The 4 Best Journal Practices + Why You Need Them

by | Dec 4, 2019 | Mindset

Have you tried to journal only to stare at the blank page with no idea what to write or why you even need to? I get it, trust me. That was my reaction to journaling for most of my life too. In fact, I basically refused to do it.

Until I got to a place in my life where I needed help. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t know how to change that. I had done everything I knew to do as a holistic health practitioner — diet, supplements, lab tests, movement, stress-reduction, meditating, getting lots of sleep — but nothing was working.

And then I made the decision to work on my mindset, the one thing I had put on the back burner since I became sick. I listened to all of the self-improvement gurus talk about journaling and decided to put my resistance aside (since I didn’t really have a reason for it anyway) and give it a go.

Let’s just say, I became an instant fan.

I felt better, my outlook on life improved, my body was healing quicker, and amazing things started happening!

The Journaling Resistance is REAL

For many of us, we can add “write in my journal” to the mental list of things we “should” be doing but know we’ll probably never get to. With the never-ending to-do lists in our lives, adding another thing can just seem impossible sometimes.

Journaling is great because it only requires as much time as you have, you can do it anywhere (Writing in a book looks like you’re hard at work, right?!), and you don’t need to do it every day to benefit.

If you can take 5 minutes that you would have spent scrolling through Instagram or checking out your Facebook newsfeed to instead open your journal and get some thoughts out, you are WINNING at journaling!

Why Journal?

I could spend hours explaining all the benefits of journaling, much of which has actually been proven in research. But instead, I’ll just provide a shortlist of some of my favorites that I know you’ll agree are super important.

  • It relieves stress.
  • It helps with decision-making.
  • It will guide you through problem-solving.
  • It’s a place to just be YOU.
  • It increases your vibration.
  • It allows you to document your life.
  • It will clarify your thoughts and emotions.
  • It quiets the constant chatter.
  • It’s a place to figure out what you want.
  • It will turn your dreams into reality.
  • It reconnects you with what’s really important.
  • It’s an excellent form of self-care.
  • It provides much-needed me-time.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? And, like something you really do need to be the best person you can be and live the life you want?!

Great, now that I’ve convinced you to pull out your journal (even a drugstore notebook will do!) and get writing, let’s go over what to write.

What To Write In Your Journal

Journaling can take many different forms, depending on what you need and feels useful to you. You literally cannot do it wrong.

Let’s go over 4 different kinds of journaling and when it may be best to pull them out.


Free-writing is exactly what it sounds like — freely putting pen to paper and letting whatever comes up flow out of you. Write down the thoughts, emotions, situations, and reactions that are currently swirling around in your mind. Nothing is off-limits and remember, it’s a judgment-free zone.

It doesn’t even have to make sense or be legible. The point here is to get the muck out of your mind, so you can reset with more clarity, peace, and calm. Often, what’s making us feel stressed out, uneasy, negative, and stuck are actually useless thoughts that have spiraled out of control and seem way more significant than they really are.

Another benefit to free-writing is to get clarity around what’s really taking up your mental space. Going back and reading through what you wrote will help you distinguish what’s really going on in your mind and zapping your mental energy.

After your free-write, you’ll find you have more space to think more productive thoughts, have an easier time making decisions, and gain clarity on what you want.

Who Should Do It

If you are new to journaling, start with a free-write. It’s the perfect way to begin building a journaling practice and will provide an immediate sense of relief. Come back to the free-write anytime you feel your mind is overloaded with thoughts or you can’t get control of the constant chatter keeping you from mindfulness.

Appreciation Log

It’s become common knowledge that a regular gratitude practice has impressive benefits to your mental, emotional, and physical health. And, one of the best ways to commit to this practice is through a gratitude journal — a daily list of the things you’re grateful for.

I love gratitude, but I really love appreciation. While the two sentiments are definitely very similar, I view the act of appreciation to go a bit deeper than gratitude and provide a stronger positive reaction when felt. Appreciation is the highest vibe emotion, after all! (Check it out at the top of the Emotional Frequency Scale!)

For me, the difference lies in the focus of what you appreciate. Quite often, we tend to appreciate people or actions instead of objects, which causes a more profound reaction. For instance, you are grateful for the food on your plate, but you appreciate the farmer who grew the vegetables, the chef that prepared it, or your partner for picking up the takeout. Doesn’t that just feel a little more deliberate and high-vibe?!

So, instead of starting a gratitude journal, I recommend trying an appreciation log so you can get really specific with what you love in your life and why.

Who Should Do It

I recommend turning to an appreciation log when you’re having a bad day, feel like nothing is going your way, want something that isn’t happening, or feel stuck in the monotony of life, finding yourself in autopilot-mode. Remember, instant high-vibe emotions when you appreciate the good!

