7 Things We Know For Sure About Homeschooling

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Please share with the parents in your life! We need each other.

This article and podcast is a beautiful collaboration between Journaling.com and ProjectHappiness.com. A gift from the founders of Homeschool.com and Laurel Springs School (LaurelSprings.com), this positive and encouraging article and 1-hour podcast was created to help parents homeschool their children during Covid-19.

Project Happiness described the podcast as: “Rebecca and Marilyn remind us all that education is about bonding, joy, growth and a positive mindset. In an environment where so many fear that children will “fall behind,” this is the voice of reassurance and comfort that all is well, and that homeschooling can be the best opportunity to grow closer, reactivate our priorities, and move forward with joy. I am so grateful that such a podcast exists and that its timeless wisdom is here to help generations to come. To be able to visit with two humans who not only walk the talk, but actually invented this genre of education is an inspiring and timely gift.”

Journaling.com · This We Know For Sure About Homeschooling


7 Things We Know For Sure About Homeschooling

Advice from the Founders of Homeschool.com & Laurel Springs School

1: Your Priority Now and Forever is… Bonding, Joy, Growth

You may naturally be thinking that the priority is lesson plans and scheduling. BUT, we believe that the priority right now and forever is… family bonding, joy, and growth. Bonding is incredibly important. It is foundational to our children. Research has shown that deepening the bond with your child enhances well-being, self esteem, the ability to learn, and compassion for others (human and animals). Bonding teaches children to trust, empathize and communicate. This time you have together homeschooling is precious because it allows you to do more bonding.

Joy reduces stress and offers the ability to learn in new and wonderful ways. What happens when your child’s brain is stressed? Stress hormones end up swamping their bodies and increasing adrenaline and cortisol, which affects long term focus and fortitude.

When families first start homeschooling, sometimes parents can feel a lot of pressure to do it “perfectly.” But of course there is no perfect. Perfect is an illusion. We suggest that the priority right now is not “perfect”, it‘s “growth.”And in order for a child to grow, they need to feel safe. So it may take time for some children to rebalance and get used to this new learning culture. It’s perfectly fine to give them that time.

Here are 3 questions for you to ask yourself to make this experience even richer.

Q: How are you feeling about your homeschooling?
Q: Is there anything you want to do to make it more joyful?
Q: What are some ways you will know that your children are growing from this experience?

2: “We’re mediocre today, hurray!” The Importance of Positivity & Gratitude

Some days, mediocre is really good. You show up and you do the best you can. And you celebrate that. Mindset is how we feel about a situation. And the powerful thing is, most of the time, we can decide ahead of time how we are going to feel. For example, you may not have had the choice whether or not to homeschool your children, but you DO have the choice about how you are going to feel about it. In the midst of so much uncertainty, we can enjoy this unexpected gift of time with our children. Some days you feel like a rockstar and other days you will feel like a total failure. Some days your children will be on fire and will get so much done. Other days you may need to take a break and just play. You can’t do it wrong. Children are biologically built to learn. So have fun with this, play with this, relax into this. This time with your children may become one of the highlights, one of the best memories, of your life.

Q: Imagine your family five years from now, looking back on this time, what do YOU want to remember most?
Q: What would you like your children to remember?
Q: What are some things you enjoy doing with your children?

3: Teach to THEIR Learning Style

The next big idea we want to share with you is that each of your children has their own unique learning style. This is a revolutionary idea because when the teaching style matches your child’s learning style, learning just takes off and their special talents and interests are revealed. You have probably heard of these – auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Auditory learners learn best when they can hear the information, visual learners learn best when they can see the information, and kinesthetic or hand-on learners learn best when they get to touch or build things. Rebecca has three children and they each have a different learning style. Her son is an auditory learner. He loves audiobooks and learns best when he can hear a lesson and talk about it. Her youngest child is a visual learner. She likes reading things and using workbooks. Her middle child is a kinesthetic learner. She is moving all the time and likes to build and create things with her hands. She is also the athlete of the family.

Here’s the tricky part. Rebecca is an auditory learner so her son and she are in sync. She teaches by talking and he learns by hearing. So that works out really well. But what about her visual learner and her kinesthetic learner? It’s normal for us to teach in the way that WE learn best. But that may not be how THEY learn best. So what can we do? At its core, learning styles are about caring for others. It’s about having compassion for how your child learns.

Let’s also talk about a child’s learning environment. During this unique time you can support them to discover not only HOW they learn best, but WHERE they learn best. Some children enjoy sitting at a table or desk, others like sitting on the floor or working on their bed with their dog by their side. Your child may enjoy a quiet room, or having background noise or music. Some children are morning learners and others need time to wake and orient themselves to the day. Some children do better when they have pens, pencils and a notebook that reflects their favorite color.

This is also a wonderful time to understand and support your child’s innate talents; such as music, math, movement, interpersonal communication, mechanics, humor, and animals. We all have talents that are unique and this is a perfect time to include those talents into their learning experience. Taking apart a computer, having a meaningful conversation, dancing, making jokes, doing art projects, cooking, caring for animals, and journaling are fantastic ways of incorporating talents into your child’s daily life. This is learning, and might end up being some of the most important learning they will do.

Here are four questions to help you make the most of this information.

Q: Are you an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner?
Q: What learning styles are your children?
Q: What learning personality are your children drawn to? How do they like to show their learning: by building something or performing, by thinking deeply and telling you all about it, by talking, inventing, drawing, or completing workbook, textbook or online assignments?
Q: How can you adapt your teaching to match their learning style?

4: Children Support What They Help Create

The idea that “people support what they help create” is based in the understanding that if I am part of a situation or project then I’m going to do my best to make it successful. It’s human nature. You see, there is a part of us that wants to help. Studies show that when presented with another person’s problem, it is natural to try and solve it. No matter what the outcome is, just being part of the process feels powerful.

Start by sharing an observation. “I notice that you two seem to be arguing and fightIng more than normal. Have you noticed that too? Why do you think that is?”

