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.

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.

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.

Capture Your Family Stories in 15 Minutes or Less, with Brenda Hudson

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Tis the season for family gatherings and small talk around tables. What will these conversations look like in your home? Do you wish the talk ran deeper? Have you ever wished for a way to preserve memories of Uncle Bob’s one-liners or the aroma of your grandmother’s pies? How well do you know your family’s stories? Our conversation about family legacy journaling with author Brenda Hudson can help you maximize your time with loved ones and ensure their stories are told and preserved.


Brenda is a teacher, editor, certified journal facilitator, author, and creative writer. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota’s Department of Writing Studies. She leads writing workshops where participants create unique stories and books of themselves using journaling and book arts techniques. Her how-to book Story by Story: 15 Projects to Write Your Family Legacy is based on her successful legacy writing workshops.

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

What Is Family Legacy Journaling?

Although oral storytelling is highly satisfying, writing down rich details increases the likelihood they’ll be passed on to new generations. Brenda delights in helping people preserve their family stories through a method she calls family legacy writing. She describes this method as “a written conversation among family members and across generations.”

Family can be defined however you like. The term “legacy” alludes to the notion that you’re capturing special moments to ensure they live on. Brenda teaches that this form is different than memoir writing which is typically told from a single perspective. Instead, family legacy stories resemble conversations where multiple interpretations unfold to craft a story told from a variety of vantage points.

Studies have found that family bonds are strengthened when you know your family history.

Brenda Hudson

Getting Started

Sitting down to a blank page can be daunting, a truth Brenda acknowledges with empathy. “Getting started can be intimidating. I really want to help people get right in there to have some fun.”

Many of Brenda’s new students communicate feelings of anxiety and offer disclaimers like, “I’m not a writer but I want to tell my family’s story.” Brenda points out that by our very nature we are all storytellers. She jokes, “When was the last time someone stopped you in the middle of a conversation to announce you weren’t telling a story correctly?”

Her book, Story by Story: 15 Projects to Write Your Family Legacy, offers story-based project ideas to help get you started. By breaking the process into manageable bits, you can dive right into story telling with minimal preparation or worry.

Projects to Try

Each of the activities Brenda has designed works as a stand-alone project. She shares a few favorite ideas below:

  • Family sayings. Is there an expression that comes up often when your family gathers? It might be funny or cautionary. Who says it and under what circumstances? How do other family members respond?  Does this expression state a sentiment shared by others? Put these expressions under a lens to learn more about your family. You might enjoy compiling the sayings you collect into a family notebook.
  • Juicy questions. Is there something you’ve always wondered about? A special mealtime when everyone is gathered can be the right time for research. Be sure to ask a question with an answer you’re genuinely interested to hear. Ask everyone assembled the same question and note the range of responses you receive. Write them each down.
  • Family photos. Bring a picture to a family event. It might be formal image or a fun candid from your phone. There are no rules. Set the timer and invite your family to freewrite about the photograph for ten minutes. Offer a prompt like, “This is a story of…” When the time is up, everyone who wishes is encouraged to read the story they’ve recorded. To spice things up, participants might choose to read each other’s pieces aloud instead. Again, the wide range of responses will inspire a lively follow-up conversation. Be sure to record what you hear. 
  • Record special moments. Audio recordings of young and old voices storytelling together make extra special heirlooms.

Above all else, the objective of Brenda’s projects is to get the memories down on paper. Along the way, take note of unexpected discoveries and forgotten moments that the activity retrieves. These are the gems you’ve been digging for.

Compiling the Details

Brenda shows there are a number of ways to assemble your family’s story.

  • Gather family vignettes into a self-published book to gift family members with.
  • Post the stories on a family blog.
  • Create handmade books full of photos and relatives’ handwriting.
  • Make a family trivia board game.

We get so busy living our lives that it’s important to remind ourselves to pause and capture these moments before they are forgotten.  Writing your family story, says Brenda, lets you live each moment twice and also provides a gift to share with future generations.

Family legacy writing helps us grow strong roots to connect us to the places we’ve come from and provides a way to relate more deeply with the people we love.

