Journaling.com’s Top 10 Favorite Tools for Emotional Well-being (2020)

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The science is in and it’s conclusive. Journaling has a positive impact on emotional well-being. Used to navigate depression, anxiety, and major life transitions, journaling helps develop personal insight and empowers us to act with mindfulness and intention.

Pour a cup of tea. Let us take the guesswork out of finding the best resources to support your self-care routine.

Our Top 10 Favorite Tools for Emotional Well-being

1. Your Brain On Ink: A Workbook on Neuroplasticity and the Journal Ladder by Deborah Ross and Kathleen Adams

This workbook, from two of the top leaders in therapeutic journaling, is an easy-to-use roadmap that guides readers through the world of neuroscience and expressive writing. Grounded in science, Your Brain on Ink shows how to rewire the brain to reduce negative feelings and to experience more positivity. Ross and Adams have artfully crafted a digestible neuroscience textbook in the form of a journal. It’s just excellent. 

2. Emotional Advantage: Embracing All Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love by Randy Taran

Author and happiness expert Randy Taran shows how emotions act as an inner compass that leads toward deeper self-understanding. By embracing all of our emotions, she suggests, we can use simple daily strategies to open ourselves to positive change. Taran is one of the top experts on happiness studies, and we believe her message is one that can be well-supported by a regular journaling routine.

3. Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis

Strictly speaking, this is not a book about journaling, but it’s such a fun approach to ideas we celebrate at Journaling.com that we couldn’t resist. Popular blogger, writer, and podcast host Rachel Hollis empowers readers to stop making the excuses that keep them from actualizing goals. An avid journaler herself, Rachel keeps the conversation real as she chats about the actions that turn dreams into reality. If you are looking for the sort of book that feels like a friend cheering you on, we think you’ll like Hollis’s approach.

4. Writing Through Transitions: A Guide for Transforming Life Changes by Leia Francisco

We love this unique workbook/guided journal. If you are facing a significant transition like moving to a new home, facing illness, making a career change, or recovering from the loss of a loved one, this wisdom-filled book will help you turn the experience into an opportunity for emotional growth. Based on her Writing Through Transitionstm model, Leia’s clear, easy-to-use guide helps focus attention onto meaningful questions:

–       What is this transition all about?
–       How will it affect me and the people I care about?
–       How do I get through the ups and downs?
–       What do I need in order to learn and grow from this transition?

5. Practice You: A Journal by Elena Brower 

What a lovely book this is! Warm watercolors provide a comforting backdrop to this collection of simple journaling prompts. Write to affirm the best parts of you and to uncover the path leading toward the person you’re becoming. This is one of the most beautiful guided journals we’ve seen. It will nourish your soul, lighten your heart, and awaken your creative spirit. Don’t miss this one!

6. The Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change

The Five Minute Journal is built on proven principles of positive psychology and was recommended by several of the therapists we work with on our site. Requiring only five minutes a day, this is the perfect resource for people who want to journal but who find that life keeps getting in the way. A lovely side-benefit is that when you finish the book, you’ll have five years of memories to look back on.

7. The I AM Journal: Manifest Your Burning Desire by Lauren Sanders

Lauren Sanders’ affirming guided journal helps sow the seeds to grow the life you want. Its prompts help you reflect on behaviors that attract the people and situations you want in your life. Just one caveat, although the references are sporadic, the author does makes references to God. If this is not language that resonates, it’s okay. We’ve got loads of other ideas here too!

8. The Untethered Soul in Action with Michael A. Singer  

You might recognize Michael A. Singer as the bestselling author of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself. If so, you can understand how excited we were to discover he also offers an online course that explores the principals he writes so eloquently about. In this course, Singer provides tools to help eliminate habitually negative thinking that hinders consciousness. Singer’s teachings help us utilize traditions like meditation to live deeply in the moment. Mindfulness practices, he shows, become possible and more effective when we let go of painful thoughts and memories that encumber us. 

9. Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story by Christina Baldwin

The affirming tone of Christina’s Baldwin’s writing assures readers that every individual has innate power to tell the stories that matter most. Through personal anecdotes, Christina’s book reveals how the stories we tell determine the ways we live, how we operate within our communities, as well as shape our experiences in the larger world. The stories she gifts us with make abstract concepts concrete and relatable. With eloquence and enthusiasm, Baldwin urges us to catch each of our stories, along with the stories of others, to construct meaningful narratives that make life comprehensible and complete. Baldwin’s ideas are original and applicable, each one reminding us of the power of the written word.

10. Writing Alone Together: Journaling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection by Ahava Shira PhD, Wendy Judith Cutler MA, and Lynda Monk MSW, RSW, CPCC.

Until we connected with Writing for Wellness Coach Lynda Monk, Director of the International Association for Journal Writing (IAJW) and co-author of Writing Alone Together, we considered journaling to be a solitary activity. Lynda exploded this myth on our podcast where she enlightened us with her thoughts on writing as a communal practice. To learn more about this book, visit writingalonetogether.com.

Embrace ALL Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love, with Randy Taran

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We sat down with Randy Taran, founder and CEO of Project Happiness, to discuss her newest book Emotional Advantage: Embracing All Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love.

For years, Randy has been one of the leading experts on happiness and positive psychology. Her current research is an expansion of her groundbreaking work. Randy’s new book explores the ways acknowledgement of and engagement with all of our emotions helps us create a life we love. It’s a privilege to share her uplifting message with you.

Randy is also co-author of the Project Happiness Handbook, which uses journaling to bring the best of positive psychology, neuroscience, and mindfulness to youth. Randy produced the award-winning documentary “Project Happiness” exploring the nature of lasting happiness through interviews with George Lucas, Richard Gere, Richard Davidson and the Dalai Lama.

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


A Message of Hope

With a community of 2.5 million people on Facebook and Instagram, Randy’s messages of hope, along with science-based strategies for greater well-being, are reaching people when they need it most.

For years Randy’s focused on happiness and positive psychology, and she remains enthusiastic about the benefits of  a perspective shift toward positivity. But recently, she was hearing from more people who wanted to learn how to live with other emotions like anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger. Randy found herself drawn to this question both as a topical issue and on a more personal level as well.

She explains, “Writing this book gave me an opportunity to delve into the history, science, and strategic applications and insights that come from embracing all of our feelings.”

Randy’s research suggests our emotions are gifts. “Our emotions are messengers that provide information. They are like data points,” she observes. “Our emotions are messengers from the deepest part of ourselves. If we welcome and appreciate these messages, they have the power to enrich and inform our lives.

Our emotions are messengers that provide information. They are like data points.

Randy Taran

Randy acknowledges the emotions she writes about are powerful, and there is a tendency to want to sweep them under the rug. Guilt is an example of a powerful emotion. “No one wants to feel guilty, and so sometimes we run from this feeling,” Randy points out. “But guilt brings us back to our core values. It’s a wakeup call that announces when something doesn’t feel right.” In other words, she explains, “guilt provides an opportunity to course correct.”

Anger is another significant emotion with potential benefits. “Anger can feel like a forest fire burning up everything in its path. Anger is a potent emotion with power. But, where would Martin Luther King, Gandhi, or the suffragette movement be if these individuals didn’t listen to and channel their anger productively. Anger inspires action.”

The key is to channel emotions skillfully. Randy believes we all have the potential to do so.

Name the Emotion

There is value in naming an emotion. Sometimes we don’t know what we are feeling. If we can name what we are experiencing, oftentimes we get to the heart of the matter.

Randy references the catchphrase of our friend, Dr. Dan Siegel. Name it to tame it. When we can label our emotions we can manage and channel them more effectively.

Randy’s Tips for Engaging with Emotions

  • Don’t wait for the fire. Check in when your emotions are just a spark. Tune in and ask,  “What am I feeling in this moment? Journal about the feelings you identify.
  • Before an emotion gains momentum. Take an inventory. How do you feel? Are you tired? Hungry? How is your physical state impacting your emotions?
  • Examine triggers. Understanding why a feeling comes to the surface is key in understanding how best to engage with it.
  • Identify your options. What can you choose to do with this emotion once you’ve named it?