As parents, our natural tendency may be to jump in and tell our children what to do (and sometimes we need to). Unfortunately, that doesn’t always solve the problem and puts us on opposite teams. The fighting may stop for a moment, but it comes back later. By compassionately sharing your observation, you have stepped out of the problem and shined a light on a challenge that THEY seem to be having. By stepping back a bit, you can help facilitate creative solutions.

Listening and working as a team is good for solving problems AND for creating dreams. We used to ask each of our children, “What is your #1 goal?” Then we made ourselves really listen to their answers. We weren’t allowed to downsize their goal or protect them by telling them that their goal might not be realistic. When Rebecca’s son said that his #1 goal was to learn how to drive every kind of boat, that became the #1 priority, as important as reading, math or science. You take your child’s goal seriously and you figure it out. Usually it’s not the goal that is important. Its you listening to them that really matters. And it’s who they become as a person as he or she works on that goal. They are building grit by discovering new ways to accomplish their goals.

Q: What is your child’s #1 goal right now? (Try to ask each of your children.)
Q: How can you help them achieve their goals?
Q: What is your #1 goal and what can you do to make progress on it?

5: It’s Time to Journal

When people try a new thing, like homeschooling, emotions come up. Journaling helps you release those feelings in a healthy way so that you and your family can move forward with less friction, more ease, and more joy. One of the most exciting methods of journaling is called “expressive writing.” Did you know that if you journal before a surgery or medical procedure, you will heal faster than people who don’t journal? This is powerful. Expressive Writing is also scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and it improves relationships and even children’s test scores. The best news is that it’s fast and easy to do.

All you have to do is: pick a topic (like homeschooling or something that is challenging you), and write down what you are feeling about it. Let it all out. By slowing down and shining a light on your feelings, you release them. Otherwise, fears, judgments and doubts burrow in behind-the-scenes and without you knowing it, they can negatively affect how you see and experience the world around you. Expressive Writing is a game changer. If you are having any stresses, fears, or worries about your homeschooling, get it out of your system by writing it down. This helps you to feel better and also gives you clarity and a fresh perspective. As time goes by and new “stuff” comes up, you can do expressive writing on those topics too.

Journaling is worth your time. Especially during busy and stressful times, the pay off is big. It puts you in a flow state and when you are in a flow state you get more done because you are experiencing less “friction.” You’re happier and you feel lighter about life. And because YOU are happier, the people around you become happier too.

Here are three questions to ask yourself.

Q: If you were to create a Bullet Journal, what types of things would you keep track of? Would it help you to have a daily to-do list?
Q: If you made a family Nature Journal, what would you put in it?
Q: If you were to do some Expressive Writing, what would you write about?

6: They Will Not Fall Behind

We recently participated in a webinar for Project Happiness that focused on “homeschooling during Covid-19.” There were about 300 participants in the live webinar and they came from around the world, all schooling their children at home. These parents live in different countries but had one thing in common: they were all afraid that their children were going to fall behind and they worried that it might be their fault and that they “were not doing enough.”

This is a common fear. So let’s talk for a moment about what parents really fear when they think about their children falling ”behind.” Usually this means “behind their peers“ or ”behind grade level”. The first words of comfort we want to give you is that most people in the world are in the same situation as you. Schools are already planning on how they are going to adjust the curriculum to make up for this time. They know that when the students return there are going to be gaps that need to be filled.

And what if your children aren’t “behind” because of this experience? What if they end up “advanced” because of it? For example:

* Since they have been spending more time with adults, their vocabulary has probably improved a great deal.
* They may have uncovered a special talent like art, music, cooking, a foreign language, or nature.
* Perhaps, because of homeschooling, you have discovered that you have a child with a learning challenge in reading or math or in a particular subject area. This will advance your child because now that you know about it, you can find someone to help you with it.

Remember to be good to yourself, focus on the positive, and take time to celebrate all the ways your children and you are learning and growing.

Q: If you were going to put together a learning portfolio for your child, what subjects would you put in it?
Q: Can you think of a couple of goals, that if accomplished, would be a huge comfort to you?
Q: Do you think your child may have a learning challenge? What have you noticed? Who do you think can help you with this?
Q: Can you think of some fun ways you can keep the learning going this summer?

7: “Life is a Marathon…”

In the beginning, the quarantine and the homeschooling that came with it, required a lot of “sprints”. We had to quickly reorganize our schedules and quickly learn new technologies. The level of adapting that we have done is impressive.

But now that the quarantine has gone from a sprint to a marathon, you may be noticing some areas in your life where you need to make some adjustments. Normally, when we think of balance we think of three areas of self-care: physical, mental, and emotional or spiritual. If we get out of balance in any of these areas the enjoyment of life is diminished.

Do you need to get better at asking for help? The best way to do this is to use “I” statements, rather than blaming or complaining. You will get a better response if you start with, “I have something I would like to talk about. I have been noticing that I am doing most of the house work. I really need some help. That would help me a lot.”

This idea of rebalancing and recognizing that life is a marathon applies to homeschooling too. Rebecca’s oldest daughter feels that she is watching too much TV and she has decided to do more exercise, more learning, and more gratitude. She has made a monthly calendar for herself and every day she writes a G if she took time that day to list out what she is grateful for, an E if she exercised, and an L if she did something that counts as learning, like watching a TedTalk or reading a non-fiction book.

Living mindfully and knowing when we are in balance (and out of balance) makes all the difference and is one of the wisest things we can do.

Thank you for letting us share our thoughts with you. Homeschooling was one of the highlights of our life and we want so much for you to enjoy it too.