Your Action Plan

  • Learn more about Brenda’s writing and teaching on her website www.voicedlife.com. While you are there, sign up for her monthly newsletter.

  • Read Brenda’s book, Story by Story: 15 Projects to Write Your Family Legacy. (We love her book so much, you’ll soon see it appears on our 2020 list for best ~ coming out in January.) Try out each of the 15 innovative projects ideas she shares, and be sure to let us know how it goes. We’d love to share your projects with the Journaling.com community.

  • Gather with loved ones and let your curiosity shine. Ask big, bold questions and record all of the answers you are gifted with.

  • Listen to our conversation with Brenda.

If you enjoyed this interview, you might enjoy our conversation with Shelby Abrahamson, art journaling expert and blogger at  https://journaling.com/articles/journal-to-increase-your-productivity-and-creativity-with-shelby-abrahamsen/ Founder of the blog, Little Coffee Fox.




Journaling Tips for People Who Don’t Like to Write, with Maud Purcell

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Not everyone enjoys writing. And that’s okay. Maybe you have carpal tunnel syndrome, learning differences, or a young infant in your arms. Any number of circumstances can make it difficult to engage with the physical act of writing.

At Journaling.com, we are such believers in the benefits of journaling that we want to be sure no one is left out. I asked psychotherapist Maud Purcell to suggest creative work-arounds for non-writers.  I’m eager to share her tips to help you glean the benefits of journaling without writing down a word.

Maud is a Founder and Executive Director of The Life Solution Center of Darien.  She has been quoted in the NY Times and The Wall Street Journal and interviewed nationally and internationally on television and radio.

You can hear this conversation on our podcast, The Power of Journaling, or read highlights of our talk down below.

Put Down Your Pen and Pick Up Your iPhone

Whether you enjoy the act of writing or not, you can enjoy the benefits of slowing down your thinking and tapping into creative thought processes.

  • If writing is impractical, use an iPhone or any other appropriate device to record your thoughts and feelings.
  • Play back your recording and reflect on what you hear. 
  • Respond to journaling prompts extraneously. Let your mind go where it likes.
  • Forget about grammar!

If you enjoy writing, but don’t always have the time, recording your feelings is a practical alternative. Experiment with this technique in the car during your morning commute and just see what happens!

Instead of writing, speak extemporaneously into an iPhone or recorder. Forget about punctuation and grammar. Let your mind go wherever it wants without censor.

Maud Purcell

Try Writing in the Air

Dr. Pennebacker, a former guest on Journaling.com and an expert on the benefits of journaling, explained that finger writing—writing words in the air—works to slow our thinking down and provides similar benefits as more traditional journaling methods.

Awaken the Senses

Sensory details unearth memories and heighten overall experiences. Before you hit that record button, Maud recommends waking up your senses in positive ways:

  • Drink a warm, aromatic beverage.
  • Sit among fresh flowers.
  • Light candles.
  • Wrap yourself in a soft cozy blanket.

When we associate our recording time with positive sights, sounds, smells, and feelings, we look forward to these moments and quickly establish a productive, enlightening routine.

Your Action Plan

  • Learn more about Maud’s work. Visit her at The Life Solution Center of Darien.
  • For more ideas and information, listen to my interview with Maud.
  • Enliven your senses with sounds, scents, and textures.

Six Ways to Keep Journal Writing Fresh, with Lynda Monk

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Whether you are new to journal writing or it’s been a part of your life forever, keeping the process fresh is important. Journaling expert Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC, is full of ideas to help you engage with your journaling practice in colorful ways. It’s a joy to welcome her to Journaling.com.

Lynda is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing.  A registered social worker and Certified Professional Life Coach, Lynda specializes in therapeutic journaling for self-care, burnout prevention, wellness, and creative self-expression, and she regularly speaks on the healing and transformational power of life writing. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection,  as well as co-author of the international bestseller Inspiration for a Woman’s SoulChoosing Happiness.  She is also the author of Life Source Writing: A Reflective Journaling Practice for Self-Discovery, Self-Care, Wellness and Creativity and producer of the Creative Wellness Guided Meditations CD. 

