At WellSet, one of our goals is to help you de-stress your life through holistic practices like guided journaling, whose positive affects to improve mental distress and well-being have been well documented. Journaling is an opportunity to reflect, refine, and revisit a new way of being so that you can live from a deeper space of peace and calm.
We asked Elizabeth Winkler, LMFT, to share her experience with this simple yet profound tool, and offer up some prompts to get you started on your own journaling journey.
Says Winkler: "What I’ve seen as a therapist is that when we have the time to be reflective of ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions, our relationships, and of our work environment, not only can we start to see any tendencies that are taking away from our productivity and our emotional wellbeing but we can also see the things that are benefiting us."
The following journal prompts are intended to assist you in observing where you place your attention so that you can begin to shift your awareness to more positive thoughts and sensations.
What you'll need: a notebook, pen, markers or colored pencils
Getting still: Close your eyes, place your hand on your heart and pause. Notice if there are any activities or elements in your life that increase the stress in your day. It could be as simple as drinking too much coffee, scrolling social media, particular people that you interact with, or thought patterns.
JOURNAL PROMPT #1 : What thoughts tend to keep flowing through your mind?
Where your attention goes, energy flows. Through the power of your attention a worried thought can quickly become a stressful experience. Use your journal as a trash bin. Throw it all out on the page. Let them go without judgment, no one is going to see this! These can also be emotional or physical pains, not just thoughts, so get those out on the page, too. If you want, draw or color any of these challenges or stressors you’re facing.
Notice that these challenges come and go. They are finite, with a beginning and an end. Taking a moment to observe that they aren’t permanent can bring you a sense of peace.
JOURNAL PROMPT #2: What activities, people or things bring you peace?
Maybe it's watching a beautiful sunset, or being with your children, pets or loved ones. You can also think of this as a gratitude list. Let those positive thoughts move through you and notice the areas in your body that feel the most still and peaceful. Where you do feel relaxed? You can also include that on your gratitude list.
How can you weave more of that gratitude into your daily life? Write them down on a Post-it note and put them on your laptop screen or desk. A reminder of what creates more joy and peace in your day will enhance your productivity at work and contentment in your life. If you find yourself feeling stress, go back to your gratitude list to help you fill in the areas that feel dark with more light.
"We have 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day," says Winkler, "and we tend to recycle thoughts over and over again. While we can’t stop them from happening, the more aware you are of them and allow them to pass, the more stress we will relieve."