Be good to yourself and remember these seven things:

#1. Yes, the academics are important, but equally important is family bonding, personal growth, and daily joy.
#2. The mindset you bring to your homeschooling makes a big difference. So try to “catch them being good” whenever possible.
#3. If you can, try to match your teaching style to their learning style – visual, auditory, or hands-on (kinesthetic).
#4. When you need to make a change or set boundaries, remember that kids support what they help create.
#5. This is a good time to do photo journaling, therapeutic journaling, art journaling and bullet journaling.
#6. You may worry that you are not doing enough and that your children are going to fall behind. Try to relax as much as you can. Children are natural learners.
#7. After you have been homeschooling for awhile, check to make sure you are in balance. Take good care of yourself.

Here are two questions to think about.

Q: Are there any areas where you feel you need to rebalance?
Q: What are some things you can do to take good care of yourself?

About the Authors

MARILYN MOSLEY GORDANIER is the Founder of Laurel Springs School, the first online K-12 school in the United States. She has worked with thousands of home-learning families and is considered to be one of the foremost experts in distance learning. Marilyn is an advocate for education worldwide and co-founded Educate Girls Now (educategirlsnow.org) to raise awareness of the dire conditions of Afghanistan girls and to ensure they receive an education and are not forced into early marriage

Marilyn can be reached at Marilyn.Mosley@gmail.com


REBECCA KOCHENDERFER is co-founder of Homeschool.com, the #1 homeschooling site on the Internet. She is the author of several books including: Homeschooling for Success, Joyful Homeschooling, The Summertime Survival Guide for Parents, Homeschooling & Loving It, Joy Journal, and 30 Days of Joy. Rebecca currently serves as Founder and Host of Journaling.com.

Rebecca can be reached at Rebecca@Journaling.com

Nature Journaling: Infuse Your Writing with Words from the Wild

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Any opportunity to examine life through a new lens is a gift. The time we spend outdoors provides a different vantage point. The smells and sounds that flood the senses as we walk in nature shifts thinking and puts us into a more mindful state of being.  

What is Nature Journaling?

Nature journaling is simply the act of recording observations we make in the wild. These can be about the sky, bird songs, and trees we encounter, or about internal revelations that surface as we walk. Sketches, paintings, poems, and narrative text are all methods used to record these moments.

The Benefits of Nature Journaling

  • Nature journaling sharpens our focus. When we stop to record observations, we look more closely at details. We see more. We notice patterns.
  • Time in nature helps declutter and quiet overactive thinking.
  • New ideas and creative inspiration grow roots in the wild.
  • Inspired learning takes hold as we learn to identify new birds, insects, flora and fauna.
  • As we cultivate deeper awareness of nature’s cycles and rhythms, we become better stewards of the environment.
  • Time outdoors is invigorating and infuses all forms of self-expression with vibrant energy.
  • Multiple studies show a correlation between time in nature and mental health.

How to Get Started

Just like most journaling techniques, there is no right or wrong way to keep a nature journal. Some journals are filled with words, while others burst with bits of art and treasures collected on walks.

You may choose to journal while you are out on your walk. If so, you’ll only need a lightweight journal, pen, and art supplies. Or perhaps you’d prefer to carry home a few souvenirs from your walk—an acorn or a bird’s feather as reminders of moments to write about when you return home.

Nature Writing Prompts

Its liberating to be out in nature without an agenda, task list, or actual plan. And yet it can also be grounding to enter a new environment with one’s eyes turned to a goal or purpose. If the latter point resonates, take some of these ideas on your next walk in the wild.

  • Experiment with leaf rubbings
  • Revisit a special spot each week for a year and note the changes the seasons bring. Make measurements. Note changes of color. Observe plants going to seed or just about to blossoms. Sketch or write about the processes at play.
  • Keep a catalog of birds, flowers, trees and insects you spot. If you see something you can’t identify, snap a photo or make a sketch. Bring home the picture and look it up.
  • Carry an animal tracks identification book and follow wild “footsteps” through snow and mud. See where they take you, and write about the places you wind up.
  • Create nature stamps with goodies collected on your walk. Decorate your journal with them.  
  • Bring a question on your walk or a problem you are wrestling with. Walking in nature provides new clarity. When you are able, write down what you discover.

Nature Journaling with Children

Nature journaling is a way to get outdoors with your child and connect them with the environment in meaningful ways.

This moment together can be relaxing and grounding. It will evolve naturally with little preparation on your part. There’s no need for much structure or planning. Rather it’s a time to move slowly with your child—or to race through a nature-made obstacle course if that’s their thing! It’s a moment to wake up to the amazingness of everything that surrounds us.

Help your child see what’s happening beneath their feet and high above their heads. Guide their eyes toward the complex ecosystems that surround them. Count how many shades of green and brown your child can see. Encourage the use of all five senses as they walk. What do they see, smell, touch, hear, and (if you know how to safely identify wild foods) taste?

When your child is ready to rest, find a warm sunny patch of grass. Drink some water, and then pull out those journals. You may be amazed by the ways your child fills the pages.

Unleashing the Power of Expressive Writing

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It’s an enormous honor to welcome Dr. James Pennebaker back to our podcast. Affectionately known as the “father of expressive writing,” Dr. Pennebaker is a pioneer in the field of research that examines the profound benefits of expressive writing.  

Dr. Pennbaker is a Regents Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts and Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.He is a social psychologist and the author of hundreds of articles and many books including The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us and Opening Up by Writing It Down.

You can hear our conversation or read highlights of the interview below.


Unleashing the Power of Expressive Writing, with James Pennebaker


On the back of Dr. Pennebaker’s guided journal, Writing to Heal, he observes the power of expressive writing. “The simple act of expressing your thoughts and feelings about emotionally challenging  experiences on paper is proven to speed your recovery and improve your mental and physic health. Expressive writing will leave you with a stronger sense of value in the world and the ability to accept that life can be good even when it is sometimes bad.”

With an evident sense of humor, Dr. Pennebaker tells us about his first experience with expressive writing. Early on in his marriage, tension would sometimes rise. During a rough patch, Dr. Pennebaker retreated into his bedroom where he wrote down his feelings. The whole process took less than 15 minutes. Emerging from his room lighter, he had a fresh perspective he promptly shared with his wife. The act of writing down strong feelings provided much needed clarity and he was surprised by the power of the experience. Although this writing session marked a turning point, it would be several more years before Dr. Pennebaker formally began research on the benefits of expressive writing.