To listen to our podcast interview with Lynda, click on the play button below. Or keep reading to see the written highlights from our talk.

Flexibility is Fundamental

When Lynda talks about her own journaling practice, a spirit of flexibility infuses her approach. As a mother to young teens, her free time is limited, but she says that journaling remains a priority in her life, and she always keeps her journal with her. A commute by ferry gives Lynda a stretch of time to freewrite. Waiting in parking lots for her children to finish afterschool activities, gifts Lynda more opportunities to jot down her thoughts onto paper.

Since time is limited, Lynda’s come to recognize the value in maximizing opportunities to write. This realization led her to a series of techniques to keep her writing practice fresh and inviting. These techniques/tips are gleaned from years of study. Lynda attended a memoir writing residency at Banff School of the Arts, and trained with many of the top leaders in expressive writing and therapeutic writing. These tips are light and easy-to-do, but they are grounded in evidence-based practice and years of education and experience. It’s this experience and knowledge that makes Lynda one of the top experts in the journaling field.

An ongoing journaling practice is like any long term relationship. When you show up to it again and again with enthusiasm and positivity, great things happen.

Lynda Monk

Lynda’s Six Tips to Keep Journaling Fresh

In addition to being trained and educated in this field, Lynda is also a life-long journaler herself.

  1. Clarify your intentions. Lynda recommends regularly checking in with yourself to identify what motivates you to journal. Gaining this insight keeps journaling fresh because it helps you constantly rediscover the “whys” you want answers to.
  2. Cultivate curiosity. Arrive at each writing session with wonder and an eagerness to make new discoveries. Approach your journal with wide-open eyes and engage with questions that have risen to the surface. New questions foster new awareness that we can follow up on with a plan for action.
  3. Honor the questions in your heart.  In life, the big question marks we encounter point us in the directions we most need to contemplate. When we honor this need, we tap into fresh material to help us cultivate inner wisdom.
  4. Affirm the contributions journaling makes to your life. Just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower, journaling may be an essential component of your self-care routine. When we acknowledge the ways journaling makes us a better parent, partner, son or daughter, we don’t have to struggle to justify fitting this mindfulness act into our schedules.
  5. Journal with other people. Writing Alone Together, a book Lynda co-authored with  friends Wendy Cutler and Ahava Shira, was born from their shared experiences in a journaling club. For three years, the trio met monthly to share space and writing. Through that experience, Lynda’s appreciation for the power of storytelling and community was reinforced. Together the friends cultivated a space for active quiet listening.
  6. Journal in a variety of settings. New surroundings provide a fresh outlook and shift in our perspective. There’s no right or wrong location. Visit a park or forest. Sit on the earth or a comfy couch. Write down your thoughts in a coffee shop or from your deck. The ways that we connect with our environment will be reflected in how we engage with our journals.

Other Tips and Techniques

Lynda recommends that we adapt techniques used in other forms of writing.

  • Journal with dialogue. If faced with a difficult choice between two possibilities, give each option a voice. Engage both sides in dialogue on the pages of your journal.
  • Develop characters. If you were to put a face and personality on your anxiety, joy, or grief, what would that look like? Who would that person be?

Lynda notes, “Journaling is an act of storytelling.  Journalers are storytellers who capture moments, insights, and inner workings as each merges onto the pages of their journal.”

Your Action Plan

  • Discover more about Lynda’s work. Visit her online at Creative Wellness –  and learn about the work she does supporting healthcare professionals with Thrive Training and Coaching 
  • Explore IAJW’s website and consider becoming a member of this vibrant community.

Read Lynda’s book Writing Alone Together

  • Listen to our podcast interview with Lynda.
  • Invigorate your writing life. Give Lynda’s six suggestions a try this week.

Lynda wisely equates an ongoing journaling practice with any long term relationship. She reminds us that when we show up to journal again and again with enthusiasm, great things happen. Greeting each writing session with an attitude of positivity keeps our writing fresh and meaningful.

