Enlightenment and Adventure on the Camino de Santiago

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Just like journaling, mindful travel stirs the heart and lets subconscious thoughts rise to the surface. Navigating an unfamiliar environment strengthens resolve, inspires creativity, and provides fresh perspective on a range of issues. For these reasons, it didn’t surprise us to learn that many of Journaling.com’s members are also avid travelers!

We were delighted to discover that some of you have walked the much beloved Camino de Santiago. That got us thinking what fun it would be to feature a collection of members’ stories that reflect this pilgrimage through the eyes of fellow journalers.

If travel is not on your horizon today, we still think you’ll find these stories uplifting. The listeners who contributed to this series span a range of ages, physical abilities, and economic backgrounds. Give their stories a listen, let them transport you to a very special place, and be inspired!


Revelations along the Camino de Santiago, with Petra Aslund


Secrets of the Camino with Sara Sayles


Walking the Camino with Nicole Walsh and Teri Tucker


Personal Reflections Walking the Camino with Amina Lynch


Planning to Walk the Camino, with Dan Dudzik

Our travelers’ anecdotes, survival tips, and resource suggestions follow. Perhaps their reflections are seeds with which you’ll sow your own camino one day!

A World-famous Pilgrimage

The Camino de Santiago is a world-famous pilgrimage comprised of several different routes, the most common of which start in France and stretch across northern Spain. All of the paths lead to the shrine of James the Apostle at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain.

During the Medieval period, this walk was an important Christian pilgrimage. Today the Camino receives over 200,000 annual visitors from all walks of life.

As we heard each of our guests’ stories unfold, we were struck by how unique each traveler’s camino turned out to be.

Meet the Pilgrims

Petra Aslund. As she turned 40, Petra faced several significant life transitions, and it seemed a fitting time to embark on a pilgrimage. In the middle of June, for two weeks, Petra walked 14 miles a day. An experienced solo traveler, she decided to set out on this adventure alone. In retrospect, Petra believes this was the right decision, and she describes being on her own as a vital element of her experience. In our conversation, Petra describes the close connections she cultivated with fellow travelers as well as the meaningful lessons she learned in solitude.

Sara Sayles. On her 60th birthday, with an eye on her bucket list, Sara announced her intention to hike the Camino. With long-time friends from college, Sara spent three years plotting and planning to make her birthday wish come true. As she and her friends got deeper into the planning process, it became evident that their visions of the journey were not identical. While Sara dreamed of the ultimate backpacking experience, others envisioned a high-end Camino. Negotiating a variety of needs, wants, and wishes proved a meaningful exercise, and ultimately they crafted a plan that suited everyone. The friends shared a meaningful journey and struck a balance between solitude and introspection and connection and comradery on their long walk together.

Sara Sayles

Teri Tucker and Nicole Walsh. Friends and coworkers from Arizona, Teri and Nicole started their walk in June. With 21 days to spare, the two walked 15 miles per day for a total of 300 miles! The weather on the Camino is unpredictable, and pilgrims prepare for a range of conditions. Teri and Nicole report starting their journey with a heatwave and ending in the mountains where the air was cold. When they look back and consider the ground that they covered and the knowledge they unearthed, they feel understandable awe.

Teri Tucker & Nicole Walsh

Amina Lynch. For 20 years, Amina spoke of her desire to hike the Camino de Santiago. To celebrate her 42nd birthday, Amina’s husband gifted her with a three-day trek through the Pyrenees portion of the pilgrimage, arguably the most grueling part of the walk.

Amina Lynch

Dan Dudzik. Along with his church pastor and members of their congregation, Dan embarked on his pilgrimage in October and walked 165 miles in 12 days. By the end of this experience, the bond between Dan and his fellow walkers was something he still treasures today. The group even talks about reuniting for a local weekend-long hike to reflect back on the time they shared hiking the Camino.

Dan Dudzik

Financing the Adventure

For some of our guests, planning how to prioritize and finance their camino was a highly significant part of their process.

