also wanted to ask if you could elaborate on this:
    3. Start a dialogue with your inner child by writing in your subdominant hand. Answer with your dominant hand. What issues emerge?

    Thank you again for sharing!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=573905625 Deborah Bier

    Henry Thoreau went to Walden Pond to journal and write a book following the death of his brother, John.  IMO, he had a prolonged grief reaction, being fully immobilized by that loss. Reading his journals, I feel him working it through both with being so fully in nature and through the process of daily writing.

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    These are excellent questions.  I think video journaling would have different benefits than keeping a written journal.  You would become more comfortable with watching yourself and being comfortable with who you are, as you mentioned.  There is a visceral experience, a kinesthetic one, that occurs with taking what’s in your mind through your hand on to the written page.  That said, it’s really more about what works best for you.

    Are you right handed? Let’s say you are.  Imagine a situation you are struggling with, perhaps negative self-talk.  Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. In your right hand, write a statement that bothers you.  For example, “I’m stupid.”  With your left hand, on the same paper on the left side, respond to the statement.  For example, “No, that isn’t true.”  The right hand then responds with, “It is too.  Remember the time you…” Go back and forth between hands.

    What will emerge is a dialog between what’s called your Inner Critic and your Inner Child.  It can be very enlightening!

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Great!  Remember to have fun with it.

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    That is a great idea, unionmaid!  I do cut and paste things I like but I never thought about putting them all into one document.  Thanks for the suggestion.

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Thank you, Fran.  I have more ideas along with my photographs in my e-book, The Spiral Journey.  You can find it on my site.

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Journaling works well for so many emotional issues, doesn’t it, Gina?  Thanks!

  • http://www.arttherapist.ca/ Petrea

    Wonderful ideas Loran. I love keeping a journal and find that doodling when the words don’t come helps me find a starting point.

  • Sayjay512

    I found this to be extremely inspiring as i am going through(and have been) a difficult time emotionally and mentally. This outlet seems like an excellent opportunity to better assess my anxeity. This may be a silly question, but, when you say subdominant hand, do you literally mean writing with your “other hand”? Could you elaborate on that point a little?
    Thank you so much -Sara

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Yes, Sara.  Unless you are ambidextrous, you write with a dominant hand.  Your sub-dominant hand is the other hand.  I elaborate a little more in a response to inderpal wig just below here.  I’ve been using this technique for so long I forget that others don’t know it.  

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Doodling is a great technique,too, Petrea.  Whatever works to get the juices flowing!

  • http://www.loransheart.com/ Loran Hills

    Journaling is an excellent tool for grief work.  I read Walden Pond when I was too young to recognize his grieving but I suspect you are quite right, Deborah.

  • http://www.starsigntraits.com/taurus-personality Astro Brooke

    Great tip (750words.com) I didn’t know that existed! 

  • Anonymous

    Loran, Thank you for these thoughtful words. I’ve been journaling my whole life, but find much inspiration in your essay.

  • Tanja Gardner

    I’m a seriously verbal person, so writing (and journalling) have been part of my life since I was eight or nine years old. I haven’t journalled daily – and sometimes I’ve had spaces where I’ve gone weeks or months without journalling… but I’ve always gone back to it in the end.

    Sometimes, I actually prefer to write out my thoughts about something I’m going through before I try to talk to anyone else about it… it’s a safe space to explore different aspects of an issue and get my thoughts in order before I inflict them on someone else!

    One thing you might find interesting/amusing, Loran: once upon a time, when I was going through some tough times as a young teen, my mother read my diary without asking me. I understood later why she did it – she was quite worried about me – but at the time, I was furious. To stop it ever happening again, I created my own runic alphabet (a mixture between Tolkien’s runes, genuine Anglo Saxon ones, and a few symbols I made up so I could obscure double-letter groups that make it easy to decrypt codes). 

    From that time until now, every time I write something longhand that I want to keep private, I’ve written it in my runic code.  I’m sure someone could decode it if they REALLY wanted to, but they’d have to actively work at it, and it stops casual snoopers from “accidentally” seeing stuff I’d prefer them not to!

    Thanks for a wonderful post – and it’s awesome to see you published on Tiny Buddha – that’s one of my goals for this year too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sarah-Fischer/725916507 Sarah Fischer

    I love love love your tips! Especially #7! I’ve been keeping a journal for about 3 years. But I don’t call it that; I call it my sketchbook. It’s a mix of words and pictures and drawings and thoughts. Might sound silly but I love writing letters to myself! So there is alot in my sketchbook that starts with “Dear Sarah,” and ends with “Love, Self” :) My sketchbook is seriously my therapy!

    Love,
    Sarah
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/tinydancer89

  • http://twitter.com/DTeaPriestess Dionne Ruff-Sloan

     Since starting my blog, I find that I’m spending less time journaling just for myself but I discovered OmmWriter program so now I bounce between a paper journal and writing on the computer. I love this post! It’s a great reminder of all the tools out there to
    refresh my journaling practice and you’ve given me some new resources as
    well!  Thanks so much!

  • http://www.BigIslandDog.com/ Jt Clough | Big Island Dog

    I have kept a journal of some sort since I can’t remember exactly but if I had to put an age on it I would say I was about 9.  Not having the pretties of childhoods it helped me get through that. I’ve used the process ever since.

    I had 6th or 7th grade English teacher tell me how good my writing was.  That I was able to say a lot and be concise.  Get my point across clearly.  It took me until I was 47 to really grasp that it is in fact a gift.