Write Your Way Through Challenging Life Transitions, with Leia Francisco

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In life, change is inevitable. While some changes are chosen, others are thrust upon us without warning. Our special guest today, Leia Francisco, teaches us how to navigate new directions with grace, wisdom, and even joy. I find her visionary work personally helpful, and I’m honored to have her here at Journaling.com.

Leia Francisco is a coach, teacher, and writer of transitions. Her book Writing through Transitions: A Guide for Transforming Life Changes is now in its second printing. Leia holds a Master’s degree and is a Board Certified Coach. Leia has been a faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute, where she’s taught transition writing for over a decade. Her certification program is a highly individualized, self-paced training that prepares others to develop their own signature transition coaching or workshop. Leia lives in the beautiful hill country of Texas.

Leia’s work will transform the way you engage with changes in your life. To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Transition Defined

Leia makes an important distinction between the terms change and transition. Change, she explains is an external event such as getting or losing a job, buying a new home, or becoming a grandparent. In contrast, transition is interior and represents the emotional and psychological landscape we travel in order to get to a new place in life. Transition is a response to change.

Our responses to change are unique, and each is inspired by singular circumstances. How we engage with our interior response, Leia suggests, determines how much meaning we glean from the  transitions in our lives.

People can feel like they are stuck when really they are being stilled.

Leia Francisco

How Writing Helps Navigate Transition

In the midst of whirling swirling change, writing grounds us and helps us to feel a sense of control.

Writing supports us in times of transition by:

  • identifying skills and strengths.
  • shining a light on our emotions.
  •  providing clarity.
  • accessing new parts of the brain which helps us gain additional insight and creativity.
  • providing distance on the paper between us and our emotions.
  • revealing progress through a written document that can be repeatedly revisited.
  • centering and structuring our ideas.

The Transition Process in Three Steps

When contemplating personal transitions, Leia encourages us to think in metaphor.  She compares significant transitions to what it feels like to move from one home to another. 

Step 1: Letting Go

Sticking with the house metaphor, this is the stage when we look over our possessions and decide what needs to be sold or donated.  It’s important to grieve at this stage.  It can be painful to part from items, people, emotions and ideas we’ve carried with us.

Now is also the time to identify which treasures we’ll bring with us. Not everything has to go! Leia observes that when we experience a cataclysmic change like divorce or the loss of a job, there is a tendency to think we’ve lost everything. The truth is, we leave behind some things but not all.

Writing Prompts to Navigate Step 1

  • Journal about the most significant losses signified by this transition. What do these mean to you?
  •  Write about the treasures you’ll keep and bring forward to your new destination.
  • Make a list of supports available to you as you embark on this transition. Write down whoever and whatever can nourish you in this time—friends, family, pets, nature.

Step Two: Limbo

This is a time of questions and uncertainty. But it’s also a period of tremendous opportunity. You’ve shut the door of your old home for the last time and said all of your goodbyes. It’s not quite time to move into your new place. Maybe you’ll have to spend a few weeks in a hotel. Now is the time to visualize your way forward.

Fear can rise at this stage. This tendency is normal and okay. Fear, Leia reminds us, is a way we protect ourselves. Embrace fear as a legitimate companion on this part of your journey. Receive this emotion without being overwhelmed. At the same time, challenge fear, rise and show it your strength and power.

Leia acknowledges that this time of uncertainty can be particularly difficult because on the surface we feel stuck. This may be a good time to read old journals and acknowledge that you’ve come further than you might have realized.

Writing Prompts to Navigate Step 2

  • You’ll need all the psychic energy you can muster to engage fully with this stage. Lighten your load where you can. Write about obligations that can be dropped or limited.
  • Identify and write about self-care techniques you will implement. Writing down these ideas makes it more likely they’ll be actualized.
  • What wild and crazy thoughts have you had this week? Write about them. Open that creative valve and think about your circumstances in bold new ways.
  • Answer the question, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?”
  • Use metaphors to write about this upside-down season. Perhaps this period of transition makes you think of building a house, starting a garden, or fixing a car. Metaphors can help us understand thoughts and feelings that are otherwise difficult to name.