When Sara began to prepare for her walk, she’d just filed for bankruptcy. Her finances were challenging, but she never let this deter her. Sara put a financial plan together and for two years she saved between $50 and $100 a month in a fund established solely for her journey. In the end, she was able to pay for the trip in cash, a fact she points to with deep satisfaction.

Teri and Nicole wanted to be intentional about the money they spent on their walk. When they were ready to buy airline tickets, they kept their eyes on cheap airfare alerts on the internet, and when the price was right, they leaped and made their purchase. To save more money, they stayed in city-run hostels set up for pilgrims and carried their own backpacks. With proper planning, they were able to stick within their intended budget.

Training for the Walk

Methods of training for the Camino are as varied as the pilgrims who use them. Our guests had a variety of approaches and helpful suggestions.

  • Practice walking with a full pack. Petra advises that those who plan to carry their own packs on the trail should take a few long walks with weight on their backs beforehand in order to get a feel for that experience.  
  • Break in new shoes. Almost all of our guests mentioned the importance of becoming accustomed to the footwear before setting out to walk.
  • Sara’s regimen involved walking five miles a minimum of 2-3 times a week. As she got closer to her departure, she and friends would walk 10-12 miles together.
  • Teri and Nicole were both busy wrapping up the school year, and finding time to train was difficult, but they walked as much as they could.
  • Dan began training 12 weeks out. For the first 6 weeks he ran 3-5 miles 3 times a day on a treadmill. Closer to his departure time he ran 7 ½ miles with a 20-pound pack.

Sites Along the Way

Along the trail there are multiple opportunities to linger over breathtaking vistas, explore ancient architecture, and walk through vineyards that sprawl. A good guidebook will provide a listing of significant sites. Dan suggests travelers with extra time might add a few extra days in order to visit these special landmarks.

Finisterre, which translated means “Edge of the World,” marked a highlight for Petra. She describes this final destination as the perfect ending to her camino. “Looking out onto that ocean was emotional. I really felt like I had made a journey. More than just traveling physically, I’d made a journey as a person, and I felt like I was looking into eternity, something endless, and I felt full of potential.”

Teri and Nicole reminisce about the nightly masses where pilgrims are warmly invited to receive blessings in the small towns they visit. They describe the power that comes with being part of a long and significant tradition.

Tricks and Tips to Take on Your Camino

Our guests shared their suggestions to ensure a smoother journey.

  • Don’t overdo it. Sometimes it’s tempting to walk more than you should. Stop when you are tired. Sore hips and blisters are no fun.
  • Prepare for cold. Petra warns that the large dorms can be chilly. She suggests bringing an extra pair of socks to wear in bed at night. Ear muffs, windbreakers, rain jackets, and something to keep your pack dry can help keep you warm and dry.  
  • Walking poles might help. Not everyone uses them, but many pilgrims find poles are a helpful aid. Conveniently, there’s no need to purchase these beforehand. We’re told they’re easy to pick up on the trail.
  • Avoid blisters. Dan advises that sock liners alleviate friction between the sock and the skin. Others suggest wearing two pair of socks for a similar outcome. Nicole and Teri applied Vicks salve on their feet each morning having heard this was an effective preventative.
  • Pack light. For those who elect to hike with backpacks on, this detail is especially important. (For those who don’t wish to carry a large backpack, porters are available along the trail for a reasonable fee.) If traveling with others, consider splitting up supplies. Not everyone needs to bring the first aid kit and sunscreen.
  • Invest in a good sunhat. Protection from the sun is easier with a good hat that is made of sun protective fabric.

Wonder and Understanding

Everyone’s camino is unique because each pilgrim is on a different journey. Our guests’ recollections of gems gleaned on the trail are moving and profound.

Petra summed up her experience telling us, “It felt like I came into my own being on the trail. I’m a lot less easily frustrated now than I used to be, and I’m kinder to myself and to other people.”

Several guests observed that their experience revealed how little they needed to feel contentment. As their backpacks grew lighter, faith in their own skills and in the kindness of strangers was magnified.

Everyone agreed the Camino inspired them to slow down and to be more open to conversations with strangers . Our guests found they were more present and therefore able to listen and share in more meaningful ways.