    This list makes me want to start all sorts of other journals.  The self portrait journal, the gratitude journal.

    I just love all the cool stuff I wanna do and most of these days does not involve buying something new to do it!

    Mahalo for such the many magnificent ideas that are published on this blog. :)

  • http://twitter.com/kayjer Kylie

    This is an amazing 10-step guide, thank you so much! I write all the time, but don’t allow myself to be open, honest, and real with myself. I hold back, even while journaling! This new perspective will hopefully allow me to work past that block and reinvest my time and energy into something that I truly love.

  • Anna

    thank you for being honest with us too, when I read these lines; “I write all the time, but don’t allow myself to be open, honest, and real with myself. I hold back, even while journaling!”, I realized that I too was holding back. 

  • Anna

    because of this post I actually started my own personal, locked, online blog. But I do wonder one thing.. Do you write/add things to your journal/blog whenever you feel like there’s something you need to get out? Or do you write once a day and summarize the whole day and its experiences in one post?

  • Jt

    You have inspired me to begin writing. I’ve been considering journaling for a while and now I am ready.

  • http://twitter.com/julia_calderon Julia Elena Calderon

    Thank you so much for this article. I write since I was 10 and keep a journal that has helped me to understand my everyday life. I also loved Julia Cameron’s proposal of Morning pages and they work like a charm for me to face those painful or sad situations I try to ignore. I carry in my purse a “thank you” note pad and helps me connect with the miracle of life.

  • http://www.owenmarcus.com Owen Marcus

    Your first tip – “Start writing about where you are in your life at this moment” – is the key.When your journal can take you deeper into the places you don’t travel, it can be a powerful tool for growth. Thanks for your post.

  • Pingback: Journaling | Lake Effective

  • DawnHerring

    Loran,

    Your list is truly comprehensive, covering many avenues of the journal writing experience. I love your focus on writing with the non-dominant hand to access our ‘Inner Child.” It’s amazing what dimensions of life we can access through our journaling practice. I’m also a huge fan of collage as well as tuning in to the music that speaks to us on the journal page. Journaling truly gives us a new perspective in ALL of life’s dimensions.

    I have chosen your post, 10 Journlaing tips to help you heal, grow, and thrive,
    for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on for all things journaling on Twitter; a link will be posted on the social networks, on my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in my weekly Refresh Journal: http://tinyurl.com/a5v2vwc.

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: Work Wisdom.

    Thanks again for sharing this fabulous list of journaling techniques that can truly speak to our lives.

    Be refreshed,

    Dawn Herring
    Your Refreshment Specialist
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

  • Sage

    I kept a journal my entire childhood, but stopped abruptly after college. I’ve been trying to start again for ages, maybe this will help me!

  • Paul

    Thanks for the great tips. I use a journaling app on my Android that allows me to categorise my entries. This way I can easily keep related entries together. http://tinyurl.com/nxjxysp

  • lekshmi

    Dear Loran,

    It was a pleasure reading this article on journalling, something I’m passionate about , rather something I’d be lost without. I started journalling 8 years ago, following a break up tht shook me, a time when everything seemed to go out of control.. I remember praying to God and then started writing this letter to God and there was, i just kept writing writing writing, I wouldn’t stop.. It was like an eruption of sort, of all the pent up emotions and negativity that i had repressed and masked.. I guess I’ve been pretty good at living a lie, pretending to be happy, being a people pleaser, and then being emotionally volatile with temper tantrums .. God, now when I look back I’ve changed so much , so completely, its like that old person doesn’t exist anymore.. I feel good about myself and confident. Equally or more challenging situations have happened since,like my divorce recently, but I know when I have my pen and a those empty pages in a note book, i can write my way to wisdom and a sense of peace with self… I can transcend and transform pain..I write in a fluid, unrestrained manner, I let the free flow happen, my writing isnt legible( not even to myself), as i try to catch up with my thoughts..Like you said its a beautiful moment when you let all your frustrations out and then this wisdom healing words start flowing , like dawn breaking in through darkness.. and its a continuous process. i do not reread what i’ve written and i tear up book after book, slowly walking the healing path.. it has helped me get in touch with my honest self.. initially i was discreet and private.but now i’ve taken a chance and started opening up and sharing my inner thoughts no matter how ugly it may seem with the few ones i trust and it has done wonders for me .. so yes,journalling is one of the best tools ever for self discovery….

    Thanks again for the inspiring article..

  • nurseC

    I just wanted to share that I came across this when it was first posted and have shared it many times since then at my workplace, a drug and alcohol detox. It helped me in so many ways and my clients as well. Thank you, so much.

  • Alexys

    I’ve been writing in a journal for as long as I could write. I stopped for a few years, but I’m starting again. Thank you so much for sharing these tips.

  • Sharleen Tighe

    Thank you for the guide. I look forward to putting the tips to the test :-)

  • guest

    I love this idea. I haven’t kept a journal since I was a teenager and it always helped me. I am going to go out and get a journal tonight.

  • Gio

    Hi, I love your article. I also like writing and have tried many times to follow the Artit’s Way. Something that makes it difficult for me is because I am not used to handwrite. I would prefer to write using a computer. What do you think about handwriting against typing?

  • Diane

    Keeping a sentence-a-day five-year journal is the way to go, in my opinion. Here are the top 10 reasons you should do it: http://thoughtstipsandtales.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/10-reasons-to-keep-a-sentence-a-day-five-year-journal/