Journaling Prompts

  • When_____ happens it triggers feelings of ______.
  • When I think about_____ I usually feel______.
  • When I am anxious my body feels like______.

The Choice to React

As Randy’s work shows, we have a choice to respond to our emotions in a constructive way and let these feelings help us advance. The other option is to make no decisions, to simply suppress emotions or unload them externally without a sense of resolution.

Assess Your Response

Try these journaling prompts to assess your response to complicated emotions when they arise.

  • What kind of patterns did I repeat?
  • Where did I gain awareness and successfully course correct?

Our emotions can appear to come out of nowhere but when we learn about our triggers we can identify what to do to keep ourselves in a balanced state of mind.

Speak to Yourself with Compassion

Randy cited the inspiring work of Dr. Kristin Neff, whose work identifies the three elements she refers to as composing self-compassion. These are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

1. Self-kindness. Speak and journal to yourself as if you were your dearest closest most beloved friend.

2. When we acknowledge common humanity, we recognize that people experience difficult emotions that can make them feel isolated. This knowledge reminds us we are not alone in our struggles. Challenges are normal and universally felt.

3. Mindfulness is about being aware of and engaging with the feelings you are experiencing

Self-compassion Promotes Emotional Resiliency

People who practice self-compassion are shown to bounce back from disappointment and challenges faster than people who just power through emotional struggles. Self-kindness, Randy teaches, sustains us on a deeper level and opens the door to positive change. These acts of compassion also strengthen neural pathways so that eventually this gentle response becomes our go-to modality.

What the Research Shows

Fear and anxiety are dominant emotions in the landscape today. Randy references one study that shows 1 in 5 Americans suffers from anxiety. Among teens this statistic is said to be even higher.

The World Health Organization has declared depression to be the greatest cause of suffering around the world for all ages, regardless of socioeconomic factors or gender.

These startling findings reinforce Randy’s notion that we must work with the big emotions that rise in our life. We need to use these emotions to empower ourselves and to foster a connection with ourselves.

The crux of Randy’s work shows that expressing the whole range of human emotions is how we experience life in a deep and meaningful way. It is how we maintain our humanity and develop empathy for others.

Your Action Plan

  • Learn more about Randy’s work. Visit her online at  Project Happiness.
  • Read her new book, Emotional Advantage: Embracing All Your Feelings to Create a Life You Love.
  • Listen to my conversation with Randy.
  • Try the prompts Randy provides in this article.
  • Practice self-compassion, and use your journal to help implement this principal.

Self-care, Randy reminds us, is never frivolous or selfish. Quite the opposite. When we are gentle with ourselves, when we meet our emotions with curiosity instead of judgement, that action impacts others as well. When we help ourselves we make the world better.

If your enjoyed this interview, you might also find our conversation with Dr. Dan Siegel helpful.

Heal Yourself Using Journaling Power, with Mari L. McCarthy

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Scientists confirm that journaling impacts our physical health in tangible, even quantifiable ways. Our conversation with author Mari L. McCarthy demonstrates the powerful benefits of expressive writing.

Mari is the Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of CreateWriteNow.com. She is the multi award-winning author of Journaling Power: How To Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live and Heal Your Self With Journaling Power. She is also the creator of 20+ life-changing Journaling Power eWorkbooks such as Start Changing Your Life, Love Your Body and Take Control of Your Health.

Mari’s work is an inspiration. It was a privilege to talk with her about the ways journaling helps us make peace with our bodies. To learn more, read below to see highlights from our conversation, or listen to our interview on The Power of Journaling.

Before we begin, please note, Journaling.com does not provide medical advice. This conversation is for informational purposes only, and as always, we advise talking with your healthcare provider before making changes to any wellness routine.

Mari’s Story
Mari’s story is personal. Her sensitive approach to the work she does mentoring and empowering people with chronic conditions comes from her experience living with multiple sclerosis.