Most people want to skip this middle stage. I get it! It’s extraordinarily uncomfortable to be in between and without a map to show where you are headed. But Leia points out that completing this stage is vital in ensuring our transition is a meaningful one.

Step 3: The Change

You’ve arrived! You are in your new house. But you are still unpacking boxes. There’s not enough furniture to get comfortable just yet, but you are close.

In general, Leia cautions, people are wired to want to get on with the change. They may try to pass through this stage too quickly. It’s important to pause, to consider where you’ve come from and where you are headed next.  You might journal about the following:

  • Write about the change you’ve faced.
  • What has this change meant to you?
  • What resources did you rely on to navigate this transition?

When we have processed the change fully and deeply, we have transitioned.

Your Action Plan

Throughout each of these steps, Leia makes a plea for patience. Answers will not come overnight she reminds us. Transition is a slow, deep process. In the midst of this season, people can feel like they are stuck when really they are being stilled.

Give yourself permission to complete each step with mindfulness and intention. Writing is an invaluable tool that will make this work easier.

Journal Therapy: An Innovative Tool for Self-Discovery, with Kathleen Adams

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Psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Journal Therapy, Kathleen Adams, joined us at Journaling.com to talk about journaling techniques we can use to facilitate self-discovery. Kathleen is as knowledgeable as she is passionate about the benefits of therapeutic journaling. Our conversation was a delight, and we are so pleased to have the chance to share her important work with you.

Kathleen is the New York Times bestselling author of Journal to the Self and eleven other books on therapeutic writing. Kathleen is well known in the therapeutic journaling community and is a pioneer in writing for growth, healing, and change. She is also founder of The Therapeutic Writing Institute (TWI), a distance-learning training institute for facilitators of therapeutic writing.

You can listen to Kathleen’s podcast interview by using the play button (below.) Or continue reading for the highlights of that conversation.

Journal Therapy Inspires Deep Growth and Understanding

In 1985, Kathleen taught her first journaling class and knew immediately that the healing art and science of journal writing would be her life’s work. 

Kathleen explains that therapeutic journal writing is a versatile technique that helps manage the same issues other forms of therapy address, including:

  • personal growth
  • life management
  • problem solving
  • mood management

Journal therapy is the use of life-based writing for healing, growth, and change.

Kathleen Adams

Kathleen’s “List of 100 Things”

Kathleen’s methodology relies on a wide-range of original techniques to address a variety of needs. One of our favorite suggestions is Kathleen’s “List of 100 Things.” This technique is so straightforward and effective you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it before. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Jot down one question that’s on your mind.  What are 100 things I want to try? What are 100 things I want to write about? What are 100 ways to communicate better?
  • Number your paper from 1 to 100.
  • Write the first responses that spring into your mind. Keep it simple. Use bullets, phrases, and abbreviations.
  • Throughout this exercise, it’s okay, even helpful, if your responses repeat themselves.
  • Keep your pen flying. Kathleen recommends getting ideas onto paper within twenty minutes.
  • Take a look at your responses and synthesize them into themes such as wellness, professional goals, family life, and creative pursuits.
  • Calculate how many items appear under each theme to discover what percentage each idea represents. Kathleen notes that sometimes what we think will be a dominant category turns out to be less significant, and new unconscious desires can come into the foreground.
  • Process this information and then act on those discoveries. If 50% of your statements are about a need to be in nature and your home is in an urban area, it’s time to act! You might decide to make time to play in a wild setting one weekend each month or after work if that’s feasible. 

Actualize Abstract Feelings

Kathleen points out that journaling is an opportunity to make our abstract ideas and emotions concrete. By letting our ideas exist outside of ourselves, they become actualized, and we have a record we can return to and learn from.

“Writing lets us read our own minds and hearts,” Kathleen explains. Don’t you love that?

Tips from Kathleen

Kathleen’s advice is simple and true. With a smile in her voice she says, “There’s no wrong, just write.”

On a practical level, she suggests recording the year and date of every entry. Another thoughtful tip is to make an index that enables you to follow major themes in your writing with ease.

Your Action Plan

Learn more about Kathleen’s work. Visit her online at her Center For Journal Therapy.