“The simple act of expressing your thoughts and feelings about emotionally challenging  experiences on paper is proven to speed your recovery and improve your mental and physic health. Expressive writing will leave you with a stronger sense of value in the world and the ability to accept that life can be good even when it is sometimes bad.”

The Benefits of Expressive Writing

Dr. Pennebaker’s research spans decades, and many other prominent researchers have followed in his footsteps to prove the benefits of expressive writing. Positive outcomes include:

  • Faster recovery from surgeries
  • Mood regulation
  •  Improved sleep
  • New insight that facilitates effective problem solving

How Expressive Writing Works

Dr. Pennebaker’s approach is pragmatic. He observes that journaling is not magic nor is it a panacea that can cure all of our problems. Rather, he describes it is an action that provides time to stop, pull back, and assess a problem from a different vantage point. “Expressive writing helps us organize our lives and put things together in ways we have not thought about before.” He notes that upheavals no longer appear as significant when we see them on paper.

How to Get Started with Expressive Writing

Dr. Pennebaker reassures us that there is no wrong way to approach expressive writing. For many years, he suggested people write for 3-4 days for 15 minutes at a time about a single issue that needed resolution. Over time, his research shows that similar goals can be accomplished in fewer days for some and that others might need more time. He encourages us to be our own scientist and to figure out what works best and do it.

Tips to get your started:

  • Focus on a single issue that’s bothering you.
  • Write about that one issue for brief stretches of time each day. This is likely to take anywhere from 1-5 days. Stop writing when the issue no longer troubles you.
  • Experiment with a variety of methods. Typing, handwriting, using your non-dominant hand are all worthwhile methods to explore.
  • Avoid the temptation to ruminate. If after five days you are still rehashing the same issue, give yourself permission to try something new like exercise, yoga, or meditation. Expressive writing can only succeed if it’s moving you toward a new way of thinking. This technique is not about dumping all our feelings onto a page. Rather it’s about taking a single issue and growing our understanding of the feelings it brings up so that we can work toward positive change.

Other Therapeutic Forms of Expression

We were curious to know Dr. Pennebaker’s thoughts on other therapeutic forms of expression and wondered how they might work in conjunction with journaling.

Dr. Pennebaker spoke of research done under his guidance by a dance therapist. She wondered if expressive dance might yield similar outcomes as expressive writing. Her dissertation findings were interesting.

She established 3 groups. The first group use expressive movement. The second group used expressive movement and writing. The third group did only exercise. Groups 1 and 2 reported their experiences to be positive, but only members of group 2 reported long-term benefits. Dr. Pennebaker’s student concluded that movement gets us in touch with deeper feelings and experiences and words help us to solidify longer term change. Art therapy works similarly in that someone is given materials to shape as they wish and then has an opportunity to discuss the process and the issues that arose.

Your Action Plan

If you found this conversation helpful, you might also enjoy our conversation with Deborah Ross in which we discuss journaling’s effects on the brain.

An Exercise to Practice While Sheltering in Place, with Merle R. Saferstein

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In 1974, I participated in an Ira Progoff workshop in which we were given a values clarification exercise asking us to list twenty things that bring us happiness. Upon completion of the list, we were given a number of questions related to what we had written.

Based on that exercise, I have created the following exercise which I am currently using in journaling circles and legacy classes which I am facilitating.

List ten things that brought you joy prior to sheltering in place.

List ten things that currently bring you joy while sheltering in place.

  • Now that you are sheltering in place, do you see anything different about how you are bringing joy into your life?
  • What do you miss the most from before?
  • Do you think you might add something new to your life after, and if yes, what would that be?
  • Prior to sheltering in place, how did you reach out to others? Currently, how are you reaching out now? What does that look like for you?
  • Is there any way that you feel a shift in your core values since sheltering in place, and if yes, how does that look to you?
  • What did you learn from doing this exercise?
  • When I reflect on this, I notice….
  • When I reflect on this, I feel…
  • What makes me happiest these days is…

Journal to Connect with Your Guardian Angels

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We say it on the podcast all the time: there isn’t a wrong way to journal. In fact, the beauty of this tool is its flexibility. There is a journaling method out there for everyone. Our goal at Journaling.com is to help you find the methods that resonate best for you.

My conversation with today’s guest, angel journaling expert Dede Lyons, shines light on a writing approach referred to as Angel Journaling.

Dede is an empowerment coach and founder of the Feel Good Express lifestyle program. She is creator of The Feel Good Journal. Dede began journaling in 1990 when she purchased Louise Hayes The Garden of Thoughts journal. A few years later she received an angel reading and attended a “learn how to talk with your angels” class. Since then she has channeled guidance and wisdom from her unseen helpers to guide her through all of her life endeavors.

The experiences Dede recounts in our conversation surprise and inspire. To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.


Journal to Connect with Your Guardian Angels


Our conversation opens with Dede sharing a series of events that led to life-changing realizations. After an unexpected professional set back left her shaken and vulnerable, she went to her hair salon for some much needed self-care. On the way to the appointment, just before stepping onto the subway, Dede caught a glimpse of the cover of Time Magazine on a newsstand. Its images of clouds and angels caught Dede’s eye, and she bought a copy to read on the train.

When Dede reached the salon she confided in her hairdresser telling him everything that had gone wrong that day; she also showed him the magazine article about angels.

Dede’s story got the attention of others in the salon, and soon everyone was sharing their beliefs. “You are in the perfect place in your life to benefit from an angel reading,” someone told her. They suggested she visit Trudy Griswold, an expert who could help her connect with angels.

Over time, Dede met with Trudy, studied with her, and began to cultivate an angel journaling practice that was deeply meaningful.  As she connected with her angels, she could hear their wisdom, and Dede learned that there are unseen helpers all around. This realization has been a source of tremendous peace for her.