Teri and Nicole achieved spiritual renewal along with a profound realization that whatever path they were walking, literally and figuratively, they were where they were supposed to be.

Amina described a meaningful ritual she practiced on the trail. Each day that she walked she carried a stone. As she made her way forward, whenever the moment moved her, Amina would place that stone on the side of the road to symbolize a burden being left behind. Soon after, she’d pick up another stone and continue on the trail repeating the same ritual when the timing felt right. “It was as though I left the trail 20 pound lighter,” she told us. In the evening she would journal about the burdens she’d removed and note the ways her ideas and feelings shifted as a result.

Journaling on the Trail

The people we interviewed are self-described journalers and each found creative ways to capture meaningful moments experienced on the trail.

Journaling played a significant role in the days Petra spent walking her camino. Almost daily, she reflected on the ideas she encountered and she reports how helpful it was to have a place to consider the gifts of the day.

Sara journals regularly at home, and she brought a journal to jot down daily mileage and reference the places she walked through. Interestingly, she noted that as time wore on she began to “journal less and experience more.”

When Teri and Nicole forgot their journals at home, they used their guidebook to record important details. They underlined the names of places they ate and stayed, and made notes of people they met and adventures they encountered. With a focus on gratitude, journaling helped to diminish any physical discomfort they experienced. To mark their journey, when they returned home, Teri and Nicole compiled photos and notes that they added to memory books commemorating their pilgrimage.

Amina journals “constantly” and this did not change on the Camino where she found writing to be as helpful as ever. As for Dan, on his fourth day of walking, a rain-soaked journal prevented him from writing. He relied on his camera to memorialize his trip, a process he found deeply satisfying.

Recommended Resources

The list below is a collection of resources referenced in our Camino interviews.

Books

  • Amina suggests Paulo Coehlo’s book, The Pilgrimage.
  • Teri and Nicole recommend A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago by John Brierly

Gear and Supplies

  • Sarah loved her Oboz boots and Darn Tough and Balega socks.
  • Dan relied on Compeed to treat blisters.

Luggage Service

Hotels

Tour Company
Sara highly recommends Camino Tours telling us, “They did a fabulous job.”

Final Thoughts

Everyone we spoke with agreed with the sentiment behind this popular quote: “You don’t walk your camino with your feet, you walk it with your heart.” If you should find yourself walking your own camino one day, take your time on the trail and don’t compare yourself to others. Your walk is your own and it will lead you to the place where you are meant to be.

If you enjoyed these conversations, listen to our interview with travel journaler Lauren Hooper for more ideas.

Experience the Magic of Vision Boards, with Dr. Lori Ann Roth

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Vision boarding is a perfect companion activity to traditional forms of journaling. We had to the pleasure to speak with Dr. Lori Ann Roth who shares how vision boarding can help you grow comfortable with new ideas, enhance awareness of potential opportunities, and crystallize a dynamic new action plan. She also shares ideas to help you start your own vision board today.

Lori Ann is a life-long learner with over 35 years of experience helping individuals be their best. She is the president of “Learning and…Reflective Growth,” a company that specializes in training and coaching, and she is the author of The Journal Book: Your Journaling Journey.

To learn how you might incorporate vision boarding into your own journaling practice, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

What Is a Vision Board and What Do I Do With It?

A vision board is a collage designed to be a source of inspiration. It usually features images, quotations, and stand-alone-words that represent the maker’s goals and desires.

An office wall can be the perfect place to hang your vision board. Let it motivate and influence your actions as you go about your day. At her former workplace, Lori Ann managed a team of employees, and they crafted boards together and hung them in a common space where they would see them each day. Alternatively, if your vision board is for your eyes only, hang it inside of a bedroom closet door to ensure that it inspires you every day!

Resource Ideas

Just like traditional forms of journaling, vision boarding does not require fancy materials. In fact, you probably already have all the materials you’ll need.  