By the winter of ‘98, Mari had been living with an MS diagnosis for eight years. She knew her body and her symptoms well at that point, so when she woke up with lost feeling on her right side, she paid attention. This symptom, Mari realized, marked a change in her physical health.

Mari intuited that this symptom would not subside in a few weeks, and she was right. The only palatable choice was to adapt.  

“I realized I needed to teach myself to write with my left hand in order to keep working,” she explains. Undaunted, Mari spoke with a woman who referred her to Julia Cameron’s revolutionary book, The Artists Way. It was there she discovered Morning Pages.

Cameron describes Morning Pages, a widely popular journaling technique, as “writing three pages of longhand stream of consciousness first thing in the morning.”  Morning Pages bring ideas and concerns to the surface of our minds. The act of writing this way helps us to prioritize thoughts we want to invest energy into and puts unproductive fears and worries into perspective.

Each morning, Mari endeavored to write Morning Pages using her left hand. With a sense of irony, she acknowledges, “I started journaling for physical therapy purposes only.” But quickly she started to note the cadence and rhythm of her words, and she began writing poetry for the first time.

Forgotten memories started turning up on the pages of Mari’s journal. One startling discovery was the recollection that she’d been left-handed as a child. When she entered school, she’d been instructed to use only her right hand. Her mother confirmed this memory was true.  

As Mari made more discoveries, she saw journaling as a tool to unlock emotions. She felt it helping her achieve wellness and clarity as well. Mari has been an avid journaler since.

Journaling Opens Communication Lines
In her work supporting clients with a wide range of illnesses, Mari observes that many people do not enjoy a positive relationship with their bodies. She notes that many of us carry thoughts and experiences from childhood that have been internalized and are stuck inside.

Through journaling, new communication lines are established between our brains and our bodies. We become able to converse with our bodies in new ways as we cultivate language that shines a light on how we feel at a physical level.

As this communication grows in depth and precision, we feel our relationship with our bodies strengthen in positive ways.

Cultivate a Peaceful Relationship With Your Body
Mari invites us to use journaling to help connect and communicate with our bodies in a voice that is kind, forgiving, and compassionate. She explains that journaling everyday helps us to see when we aren’t treating ourselves with care.

The following tips from Mari will help foster connectedness and relationship with your physical self.

  • Dialogue with your body. Ask how it’s feeling today and listen carefully to its response.

  • Approach your body in the spirit of teamwork. Many of us have an adversarial relationship with our bodies. Be mindful of meeting your body with curiosity instead of judgment.

  • Write your heart out. It’s okay to rant and rave. Get the garbage out. Give yourself permission to purge. This brave act will decrease stress and facilitate meaningful processing of thoughts and emotions.

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Action steps

Mari acknowledges it’s initially difficult to sit down and dialogue with one’s body. It might feel silly at first, and you might feel anger and lack the compassion you aim to achieve. But she assures us that with time we will get there. Developing relationships, even with ourselves, is a slow, deep process. Be gentle with yourself!

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also want to read about our conversation with Leia Francisco in which she talks about writing  through challenging life transitions. https://journaling.com/articles/write-your-way-through-challenging-life-transitions-with-leia-francisco/

Journaling: Relief for Anxiety and Depression, with Maud Purcell

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When it comes to journaling, the research is conclusive and inspiring; expressive writing is a practical tool that improves emotional well-being. It was a pleasure to sit down with psychotherapist Maud Purcell to discuss the ways she uses journaling techniques to help clients navigate depression and anxiety.

Maud Purcell 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.

To listen to our conversation, visit our podcast, The Power of Journaling, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Identify Root Causes of Strong Emotions

Journaling, Maud explains, is a powerful lens that helps us to see the root cause of strong emotions. This fresh clarity helps us to address old problems in new ways.