Angel Journaling

Angel journaling is the act of writing to your angels to share what’s on your mind as well as to seek guidance. This form of writing, Dede explains, cultivates connection with your unseen helpers.

Inspired by all that she was learning from Griswold, Dede began angel journaling almost immediately.

Angel journaling makes people feel safe and connected, Dede explains. “When you write and make a connection you feel like you have this whole support group that you cannot see that is there to help you.”

Angel pages, Dede notes, nicely complement Julia Cameron’s popular technique referred to as “morning pages,” which involves writing free-form every morning to release fears and worries that block creativity and joy.

Dede’s Process

1. Similar to Cameron’s morning pages, Dede pours doubt, frustration, and fear into a notebook. Those pages are immediately shredded and the negative feelings are released.

2. Next she focuses on gratitude. Sometimes the thoughts that surface in this moment are written down, but Dede finds it equally effective to celebrate her thanks in the shower or while looking in the mirror. Dede emphasizes this action does not have to take a lot of time or be written on paper to be effective.

3. Steps 1 and 2 put Dede in a place where she is ready to communicate with her angels.

Dede’s Tips for Angel Journaling

Dede has designed a lovely angel journal—a blank lined book with quotations on each page and images to inspire your process. Whether you use her book or another, Dede suggests keeping your angel journal separate from the book you use to do other forms of journaling.

  1. Find a sacred place to sit with your journal. Turn off all of your devices. Light a candle.  
  2. Set an intention to connect with a beautiful like-minded being.
  3. Open your heart chakra—this is an opportunity to communicate from your heart.
  4. Hold an angel stone or another object that feels comfortable to you.
  5. Close your eyes and visualize stands of angels.
  6. Start writing. Tell the angels hello. Announce that you want to share something and would also appreciate answers. Write as though you are writing to your best friend. Share things that happened that day. Ask questions. Seek guidance.

Your Action Plan

Whether you consider the messages you receive through this practice the voice of your angels or your own inner wisdom, Dede’s methods are powerful and provide comfort.

Journal to Manifest Your Goals, with Sara Caputo

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Journaling is well-recognized as an effective mindfulness tool, but did you know it can also help us to set and achieve major goals? Sara Caputo joined us on the podcast to show us how.  

Sara is the founder of Sara Caputo Consulting–a coaching, consulting and training business based in Santa Barbara, California, and she is the author of The Productivity Puzzle: What’s Your Missing Piece? Part workflow analyst, part stress-relief therapist, and 100 percent to-do list ninja, her approach is simple—to help  individuals, teams, and small businesses find strategies and solutions that work specifically for their brains, their goals, and their lives.

To learn more about Sara’s work, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Sara began journaling as a child. As she grew older, she noticed the goals and intentions she wrote about were becoming actualized, and she recognized the connection. Journaling helps us to manifest our goals. Convinced by her personal experiences, today, Sara counsels others to manifest their own objectives through journal writing.

Writing down our goals, Sara explains, frees us up so we can back away and see the idea from a variety of vantage points. In turn, this lets us respond with optimal effectiveness and awareness.

Journal to Sharpen Your Focus

As a coach, Sara encourages clients to be highly specific when writing down goals. “The more clear our words can be, the more likely it is things will unfold as we’d like them to.”

The science substantiates Sara’s experiences. The power of writing down an action plan, she explains, helps make a connection from the hand to the brain. The physical act of writing down our goals turns on the reticular formation system which is a network of pathways that connect the spinal cord, cerebrum, and cerebellum, and in turn impact our consciousness.

Sara describes one study to demonstrate the power of the reticular formation system. Participants were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to write down all of the items from their grocery list. The second group wrote down nothing. Even without the lists in hand, people in the first group could recall which items they needed with greater ease than those in group B who’d written nothing down. Sara connects the dots and explains. Our brain starts working on our goals the moment our pen hits the paper.

Sara’s Suggestions

Sara shares tips to maximize mindful efficiency.

  • Write a to-do list right before bed to help the reticular formation system sort out the details as you sleep.
  • Don’t always tackle the most urgent seeming item on your to-do list. Be strategic about what you let your brain know is important; otherwise we will always take the quick win and never accomplish the important long term goals that matter most.
  • Keep your journals. Old journals are reminders of the power of writing down goals.

MJR: Give it a Try!

Sara describes the approach she takes to begin each new day. MJR, as she refers to it, is a plan Sara developed that involves meditation, journaling, and reading every morning.  

  • Meditation. Sara uses an App, Insight Timer, which provides free guided meditations. For 3-5 minutes each morning she focuses on deep breaths and on setting her intentions.
  • Journal. Sara strives to fill a page of her journal every morning. At this moment she notes the things she’s grateful for, writes about actions she’d like to manifest, and explores and releases worries.  
  • Read. Sara has a quote book she reads from to glean inspiration and perspective. She reads other non-fiction during this time as well because it’s the moment in her day when she’s best able to focus her attention.

Sara emphasizes the importance of establishing healthy habits. Practices like her MJR approach are only likely to happen if they become implemented as a regular part of one’s day. Sara finds it helpful to engage with her routine before her family wakes in the morning. Find the time that works for you, and then stick with it, she suggests.

Journal your Biggest, Boldest Intentions

When we journal about big ideas, we grow more comfortable with them and develop the confidence we need to carry out the plan. Journaling, Sara shows, is the important pre-work that needs to be done in order to actualize our boldest dreams of all.

Your Action Plan

If you found this conversation helpful, you might also enjoy our conversation with Dr. Dan Seigel in which we discuss journaling’s positive effects on the brain.

Journaling to the Rescue, with Lucia Capacchione, PhD

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From the moment our interview with today’s guest began, it was clear this would be the first conversation of many. Lucia Capacchione, PhD, ATR, REAT is an extraordinary thinker, art therapist and pioneer in the fields of expressive arts therapy and journal therapy. Her knowledge of these topics is wide and deep.