  • Hang on to old magazines. Get out your scissors and enjoy some old-fashioned fun! Clip images that represent your juiciest goals and intentions. Look for quotations and words that inspire, and glue them onto your board.
  • Google it! Search online for specific images you desire, and print them in color on quality photo paper.
  • Grab a dictionary and thesaurus. Choosing just the right words to paste onto your board takes time and patience, but the results are worth it.

Make Your Own Vision Board

Lori Ann shares tips and techniques to help you begin visualizing your wildest dreams!

  • Set a goal. Lori Ann believes that the secret to creating a successful vision board lies in the preparation done beforehand. She encourages people to identify goals and desires in clear, comprehensible terms before moving forward. This first step, she explains, is an opportunity for deep self-reflection. This is the time to explore values and wishes and to envision the future you’re working toward.
  • Make time to visualize the life that you want. Many people create a new vision board once each year. For some, the start of the new year seems most fitting, while others mark birthdays, anniversaries, or the beginning of a new school year by making a vision board. Choose what works best for you. There’s no wrong way to do this.
  • Write it all down first. It can be a challenge to identify or pinpoint specific goals, but journaling first can help.
  • Gather and glue. Collect the images you’ll use for your board and start pasting!

What the Research Teaches  

Citing the work of Australian psychologist Alan Richardson, Lori Ann points to a study involving three groups of basketball players. The first group of players repeatedly practiced shooting hoops together. The second group did not practice; instead they visualized shooting hoops successfully. The third group did not practice or visualize throwing basketballs. Predictably, the players in the third group did not improve their skills. The players who improved most were those that practiced shooting hoops. Interestingly, those in group two who only visualized their improvement did nearly as well as the players who had practiced playing ball.

The research findings grow more interesting with a second study Lori Ann mentions involving players who combined visualization with practice. Overall, these individuals experienced the best outcomes.

From this study and others like it, Lori Ann concludes that it’s the combination of visualization and action that bring our goals to fruition.

As we continued to talk, Lori Ann shared the deep impact vision boarding has had on her personal life. After being single for 15 years, she recognized it was time for a new relationship. Lori Ann began to visualize the relationship she desired. Combing through a magazine, she even found a picture of a man who radiated qualities she was drawn to. She vision boarded this image along with other photos and quotations that evoked fun and romance. To accompany her vision board, Lori Ann wrote two typewritten pages to express her feelings and desires in words. Along with visualizing a relationship, she took action steps by going on dating sites and putting herself out there among good people she could connect with. It was through this process that Lori Ann met her husband to whom she’s been married for 2 ½ years!

Lori Ann left us with a few words of advice. A wonderful aspect of journaling is that there are so many approaches and all of them are right. Lori Ann assures us that vision boarding works similarly. Some of the people she works with take a linear approach to vision boarding. They might make boards with goals for the next six months, year, or even five years ahead. Others find this format too restrictive and choose a looser, less linear method that does not involve timelines.

Choose the method that resonate for you. The important thing is to be open to the messages your board reveals and to take the steps that turn vision into action.

Your Action Plan

  • Connect with Lori Ann on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Also visit her website.
  • Read Lori Ann’s new book, The Journal Book: Your Journaling Journey.
  • Listen our conversation on The Power of Journaling podcast.
  • Start work on your own vision board today!

If you enjoyed our conversation with Lori Ann, you might enjoy our article “Walk the Five Paths of Journaling.”

How to Get Started Travel Journaling, with Lauren Hooper

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We talked with Lauren Hooper, podcast host and seasoned traveler, to discover how journaling and travel make a perfect pairing. We are certain Lauren’s insights will inspire you to take along a journal on your next big adventure.

Lauren is a crafter, adventurer and storyteller who has lived overseas with her husband and pup for 6 years and created a career out of creativity and adventure. Lauren co-founded the Get Messy Art Journal program and now runs Radiant Art Retreats, hosts the podcast How She Creates, teaches online courses for creatives at lauren-likes.com, and is currently redesigning her popular travel art journal which will be available this spring. Lauren’s work explores the intersection of art, travel and good in the world.