Journaling is a Multi-Purpose Tool

Maud is a long-time proponent of journaling, and her enthusiasm is contagious. In her work with clients, she recommends they journal about a range of issues that include:

  • healing from traumatic events
  • problem solving
  • increasing gratitude
  • engendering hope and optimism for the present and future
  • triggering  creativity
  • finding meaning in life when circumstances make it difficult to do so

Journaling, brings issues hovering below the surface of consciousness into our range of vision. From there we better understand the exact emotions that need to be disentangled.

Before I ask someone to start writing, I’ll ask them to observe how they feel based on a scale between one and ten. Then they journal. Afterwards, I’ll ask them to rate their mood again. Almost every time, their mood is improved.

Maud Purcell

Achieve Left-Brain Right-Brain Assimilation

The act of writing accesses the left brain, which is analytical and rational. While our left brain is occupied with writing, our right brain is free to create and intuit. In this way, Maud explains, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use both parts of our brain for deeper self-exploration.

Tapping into lesser used parts of our brain helps us to discover creative ways to:

  • prepare for challenging conversations
  • determine a new life path or direction
  • come to terms with mistakes we’ve made and foster self-forgiveness
  • cultivate a spiritual practice

Journaling Facilitates Physical Healing

Citing the seminal work of Dr. James Pennebaker, a recent podcast guest on The Power of Journaling, Maud spoke to journaling’s impact on physical health. Dr. Pennebaker and other researchers have observed that journaling benefits our health by:

  • decreasing blood pressure and heart rate
  • improving immune system function
  • relieving pain
  • aiding digestion
  • improving sleep
  • decreasing asthma and rheumatoid arthritis

Bring Unconscious Feelings to the Surface

Maud explained that if we are out of touch with our own thoughts and feelings, there is an increased risk of experiencing anxiety and depression. When we write, unconscious feelings rise to the surface. Once we get these feelings onto paper, we can achieve a level of distance and objectivity which in turn gives us space to problem solve creatively.

Journaling Addresses a Variety of Issues

Our talk with Maud highlighted the ways journaling can address a wide range of issues.

  • In situational anxiety and depression, journaling helps us connect the dots so we better understand what triggers and maintains negative emotional patterns.
  • With the help of a regular journaling routine, significant milestones like accepting a new job or purchasing a home can be navigated with greater ease.
  • Journaling helps us to spot negative thinking and to focus instead on feelings of optimism, gratitude, and contentment.

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.
  • Invest in your journaling practice and gift yourself gorgeous pens, paper, candles, and teas to affirm your writing journey.

There’s No Wrong Way to Do This

When asked to share her best journaling tips, Maud responded, “There are no rules. Just put the pen to paper and write.”  We think these are some wise words to live by!

Five Ways Journaling Boosts Happiness & Well-Being, with Nancy Scherlong

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Happiness and a sense of well-being; it’s what we all want. In our podcast interview with therapist Nancy Scherlong, we discuss the variety of ways journaling helps to cultivate these feelings. Nancy affirms the transformative power of journal writing and provides uplifting new ideas to contemplate.

Nancy is a licensed clinical social worker in the states of CT and NY, a positive psychology coach, journal and poetry therapist, and expressive writing workshop facilitator.  She is also trained in the action methods of psychodrama and interweaves different creative art forms in her teaching, training, and workshops. She is an adjunct instructor for several Master’s in Social Work programs on the East Coast as well as a core faculty member of the online training school, The Therapeutic Writing Institute and the online platform Journalversity. She provides training and supervision to trainees in the field of journal and poetry therapy as well as consults with groups and organizations offering wellness programming and retreats.

To learn more, listen to our conversation on our podcast, The Power of Journaling, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Nancy’s work as a positive psychology coach dovetails beautifully with the goals of expressive writing. For a long time, Nancy explains, psychology emphasized pathology and everything that was wrong in peoples’ lives. Positive psychology strives to put the focus on everything that’s right.

Good gardeners know if you aren’t pruning and cutting away the things that aren’t thriving or useful, your plants or flowers won’t be as vibrant. We need to prune our thoughts in the same kinds of ways so we are growing our most vibrant parts. What we focus on is what will grow.