Lucia is the bestselling author of 23 books on journaling using drawing and writing. She originated The Creative Journal method and bilateral journaling: drawing and dialoguing with both hands. Her books include The Creative Journal, The Power of Your Other Hand, and Recovery of Your Inner Child. She has created Creative Journal programs for schools (K – 12), cancer support groups, and trainings for educators and mental health professionals. Lucia has a private practice and is director of Creative Journal Expressive Arts Certification Training for Professionals. 

We sat down to discuss how journaling with our non-dominant hand can help address anxiety, stress, relationship dynamics, and physical pain.

To learn more about Lucia’s groundbreaking work, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.


Journaling to the Rescue, with Lucia Capacchione, PhD


From first-hand experience, Lucia knows the power of journaling, and she credits the practice with saving her life. At age 35, Lucia became so ill she was bedridden. The medications prescribed did not help, and her condition remained a medical mystery for many years. In desperation, she turned to the journal she’d just begun keeping.  It was there that she could unload the anxiety and confusion she was feeling.  

Lucia began to write her feelings out and grew fascinated as she realized the ways journaling contributed to her growth and understanding.

In time, the source of Lucia’s ill health was discovered. She recovered and went on to become an art therapist. When she began this work, she immediately started assigning clients journaling prompts as a means to tap into their subconscious. Her book The Creative Journal features the prompts she used along with art from her students and clients.

Journaling Improves Health

Having survived her own health crisis, Lucia became interested in James Pennabaker’s ground breaking research that showed journaling’s impact on the immune system.

Dr. Pennebaker asked one group of people to journal about trivial events while a second group was asked to journal about personal crisis and trauma. Blood tests were administered before and after the writing sessions. Those who wrote about a crisis were found to have heightened immunity whereas no changes were detected in the blood of those who had jotted down trivial events of the day.

Since this finding, there have been a multitude of studies that show the impact of journaling on physical health, including one that showed patients who journal before surgery heal more quickly. Lucia explains that when our emotions are not released they become somatized. Journaling helps us connect with and extract strong emotions so that they do not make us ill.

Writing with Your Non-dominant Hand

Lucia explains that the value of journaling with the non-dominant hand is it provides access to the right side of the brain which specializes in emotional expression and intuition. She contrasts this with the left hemisphere which is the verbal center of our brain.

The limbic system is the part of our brain that controls our physical and emotional responses to stimuli.  Lucia describes this region as a gating mechanism and explains that using the non-dominant hand, unrooted in verbal expression, helps us access this system and get to the heart of the issues we need to explore.

When we write with our non-dominant hand, we use both side of the brain. Lucia explains how we pull words and language from the left brain and run it through the corpus collepsum which is the part of the brain that establishes communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. In effect, we are synthesizing language and our deepest thoughts and emotions.

Manage Stress

In her book, Drawing Your Stress Away, Lucia provides journaling and drawing prompts to help us manage stress. She shares an example.

  • Scribble your heart out. Start scribbling on scrap paper. Begin with your non-dominant hand. Use crayons and fat markers. The stress you carry will begin to pour out. Do this for as long as you like. Note that it’s the movement on the paper that releases stresses.
  • Dance on paper. When you feel finished with the first step, put on some calming music. Use both hands and imagine they are performing a duet. Resume scribbling, but this time allow the music to flow through you and inform the movement and markings you make on the paper. Avoid the temptation to draw pictures. Leave only tracks that represent the movement of the music through your body and onto the paper. Feel the stress leaving.

Lucia notes that this can be a meaningful exercise to practice with children. It’s applicable to people and at any age.  

Manage Anxiety and Depression

Lucia’s work proves that strong emotions and feelings can be released by drawing them out.  To combat anxiety and depression she suggests drawing a picture of the issues you wrestle with. Do this with your non-dominant hand.

For example, a person who is feeling boxed in, Lucia suggests, would draw an image of themselves in a box. Next, they engage in a dialogue with the image.  It would look something like this:

Dominant hand writes: What are you?
Non-dominant hand answers:  I’m you stuck in a box. 

Dominant hand writes: How do you feel?
Non-dominant hand answers: I feel shut down. I feel locked up.

Dominant hand writes: What’s making you to feel this way?
Non-dominant hand answers:  You are putting me in all of these different boxes and schedules. I’m tired.

Dominant hand writes: How can I help you?
Non-dominant hand answers: I want to stop doing things that don’t fulfill me. I want to start exercising and painting.  

Manage Your Health

Lucia recommend similar methods when addressing physical health. She shows how we can talk to individual body parts to manage symptoms.  

  • Lie down. Notice the areas of your body where you experience discomfort.
  •  Draw a picture of your body, and color the areas where you eperience pain.  
  • If there is pain in your shoulder talk with it:
    What are you?
    What’s causing this?
    What can be done about it?

Manage Relationships

In her book The Power of Your Other Hand, Lucia explains the physiology of writing and growing with your non-dominant hand and shows how this can impact our relationships in significant ways.

  • Sit down and imagine you are having a conversation with someone significant in your life.
  • With your dominant hand, express your feelings: “I’m angry that you walked away in the middle of our conversation last week.”
  • Put the pen in your non-dominant hand and write what the other person would say. “I left because I was scared. I thought you were going to start blaming me.”

In her work, Lucia has observed that all kind of insights come up using this method to help us better understand another person’s perspective. 

The Future of Journaling

If journaling is a tool you rely on, you are not alone!  With happiness, Lucia predicts the future for journaling is bright. “I do book signings, and when I am in bookstores they always put me in front of a wall of blank books. I always tell my audience that when I started speaking about journaling many years ago, there weren’t any blank books in the bookstores. You had to go to an art store to get something to journal in. Now there are all these beautiful options.”

It’s Lucia’s dream to take journaling to public schools. The research shows that journaling helps students manage disruptive behaviors, test-taking anxiety, and positively impacts the social atmosphere in classrooms.