To find out how you can incorporate journaling into your next travel adventure, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Lauren took her first creative steps as a child scrapbooking with her mom. This activity sparked in her a love of art and an appreciation of all-things creative. Growing up Lauren knew she would be an artist.

As graduate students facing the challenges of a limited income, Lauren and her husband made an amazing discovery. They did the math and realized that they would save money in the summertime if they got rid of their apartment and traveled instead. They used this time to visit with friends and see the country. A love of travel was ignited, and it became their life plan to see the world.

Throughout these travels, Lauren kept her pen moving. Filling notebooks with insights and reflections on the places she visited felt like a natural thing to do, and before she knew it, Lauren was a self-identified travel journaler.  

Lauren’s lifestyle continues to gift her with travel journaling opportunities. Today she lives on the campus of a university in the United Arab Emirates. With enthusiasm, she describes taking walks and biking in her close-knit community surrounded by desert and just a stone’s throw away from the city of Dubai. With gratitude she acknowledges, “Every day is an adventure.”

When Lauren reflects on what travel has shown her, she acknowledges, “You don’t know how much you don’t know until you know!”  She explains the ways living overseas has opened her mind up wide to people and experiences. “There is no wrong way to do life,” she tells us. Travel reveals the different ways a life can be lived well, and Lauren finds herself excited by the opportunities this mindset makes possible.  

Lauren is an avid journaler who speaks of her practice with contagious enthusiasm. “I love journaling. I love that it has so many levels and facets. This morning I did morning pages. Later I got out my art journal where I sprayed ink and glued pictures. Maybe I’ll add some writing to it.” Lauren uses a variety of journaling methods and embraces opportunities for creative play, experimentation, and variation.

The Benefits of Travel Journaling

The journals Lauren creates yield enormous benefits and enrich her travel life in meaningful ways because travel journaling:

  • facilitates deeper learning and reflection by keeping you present in the moment.
  • cements memories and helps the brain process “newness overload” often triggered by travel.
  • slows you down to help savor each minute.
  • helps replenish energy which in turn enhances the travel experience.

Don’t Forget Your Camera

Photos improve our memory of events and Lauren considers her camera an essential tool. Telling stories with pictures is one of her favorite things to do, and she encourages journalers to take photos. Lots and lots of photos. While traveling, Lauren suggest jotting down a few notes on a phone app that coincide with the pictures you’ve taken. At the end of the day, with very little effort, you’ll have captured the details you want to put into your journal.

Travel Journaling Tools and Tips

When it comes to travel journaling, Lauren’s focus is on simplicity and fun. She cautions journalers not to become overwhelmed by the process.

  • Make a plan. Decide what you will journal about. Keep it simple. You might try something like the top three highlights you enjoyed today.
  • Gather materials. Again, Lauren encourages sticking to the basics. A journal, a pen, and maybe a glue stick or a stapler will get you started. To add a splash of color, Lauren recommends carrying along a small watercolor set or colored pencils.  
  • Establish a set writing time. It might be before bed after a long day of travel. If it’s helpful, set an alarm so you don’t forget.

Once your pen is moving, Lauren suggests a concentrated focus on themes such as gratitude or storytelling that hones in on the highs and lows of the day. Go deep, she encourages. Unearth all of the details. You’ll be so grateful for the memories. Above all else, she reminds us, travel journaling should enhance the trip and not become another checkbox.

Create a Keepsake

Online services make it easier than ever to organize your journals and transform them into keepsakes. Lauren mentions a service called Chatbooks that will compile travel photos on Instagram into one attractive book. Lauren uses this feature often to pull together photos from her own travel adventures.

A Dream Comes True

When spring rolls around, Lauren will see a dream long in the making come to fruition, and we can’t wait to see the results!  Early in her travels, Lauren spent hours preparing for trips by making customized journals full of colorful prompts and paint. Doing this preparation in advance meant all she had to do on the road was get the words down. There was no need to concern herself with layout details she didn’t have time for. Not surprisingly, people noticed these journals and began asking for their own.

Soon, Lauren’s journals will be available in print. Lauren describes her guided journals as “books full of prompts that tickle the artist’s brain and help them express what they see.” Lauren’s goal is to provide a tool that inspires creativity and eliminates overwhelm.