  • For more information, listen to the podcast interview with Kathleen.
  • Write your own “100 Things” list today!
  • Explore Kathleen’s latest endeavor, Journalversity, a learning community for journal writers and facilitators worldwide that provides professional development (CE courses for therapists) and personal growth online classes.

Weave Mindfulness into Your Journaling Practice, with Beth Jacobs

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With great joy, we recently sat down to talk with writer and clinical psychologist, Beth Jacobs.

Beth is an eloquent spokesperson for the benefits of weaving mindfulness into one’s journaling practice. A writer and clinical psychologist, Beth is the author of Paper Sky: What Happened After Anne Frank’s Diary, The Original Buddhist Psychology, A Buddhist Journal, and editor of selections from Grandparents Rock: Writings of the Second Chance Grandparents Group. Beth leads expressive writing groups for children, teenagers, and grandparents, and was a contributed services faculty member at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL for over twenty years. Her work and writing span many fields, with an emphasis on therapeutic creativity and depth exploration.

You can listen to my interview with Beth or read below to see highlights of our conversation.

Defining Mindfulness

The term mindfulness comes up again and again, but what exactly does this word mean? Beth defines mindfulness as “a capacity to hold dispassionate awareness in the midst of process.” Mindfulness, she explains, helps us to explore process without judgement. This consciousness instills in us calm awareness and objective thought.

The Power of Mindfulness

With eloquence, Beth explains that a mindfulness practice has the power to:

  • broaden perspective and cultivate acceptance.
  • neutralize counter-productive emotions.
  • help us live life moment by moment.
  • assist in assessing each process so we avoid running off with a process that is not productive.

Mindfulness is the opposite of a vicious cycle. It’s an opening, calming, widening spiral.

Journaling Tips to Help Us Be in the Here and Now

Beth shares simple, effective methods we can implement with ease.

  1. Experiment with Different Writing Styles
    If your go-to method is freewriting, trying gathering your thoughts with lists and bullet points. If you are the highly organized type, let go with a method like freewriting.
    The benefit of experimentation is that it allows you to exercise different parts of the brain. You are actually training your mind to have broader ways of expressing and examining internal processes.
  2. Court Surprise
    When you come to the end of journaling, write “PS” and then keep on writing. You may think you were done, but so often our PS is where the juicy idea is waiting.

    Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Write your own list of questions. This act will reveal what it is you want to learn about yourself.
  3. Bring Meditation to Your Writing Practice
    Begin your journaling session in a relaxed pose. Concentrate on breathing. Keep a journal or computer nearby. Every time your mind wanders from breathing, jot down your thought as a note, word, or brief phrase. The thought you write might be a worry, a bodily sensation, or a task you need to finish.

    When you’ve completed this meditation, you’ll have an informative list. You may notice themes you want to better understand—aches and pains, task lists, or particular emotions that have come to the surface. In Beth’s life, these lists have become the skeletons of beautiful poems.

My absolute favorite thing about journaling is that you can actually surprise yourself with your own writing. This never ceases to please and amaze me.

Beth Jacobs

Your Action Plan

  • Implement Beth’s Journaling Tips into your own writing practice.
  • Learn more about Beth’s work. Visit her online attheoriginalbuddhistpsychology.com.
  • Enroll in Beth’s self-directed online course entitled Writing for Emotional Balance at
    The International Association for Journal Writing (IAJW).
  • Light a candle, pour a cup of  tea, and dive deep into Beth’s books, Paper Sky: What Happened After Anne Frank’s Diary, The Original Buddhist Psychology, A Buddhist Journal, and editor of selections from Grandparents Rock: Writings of the Second Chance Grandparents Group.
  • For more inspiration, listen to my interview with Beth.
  • Finally, experiment with new journaling techniques. Dance outside your comfort zone and be amazed!

I asked Beth to leave us with a final thought to carry forward, and her words were just perfect. She shared a quote from Peema Chödrö.  “Be generous, precise, and open.”  Beth added, “See things plainly. When we live plainly, closer to the data without adding worries, we are more in our lives.”