Your Action Plan

If you found this conversation helpful, you might also enjoy our conversation with Deborah Ross in which we discuss journaling’s effects on the brain.

Journaling to Create Calm, with Marni Amsellem,Ph.D.

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As we learn to navigate life during a pandemic, anxiety is on the rise. For this reason, we are especially grateful that Dr. Marni Amsellem joined us to provide tips to help us stay centered. Founder of Write, Reflect, Grow, an online community focused on journaling, Dr. Amsellem is also the author of Self Reflections: A Journal for Exploration and Growth.

To find out more, listen to our conversation, or read below to see highlights from our talk.


Journaling to Create Calm, with Marni Amsellem, Ph.D.


Do What Works

Both in her professional and personal life, Dr. Amsellem sees the value in journaling during times of stress, and her advice is pragmatic. “Do what works.”  She describes her own journaling routine as important, but notes that the schedule she’s established is fluid, flexible, and able to accommodate her changing needs. Dr. Amsellem encourages others to work with the schedule that makes sense for them.

Some of us like to write at the same time each day. Others write to process a particular issue. You are the expert here. Do what works for you.

Just like there is a schedule to suit every need, there is a journaling method that will fit best as well. Some of the people Dr. Amsellem works with incorporate technology and journal on computers, while others prefer paper and pen.

Dr. Amsellem encourages the exploration of all forms of journaling. Food diaries and sleep journals are two tools she often recommends to those striving to recognize life patterns. In her own life, she finds freewriting especially helpful.

Understand Your Method of Coping

Coping skills, Dr. Amsellem explains, describe the action we take to help get through a difficult situation. Some of these methods are more adaptive than others. Substance abuse and poor eating habits are examples of coping strategies that make a difficult season more trying. On the other hand, talk therapy, exercise, and journaling are methods that help us get to the other side of challenges. Dr. Amsellem speaks to the value of identifying methods of coping and examining if they lead to calm or chaos. Journaling can help us identify our strategies.

Manage Anxiety with Your Journal

As the pandemic forces our fast-moving society to temporarily slow down, journaling can help us observe and understand what’s happening both around and inside of ourselves. Whatever journaling method you decide suits you best, Dr. Amsellem points out it’s likely to ease anxiety by:

  • providing clarity
  • identifying patterns
  • processing decisions
  • revealing emotions
  • and helping us become more flexible and accepting in our thinking.

Getting Started

You have everything you need to start journaling today. Answers are there within you.

Use your journaling practice for self-reflection. Unearth old coping methods that helped you survive stressful times in the past. Consider if these tools might be of use now. Or write about new coping skills you’d like to develop. A guided journal with prompts can help focus your attention onto a specific theme you wish to work on.

Your Action Plan

  • Learn more about Dr. Amsellem’s work. Visit her online at:
    www.smarthealthpsych.com
    www.writereflectgrow.com
    Twitter
    Instagram
  • Check out Dr. Amsellem’s new guided journal Self-Reflections: A Journal for Exploration and Growth. This beautiful collection of prompts was designed to guide you in exploring what lies within, identifying what may hold you back, and getting clear on where you would like to go. Visit her website for details.
  • Listen to my conversation with Dr. Amsellem.

If you found this conversation helpful, you might also enjoy our conversation with Dr. Dan Seigel in which we discuss journaling’s positive effects on the brain.

The Story You Need to Tell, with Sandra Marinella

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Through her pioneering work at the Mayo clinic and her own experience facing cancer, Sandra Marinella is a witness to the ways writing transforms lives. Sandra is the author of the book The Story You Need to Tell; Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss. It’s a great privilege to welcome her to Journaling.com.

To learn more about Sandra’s work, listen to our conversation, or read below to see highlights from our talk.


The Story You Need to Tell


The year Sandra turned nine, her family moved overseas. Sensitive to the challenge this transition raised, her father presented Sandra with two life-changing gifts—a copy of Louisa May Alcott’s story, Little Women, and a journal. When she’d finished Alcott’s book, Sandra followed in the footsteps of the story’s protagonists, Jo March, and started keeping a journal of her own.  She’s been writing ever since.

The Red Journal

 “We go to the page to find out who we are and to decide who we will become,” observes Sandra. When she received a cancer diagnosis, that’s just what she did. Sandra purchased a bright red journal and filled its pages with cathartic writing, poems, and lists.

Over time, journaling helped Sandra make sense of her circumstances. Expressive writing helped her manage cancer because it kept Sandra out of “panic mode” by providing:

  • Catharsis. When we suffer a traumatic event, Sandra explains, it’s critical the tension is released. Journaling provides this opportunity.
  • Understanding. The act of writing shifts our thinking and gives our brain the opportunity to recalibrate. New, deeper understanding ensures we aren’t controlled by fear and anxiety. Instead we are guided in positive new directions and we become centered.

The Power of Narrative Writing

Sandra’s work shows that story sharing has immense health benefits and can be done a variety of ways that include journaling, shares on social media, blogging, or talking with a therapist or a friend. What’s most important, Sandra’s determined, is that the story be released.

Over 1000 studies have been conducted that show healing is assisted by expressive writing. Sandra’s work at the Mayo Clinic suggests that with as little as two minutes of writing a day for two consecutive days, journalers can yield substantive results.

Sandra encourages us to write beyond our challenges and trauma by journaling about them within the context of our whole lives. This act impacts how we view our story and guides us forward in positive ways.

Narrative Medicine

Neuroscientists have proven that the stories we tell about ourselves define who we become. Sandra’s book reminds us that everyone carries their story inside, and that although these stories run the range from joyful to traumatic, we can determine which narrative will define us.

Narrative medicine is based on principal that we are the stories we choose to tell about ourselves. Sandra explains how every time we prepare a to-do list, we are making a plan for how we want our day to unfold. We are writing our story.