Lauren left us with final thoughts we hope you’ll take to heart. “Take your journal and write about whatever is bubbling up in your heart and mind that day. Write about the most beautiful things, the hardest things, the memories and moments that come together to create this beautiful travel life soup.”  Yum! Doesn’t she make it sound so delicious?

Your Action Plan

If you enjoyed this conversation with Lauren, you’ll find my interview with journal art expert Caylee Grey full of inspiration.

Six Ways to Use Journaling to Access Heart Intelligence, with Sheva Carr

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For over twenty-five years, researchers at the HeartMath Institute have studied stress and emotions’ impact on interactions between the heart and brain. To learn more about their findings, we spoke with Sheva Carr, the architect and director of HeartMath’s HeartMastery Program. Sheva helps others access heart intelligence and peace of mind in order to receive the benefits of the heart’s impact on relationships, health, performance, creativity, and the building of a global culture of peace.  

Sheva is the founding CEO of Heart Ambassadors, a capacity building organization for world servers and an official training company for the Federation of International Civil Servants (FICSA). She is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Board Certified Polarity Therapist and Registered Polarity Educator, and expert HeartMath trainer and coach. She’s authored Being the Source of Love and Where the Sky Meets the Earth, and her writing appears in various journals including Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, and UN Special. Sheva trains and mentors medical staff at distinguished medical centers across the US, including Mayo Clinic, Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Cedars Sinai, Kaiser Permanente and founded the first HeartMath hospital patient education program with Cleveland Clinic’s Heart-Brain Institute at North Hawaii Community Hospital.

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

Finding HeartMath

While still a teenager, Sheva worked overseas as an aid worker helping street children orphaned by Nicaragua’s civil war. Returning to the United States, she lived with subsequent post traumatic stress disorder for eight years.

In medical school, Sheva met the man who would later become her husband. As fate would have it, he invited her to spend the summer at HeartMath where she took a job transcribing their scientists’ research. She explains, “At HeartMath I discovered that all of the symptoms I was experiencing were actually related to stress.” Motivated by the discoveries she was making, Sheva applied the tools she learned at HeartMath to her own life and reports that in two weeks of practicing these techniques, her symptoms were resolved.

For 24 years, along with her colleagues, Sheva has been leading HeartMath healthcare initiatives around the country, collaborating with medical institutions to help integrate skills for emotional self-regulation that provide capacity for the health and wellness and self-regulation of all of the physiological systems.

Heart Intelligence: What is it and why does is matter?

30 years ago, Dr. J. Andrew Armour introduced the term “heart brain.” He discovered a brain in the heart containing its own intrinsic nervous system, proteins, neurotransmitters, and support cells. As he investigated further, Dr. Armour determined that this brain had a different quality of intelligence than the brain in the cerebrum.

To illustrate this unique form of intelligence, Sheva refers to a phenomena described in Joseph Chilton Pearce’s book, The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint of the Human Spirit. If we took your brain cells and those of your cat, mother, and the president and put them all together in a petri dish, they would send out dendrites in an attempt to connect. Ultimately, their efforts would fail and those dendrites would implode and die. In contrast, if heart cells from a variety of individuals are brought together this same way, they begin to beat together as one heart in what is called syncytium. 

From this, Sheva concludes that metaphorically speaking, we could say there’s one universal heartbeat. When we learn to eavesdrop on the wisdom of the heart brain, she explains, it brings us to a bigger sense of self in the context of a larger whole.  In other words, the heart brain moves us from considering  “me” toward contemplation of the “we.”

 Pointing excitedly to younger generations, Sheva notes that their engagement with issues related to the environment and social justice is evidence of heart intelligence and adds that when we access this resource, we become more effective world servers and more fulfilled human beings.

The Impact of Heart Intelligence on the Body’s Systems

In 1995, HeartMath researchers proved the heart’s unique power and influence over the rest of the body’s systems. Scientists discovered that when we are upset, the heart rhythm becomes chaotic and incoherent. These findings were published in The American Journal of Cardiology.

