I've been working really hard over the last few weeks on a technical post that is exceeding 3k words, so I thought I'd give myself a break to write something shorter and softer.
Journaling has been an important part of my life for a long time. When I was of elementary school age, I spent a summer with my grandmother, and before bed she would encourage me to write about what we did that day. I remember the feeling of journaling for the first time. There was something sweet about remembering and reliving the fun activities from earlier in the day. It also gave me a chance to privately vent about things I didn't like so much. She didn't give any parameters for my writing but that's what I did with it.
After that summer, I didn't journal regularly again until I was about 15. Thats when it became a daily habit, mostly of venting and obsessing over the horrors of teenage life. I've been journaling pretty regularly ever since and I'm more than halfway through my 13th composition notebook. Over the years, I've noticeably changed the way I express myself. I'm far less self-deprecating and much more constructive. My journals have provided me with opportunities for self-reflection, helping me to recognize my own patterns of behavior, mood cycles, and what makes me happy or sad. I now see journaling as a powerful tool for personal growth and I would encourage anyone to do it.
Most of the time when I journal its pretty open ended. Sometimes I vent. Sometimes I do gratitude writing. Sometimes I set intentions for the day. Sometimes I write todo lists for myself. Sometimes I write in the morning and sometimes I write at night.
In the last few days of each year I like to read through my journal entries from the previous year and see where my head was at, understand when I was happy or unhappy (I date all of my entries), and ideally identify the causes. During my last review I noticed 2 things:
- I tend to write more when I'm unhappy than when I'm happy
- My writing isn't structured so its kinda hard to evaluate
I've been trying out a new set of prompts lately that I'm hoping will assist with more constructive writing as well as make reflection a bit easier. I came up with 4 simple prompts, assuming that I might revise them over time, but for now they are working quite well. I complete all four prompts in a single entry. Here they are.
My journal will always be a safe and private place for me to check in with myself and be honest about how I'm feeling. This prompt is pretty open ended. Not only do I describe my current mood, I dig into why I might be feeling that way. Here's an example of what I might write for this prompt (an example because some things are just too personal to share, ya know?)"
"I'm feeling pretty good this morning. A little tired. I didn't sleep well last night. I think I'm a little stressed about my end of the week deadline. I'm confident that I can get everything done but its going to be a lot of work and it feels heavy right now. I enjoy the work so that definitely helps. I'm hungry. I need to make some breakfast. Coffee should help perk me up!"
For me, this prompt acknowledges that work is a big part of my life, and it contributes a lot to my overall happiness. I use it to check in on the projects I'm working on, and make sure that the things I'm putting a lot of my time into make sense, serve others, and also serve myself. Here's is my actual entry for this prompt from today. It's not particularly deep, thus I feel safe sharing it.
"I'm almost done with my dev documentation post. It's a little over 3k words right now. I also want to do a '2017 in Review' post. I'd like to figure out how I can write shorter posts and publish more frequently. I will write code most of the day which will be fun. This evening I will do some GDI planning which will feel good since I've been feeling a little behind."
This is a super important prompt, especially for times when it seems like nothing is going right and I spent that last 2 prompts venting about all of the terribleness in the world. This prompt makes sure that I acknowledge that not EVERYTHING is terrible and that there are always things to be grateful for. Sometimes they are big and obvious, but I find that showing gratitude for the small things can have a profound impact on my overall mood. Here is an example of one of my entries for this prompt:
"I'm grateful for music and party lights. Having them on in my office makes working so much more fun. I'm grateful for a warm house when its 50 degrees out and raining. I'm grateful for Duke (my husky) who is lying on the floor next to me. I freaking LOVE this purple pen I'm writing with!!!"
How can I make today great?
This prompt is meant to remind me to live each day with intention. I find it really helpful to project positivity and envision good things happening. I am often pleasantly surprised when it seems I've had a hand in manifesting great opportunities for myself. I try not to say the same things every day. Ideally I can continuously surprise myself with new ways to make the day fun and interesting, but I'm not always good at it. Here is my entry from today:
"I just thought of a short post I can write. Maybe I'll write it. I should remember to eat well. I should dance!"
Today I filled in one page of my journal, and with these prompts that isn't hard. I actually had to try to keep it short (I'm starting to realize that I'm a bit long winded). Still, before these prompts I would often open my journal and have nothing to say. Now, sometimes I'll use a whole page to answer just one of these prompts.
This is how I journal right now. It may change in a couple of weeks. Feel free to use these prompts in your own journaling practice, or to help you develop a journaling practice. Try to come up with your own prompts, and if you do, please share! Now, have a lovely day you beautiful human!