Here are some prompts to get you started:

I appreciate (person) for (what they bring into your life)…
I’m grateful for (something).
I appreciate (the person that brought that something into your life)…

Design your dream life

This is where journaling gets really fun! And it’s also my personal favorite. My introduction to journaling began years ago with me writing down every single thing I wanted. I thought long and hard about what my life would look like if I were living my dreams and wrote it all down, being as specific as I possibly could.

Then, the craziest thing started happening. The dream life I had journaled about started coming true effortlessly!

Designing my dream life is still my primary form of journaling today because of the positive change it creates on so many levels.

First of all, it forces you to think about what you actually want. I have found, in working with thousands of women, that so many people don’t know what they actually want and/or have given up on their dreams long ago and settled with what they have.

This is not good! Having dreams to aspire to and drive you forward is a vital part of life and keeps us from getting stuck on autopilot living a ho-hum life. I don’t care if you’re 80 years old, you still need a dream.

Thinking about and writing out your dreams is also an immediate vibration-lifter! It provides excitement and hopefulness for the future and sets you up on the path to actively take the next steps to get you closer to those dreams.

Let me break this down simply for you. What you think about, you attract. Which means your thoughts are powerful. And, their power only increases when they are written out on a journal page. Writing out what you want, in as much detail as you can, sets the wheels of the Universe in motion for you to get exactly that. The more you think about it, the stronger pull the Universe has to deliver that to you. So, creating a practice where you write about your dreams not only feels good, but it also brings you that much closer to actually achieving them.

Who Should Do It

Everyone! Your journal is the perfect place to design your dream life. Sit in a quiet, cozy place with your journal and think about every aspect of life — health, body, relationship, family, career, finances, hobbies, social circle, all of it — and what it would look like in your perfect life. It doesn’t matter how crazy, far-fetched, not possible you think it is. Nothing is off-limits. Write it all out, get as specific as you can, and have fun with it!

Go through each area in your life right now and answer these questions:

What do I truly want?
Why do I want it?
How will I feel when I have it?

I recommend making this dream life practice a regular part of your journaling routine. I personally do it almost daily. Each time, it’s a bit different but really solidifies exactly how I want my future to look and how I’ll feel when it happens.

Ego Vs. Intuition

While we’re on the subject of constant chatter, let’s discuss the ego. That non-stop voice in your head that’s worried about the future, ruminating on the past, thinking about everything you “should” and “shouldn’t” do, and just plain stressing out? Yeah, that’s your ego at work.

We all have an Ego voice, and it is the dominant player in our monkey minds. The Ego voice is the one that is ruled by fear, control, reason, and outer influence. When you do a free-write, it will be the one in charge.

But, we also have the voice of our intuition. The ego tries to cover up the intuitive side of us out of fear and the need to control, but in reality, our intuition is the voice that knows what’s right for us. It is calm, centered, grounded, and rooted in a place of knowing.

Often, the only way to reach our intuitive voice is to silence the ego so that we can actually hear what our intuition is saying. This is where journaling from both sides comes into play. You can use your journal to get the worries and stress of the ego out onto paper, which then gives the intuition room to come through so you can hear it.

Who Should Do It

Need to make a decision? This one is for you!

This practice will start very much like a free-write. You will let your ego have first dibs at “talking” and write down everything going through your head. When it comes from the ego, it will usually sound like:

“I’m scared to…because…”
“What if…”
“I should/shouldn’t…”
“I’m supposed to/not supposed to…”
“I can’t…”

Once the ego is done having its time, your free-writing will come to an end, and you’ll feel a sense of calm spaciousness wash over you. Stay with it! Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, get rooted in the present moment, and see what thoughts come up.

You will know it’s your intuition because it will be soft, but firm, and come with a calm sense of knowing. It won’t hesitate or feel wishy-washy. Often, the voice of the intuition comes in fragmented sentences or just a few words. And, it won’t necessarily give exact instructions of actions but will present the feeling that will accompany the desired effect. That’s all you need to know what to do and how to proceed.

Adding in some Ego vs. Intuition work when you’re feeling stressed or have a decision to make will be key in your journal practice. It will soon become your new go-to technique when confronted with a challenging situation, no question!

I hope I’ve convinced you to head to your nearest Target and pick out a fun journal to start your very own journal practice! You won’t regret it.

Let’s continue working on building your positive, healthy mindset together, shall we?! I’ll deliver my best mindset tips to you every Friday when you subscribe to my “mindset for women” podcast, Unstuck.

Here are a few of my favorite episodes to get you started:

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Hey there, I'm Shawn!

I’m obsessed with nitro cold brew, 90% dark chocolate, and helping coaches and practitioners build a business they love. With nothing but a passion for helping others and the desire to never have a boss again, I quit the corporate world and built my own million dollar coaching business over the past decade. Now, I help others do the same.