Sheva explains that when we experience strong emotions, it’s as though we are looking through a shaky camera lens. In contrast, when we feel gratitude and  peace, a unique order and rhythm is established in the heart which helps to focus the lens of our perception of life so that we see through a clear filter.

Physiologically we are sending a signal to the vagus nerve which alters which part of our brain is perceiving and responding to our circumstances. When we experience stress and that rhythm grows chaotic, we enter survival mode. We begin to view life through the part of brain that is intent on basic survival. From that uni-dimensional vantage point, the brain looks at each situation as one which leads to eating, being eaten, or procreation.  

Heart intelligence provides access to more regions of the brain and lifts us out of  the black and white of survival mode and, as Sheva describes it, into the technicolor of multidimensionality. Heart brain access gives us more contact with our cerebral brain and helps it eavesdrop on intuition and instinct. Essentially, the heart synthesizes and amplifies all forms of intelligence.

6 Ways Journaling Helps Anchor Heart Intelligence

Sheva believes that journaling is an essential component in working to help the brain tune into heart intuition and intelligence. Based on HeartMath principals, she shares six ways to grow your heart intelligence with help from your journal.

  1. Tune in. When a difficult issue arises, note your body’s physical response. Sheva is aware that when her body tenses she is looking through the peephole of survival mode and acting from a place with limited information. Observe thought patterns as well as the behaviors of the people around you. In response, write your stream of consciousness down. Journaling about these thoughts and feelings establishes objective space between you and the triggering situation so that you become aware of inner incoherence.
  2. Establish a flow of gratitude. Begin by focusing attention on your heart region. Put your hand there and imagine the breath is flowing in and out of the chest area. If it’s helpful, count to five as you breathe in, and count to five as you breathe out. This practice will help take the nervous system out of survival mode. As you continue heart-focused breathing, activate a heart-feeling. Breathe gratitude for what you can be thankful for and compassion for those things you can’t.  Write down the stream of consciousness that comes forward. Writing about gratitude creates the smooth heart rhythm that opens up our higher intelligence. Gratitude and compassion open up the perceptual centers of the brain and heart.
  3. Ground the guidance. From this more objective place you’ve established, you are prepared to use intuitive intelligence to respond to the situation in play.  Write down your heart’s guidance to anchor it and return to later.
  4. Write a transformational love letter. We won’t always be able to inspire others to make the changes we’d hope to see. Writing a transformational love letter to that individual’s higher self is a safe and often satisfying way to convey the impact they are having on your life. This act can help release stress and tension.
  5. Heart-based planning. Mind mapping is a non-linear way of journaling that can be used to prepare for fun events or creative projects. For example, imagine you are planning a party. Draw a circle. Perhaps music appears in the center of your circle. Gifts and activities are added to the map. Next, focus on the heart.  Breathe the feelings you want yourself and guests to experience at the party. Make a second planning map with a heart in the middle and ask your heart for guidance. What elements do you want to bring to the party? Write these ideas down.
  6. Heart start to the day.  Sheva starts each day with a practice she describes as “energy accounting” in which she looks at the assets and deficits from the day before. Writing down which experiences provide energy and which ones drain it, can help you align your day with enriching ideas and actions.

Your Action Plan

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



How Journaling Can Help You Get in Shape, with Michale Hartte

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We are beyond excited to tell you about our interview with wellness coach Michale Hartte, because we know her ideas can help. Whether you struggle with achieving wellness goals or you’re just looking for extra inspiration to maximize your health regimen, you won’t want to miss this conversation. Discover the ways journaling can help you achieve optimal health and fitness.  

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

Michale has 20 years of experience helping people get fit and healthy through her courses and 1 on 1 consulting. She is also the author of The Fit ‘n Healthy Plan and writes for numerous magazines. Michale’s passion to help others stems from experience reversing her own cases of amenorrhea and osteoporosis through diet, detox, and daily routine. 

Michale credits journaling with saving her life. As a child, she struggled hard to fit in. Low self-esteem and a desire to feel accepted led Michale toward unhealthy behaviors like smoking and anorexia.