Nancy Scherlong

Resist Negativity Bias

In order to identify potential threats, our brains are hardwired to focus on negativity. Vigilance is a biological defense, and so it takes concerted effort and intention to notice what’s “right” in our lives.

Journal writing can help us tune into what’s right and to reframe what feels wrong. Nancy shares five writing tips to help us resist negativity biases and boost feelings of happiness and well-being.

  1. Practice Gratitude:  Harvest and Cultivate the Good From Each Day

    Nancy encourages us to take an inventory of whatever it is that’s working well in our lives.  To cultivate this practice in her own life, she uses The Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change.  Here’s how it works:
    – In the morning, read a quotation or affirmation that inspires. Envision what will fill today with joy and meaning. These actions are like a reset button for the day ahead.
    – At night, reflect on what went well that day, and determine what your role was in making it go well.
    – Craft a plan to make tomorrow better.

  2. Journal to Be in the Here and Now

    – We know that when we live each moment deeply, we are happier.
    – Write what you smell, taste, and hear. Notice the birds that are singing or the aroma of the soup on the stove. Writing down details engages our senses and helps us to be in the moment.
    – Write with pen and paper to integrate body, mind, and emotions.

  3. Change Your Narrative

    – Cultivate self-forgiveness. The more we forgive ourselves the more we can be in the present. A focus on the negative is a pull from the present leading back toward regret and the past.
    – Write down how you talk to yourself and be deliberate in interrupting negative messaging. Rewriting the script helps us to change the stories we tell about ourselves. 

  4. Identify a Vision and a Goal

    – Nancy acknowledges this instruction can seem like a contradiction to mindfulness. Aren’t we supposed to be living in the here and now? But she explains that when we work toward visions and goals, we live our way into the future by the way we conduct ourselves in the present. In other words, if we are in touch with and practice the things that light us up–our passions–we find our vision naturally. Having goals and vision is a key point of happiness.
    – Make a vision board with words that project your goals. There are no rules; there’s no need for complete sentences. Use words, phrases.

  5. Practice Affirmative Writing that Inspires Resilience

    – Affirmative writing is the bridge between our current reality and our desired outcomes. It helps us identify a goal along with the actions that move us toward the goal. 
    – As you write, reflect on tough times from the past that you’ve worked through successfully. Difficult days survived are resilience markers reminding us of our capacity to overcome challenges.
    – Write in the present tense as though the future you desire is happening now. Nancy provides an example.
    – Let’s imagine it’s your hope that in six months’ time you’ll be an amazing chef.  Write as though you’ve already achieved this goal. Flesh out the vision in the present tense and claim success as if it’s already happened. Write about the classes you took, the people you talked with, and the resources you’ve consulted to get to this place. In doing so, you’ll come up with a game plan that leads you to actualize your vision.
    – Writing like you have what you want rather than transcribing a sense of longing is a radical shift in mindset that leads to happiness and well-being.

Nancy points out that our brains are highly capable of growth and change and that affirmative writing stretches our minds and establishes increased neural plasticity.

Your Action Plan

  • Learn more about Nancy’s work. Visit her online at www.changeyournarrativetherapy.com, on Facebook, and at the Therapeutic Writing Institute .
  • For more practical suggestions and inspiring ideas, listen to my interview with Nancy.
  • Establish a writing practice that works for you.  Devote ten minutes each day if you can. Pick materials and a schedule  that works with your personality not against it
  • Practice affirmative writing.

How will you implement these suggestions? Share your ideas with us on Facebook.

Three Ways Journal Planners Cultivate Happiness, with Mo Seetubtim

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Mo Seetubtim, founder & CEO of The Happiness Planner, conceived a novel idea. What if planners and journals were blended into one fabulous tool? Today, Mo designs beautiful products that can help you explore your inner world, master your mind, and find happiness from within. At Journaling.com, we were so impressed by Mo’s creations that we selected her Happiness Planner as one of the top 10 planners in 2019. It’s an enormous pleasure to introduce you to Mo and to the inspiring resources she’s created.  