The narrative that we develop tells us who we are and this message guides our life, but sometimes the narrative breaks down. Divorce, illness, and other forms of loss can sneak into our story. Narrative medicine helps us understand the bumps along the way in order to reframe our narrative in the best possible terms and to make our story into the one we want to live with.

How to Practice Narrative Medicine

If you are grappling with a traumatic event you aren’t yet ready to write about, that’s okay. The mind needs time to hold that story, Sandra acknowledges, and to become familiar with it before you can shift details from the emotional right brain over to the analytical left side of your brain.

For when the time feels write to release your story, Sandra offers the following ideas:

  • Use writing prompts. Guided prompts help get your pen moving and steer you gently toward the story you need to tell.
  • Practice joy and gratitude writing. Sandra notes that these forms of expression help release melatonin in our brains which in turn helps us remember, even in the midst of  challenging time, of all there is to be thankful for.
  • Challenge writing. Sandra’s work is largely influenced by expressive writing pioneer Dr. James Pennebaker. Building on his work, she’s coined the term “challenge writing” to describe writing that explores and leads to the management of challenges.

Final Thoughts

It’s Sandra’s hope that more medical teams and individuals facing health challenges can integrate narrative medicine into their toolbox as a means for healing. The power of our stories can make us better.  

Your Action Plan

If you found this conversation helpful, you might also enjoy our interview with Christina Baldwin. Breathing in Full Sentences: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice.

Walking and Writing Among the Trees, with Jackee Holder

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Over time, social media shapes the ways we think about issues and impacts how we perceive who we are. Today’s guest, author Jackee Holder, shows how journaling, walking, and time spent in nature help counter this imbalance by revealing and reflecting genuine thoughts and beliefs. These practices, Jackee observes, help us evolve into the most authentic version of our selves.

To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.


Walking and Writing Among the Trees, with Jackee Holder


Jackee is passionate about walking, trees, writing, and journaling. Author of four non-fiction titles as well as a host of e-books and the curator of over one hundred journals, she has a committed and ongoing practice of pen to paper and feet to the ground. Jackee holds a Master’s degree in creative writing and personal development from Sussex University in the UK and a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychosynthesis Counseling. Through both personal and professional experience, she has benefited from the healing and therapeutic properties of her weekly urban city walks and thirty-year practice of journaling.

An Introduction to Psychosynthesis

When we talk about Jackee’s experience in the field of psychosynthesis, her enthusiasm shines. Boiled down to simplest terms, she describes psychosynthesis as a spiritual approach to psychotherapy developed by Italian psychiatrist, Roberto Assagioli. This approach aims to develop the whole Self, with a capital “S,” which Jackee explains is different from our day-to day self. In this context, Self describes the part of us that often emerges during difficult times to rise above challenges and to walk the path we’re meant to travel on. Self is the essence of our authentic selves.

Journal to Connect with Your Self

Jackee describes herself as a prolific journaler and remembers how writing down thoughts and feelings was especially important when she became a new mother. After her baby was born, Jackee noticed the ways her journal writing grew more intentional and focused. The pages of her journal provided precious space to write about all she was grappling with during this significant new season of life. Through journaling, Jackee crafted a narrative that helped her to realize who she was becoming and where she wanted to go next.

Journaling helps us get closer to our Self by cultivating:

  • self-discipline
  • self-management
  • and connection with our own ideas and beliefs.

Jackee’s Journaling Tips and Techniques

Jackee’s journals aren’t limited to text. Lists, doodles, and ideas framed in shapes converge to represent a landscape of her ideas.

To overcome fear of the blank page and to keep your pen moving, Jackee recommends:

  • Jot down a single word or simple sentence that feels meaningful.  Let this be enough when you are beginning.
  • Write down observations. Note your response to what’s happening around and inside of you.
  • Use journal prompts. This practice can help ease anxiety that may surface when faced with the blank page.
  •  Write as fast as you can. Outrun your inner critic, and disregard concerns about grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. The point is to get your thoughts down onto paper.
  • Make a list. Sometimes this will feel more manageable than writing a complete narrative. If you like, you can return to the list later on to further flesh out ideas there.
  •  Draw and doodle. Try anything that allows you to engage with that blank page.

Walk to Connect with Your Self

Walking daily supports Jackee’s writing life. Once she begins her exercise routine, ideas begin to fill her mind. When she’s finished walking, Jackee heads straight to the café, pulls out her journal, and pours those ideas onto the page.

Much research has been done that proves the impact walking has on the reduction of:

  • anxiety and depression
  • high blood pressure
  • cardiovascular disease
  •  type 2 diabetes
  •  unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • premature deaths

Spend Time in Nature to Connect with Your Self

Nature is restorative and healing and also supports Jackee’s writing practice. It’s among the trees that many people find it easiest to connect with their authentic Self.

Jackee cites a fascinating study in which hospital patients recovering from surgery were divided into two groups. Half of the patients stayed in rooms with windows that provided a clear view of trees. The other half of the patients had windows as well but did not have a view of trees. Patients with a view of nature required less pain medication and were able to return home earlier. A number of similarly designed studies have reported the same findings. Clearly there is power among the trees!

Jackee’s Action Steps to Help You Connect with Your Self

  • Gather a lightweight notebook that’s comfortable to carry.
  • Take a walk that leads to a green space.
  • Locate a comfortable tree you can be near.
  • Journal for seven minutes about everything you see and feel inside of that green space.
  • Keep your pen moving.
  • If words don’t accurately express what your’re feeling, draw what you see and feel instead.

Final Thoughts

When asked to leave us with final thoughts, Jackee chose to quote author Julia Cameron.  

“I’m a better and more honest woman for having taken to the page today and admitted my locked away feelings of the years. I am larger and better and softer and kinder and more open than  I was resisting knowing what I knew.”

If you enjoyed this conversation with Jackee, we think you’ll find our talk with psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Journal Therapy, Kathleen Adams worth a listen. Journal Therapy: An Innovative Tool for Self-Discovery.