To learn more, listen to our interview or read below to see highlights from my conversation with Mo.

A global nomad who’s called numerous places home, Mo resides in Europe for now. In her travels, Mo has observed the ways journaling practices go hand in hand with a society’s reading culture. She speaks of how the French’s love of the written word correlates with their affection for journaling. The Japanese, who have a rich history of paper making and design, seek out aesthetically pleasing journaling products that reflect this cultural element.  

The seeds for Mo’s own journaling practice were sown by her father, a marathon runner, entrepreneur, and avid journal writer who recognized the ways writing helped expand his self-awareness. Today journaling is a regular and important part of Mo’s own self-care routine.

As Mo worked on her design for a product that combined the traditional daily planner with the act of journaling, she observed two key things. A planner requires one to look to the future. A journal inspires observation and reflection on thoughts and behaviors in order to develop deeper self-awareness.

Realizing that these tools were perfect complements and could be integrated into one straightforward resource, the Happiness Planner was born. Mo explains that a journaling planner inspires users to make time to prioritize the contemplation and evaluation of specific thoughts and behavioral patterns.

Three Ways Journal Planners Guide you Toward  Happiness

Mo discussed three ways journal planners help us to find more happiness in life.

  1. Journal planners help us to explore our inner world and observe thoughts and behaviors that might be otherwise overlooked.

    It’s hard to see negative patterns unless we learn to observe them. Journaling, Mo explains, lets us identify helpful and unhelpful patterns of behaviors so that we can cultivate ways of being that enrich our lives and eliminate all the rest. 

  2. Journal planners help rewire the brain.

    Mo reminds us that we can rewire our brain to change thoughts and behaviors and establish positive new habits. Journal Planners help us commit time to activities we aren’t used to doing. Whether this is exercise, cooking healthy meals, or making time for a hobby, once these activities are prioritized in your journal planner and are repeated over and over, you’ve rewired your brain and integrated these activities into your life.

  3. A journal planner helps cultivate a relationship with one’s self.

    Mo describes herself as someone who finds deep joy in solitude, and she notes that true happiness comes from within. A journal planner can deepen the relationship we have  with ourselves which in turn provides the clarity we need to navigate challenging moments in life.

Journal planners help us to explore our inner world and observe thoughts and behaviors that might be otherwise overlooked.

Mo Seetubtim

Writing Prompts to Identify What Brings You Happiness

Light a candle, pour some tea, and gift yourself with a moment to explore the journaling prompts Mo shares below.

  • Write about activities that bring you joy.
  • Identify your values and the actions that will help you live in a manner that promotes your system of beliefs.
  • Reflect on a moment in your life that brought deep joy. Consider ways to ensure these moments are repeated.

These questions require us to dig deeply. A journal planner facilitates this process so that it becomes an ongoing practice in our lives.  

Ideas on the Horizon

Mo looks forward to creating new tools to further support the journaling community. Her mention of theme journals especially stood out to us. She describes these as guided journals containing prompts and worksheets loaded with questions designed to address issues such as self-love, consciousness, attachment, and fear.

In the year ahead, Mo also looks forward to hosting engaging, fun-filled events focused on self-awareness raising and confidence building.  

Your Action Plan

  • The Happiness Planner isn’t the only tool in Mo’s journaling toolbox. Visit her website  to see all of the resources she offers, and choose the one that’s right for you.
  •  Listen to our interview with Mo on The Power of Journaling.
  • Spend time with your journal exploring Mo’s writing prompts up above.

Mo’s work is a joy-filled reminder that journaling helps construct a strong foundation made of self-awareness and understanding that can help us to weather life’s ups and downs.

If You Enjoyed This Interview…

If you found my conversation with Mo helpful, you may also enjoy my interview with positive psychology coach, Nancy Scherlong, in which we discuss the ways journaling cultivates a sense of well-being. Visit The Power of Journaling podcast to hear our discussion or read the highlights of our chat here on Journaling.com.

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.