Years later, Michale began to seek answers. “I sat down and asked, ‘Who am I, and why am I here?’  I journaled about it, got it out of my body, and I started to see my story in my journal. It made sense, and  I realized exactly why I’m here.”

Since this life-changing discovery, Michale has established healthy habits, a strong mind and body, and now she helps others do the same. She attributes much of her success to journaling.

Michale’s Top Three Tips to Help Slim Down and Get Stronger

1. Have confidence in the right plan. There are so many diets to choose from. The goal is to select a plan that will work for the long-term and that emphasizes health not merely weight loss.

2. Be consistent. Establishing a morning time journaling routine helps maintain a schedule that ensures you reach your goals. Michale suggests starting each day by recording important key indicators in your journal which include tracking:

  • sleep patterns
  • energy levels
  • bowel movements
  • menstrual cycles if you are a woman

This kind of record keeping shines a light on important details you can use to track your body’s response to diet, exercise, and particular sleep routines. You’ll see where and when you’re  falling off track. In these ways, journaling helps us stay accountable.  

3. Find your courage and glean support. You don’t have to do this alone. Seek out or cultivate a community void of judgement in which you are loved and your health goals are supported.

The Value of a Good Night’s Rest

Each of us has different health goals. In Michale’s case, she’s focused on optimizing her brain and body health in order to ensure a long and productive life. To achieve this goal, she commits to getting enough sleep. As an explanation, she recommends everyone read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T. S. Wiley and Bent Formby.

Wiley and Formby show that getting the required amount of sleep supports healthy weight loss because it curves our cravings for unhealthy carbs. Among other benefits of a good night’s rest cited in this book are:

  • reversal of type 2 diabetes
  •  relief from depression
  • normalized blood pressure
  • reduced risk of heart disease and cancer

All of this sounds great, but sometimes a good night’s sleep feels elusive. Michaele has an answer for that. She explains that preparation for a good night’s sleep starts in the morning.

Michale credits a consistent morning routine with her healthy sleep hygiene. In the morning, she puts a kettle on for beloved black organic coffee—chock full  of antioxidants to support healthy aging. For this part of her day, Michale remains in a fasted state, giving her body time to “clean up old worn out cells.” She does an oil pull with coconut oil while waiting for coffee. From there, along with her coffee, Michale drinks one liter of water within 2 hours of waking. This helps turn the brain on and gets her feeling energized. From there she enters her office where she takes out her journal and records key markers (sleep bowel movements, menstruation, and energy) from the day before. Michale reviews the information and makes connections between how her body is performing vs the food, exercise, and level of activity she engaged with the day before.

This journaling routine, Michale notes, helps people be in alignment with their goals.

Healthy Meal Plans That Squash Inflammation and Lower Blood Sugar

Michale doesn’t track the specific foods she eats and never records calorie counts. She discourages her clients from doing so as well. Insead, she offers tips to ensure your body gets exactly the nutrients it needs to perform well.

  1. Choose your protein source. Protein is a part of every cell in the body and it’s a fundamental part of a healthy diet.
  2. Eat healthy carbs. We need fiber found in colorful veggies to produce regular bowel movements that remove toxins from the body.
  3. Consume healthy fats for their anti-inflammatory effects.
  4. Prebiotic foods like beets and dandelion greens and probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt encourage healthy gut bacteria.
  5. Digest minerals to help take pain away. Sea vegetables full of trace minerals such as nori, dulse, and kelp are good sources. Drink a cup of bone broth each day.
  6. Season your food with herbs and spices—parsley is a diuretic for the kidneys, oregano bolsters the immune system, and cilantro is a heavy metal detoxer.

 If all this talk of food is making your mouth water, you can download Michale’s cookbook, Fit ‘N Healthy Plan, on her website.

Your Action Plan

Michale’s final words of wisdom came to her via Bob Proctors and his staff. She teaches, “See what you want. Be it how you want it and become it now.”

We would also add, love who you are right now today even before you lose the weight.

Journaling.com’s Top 10 Favorite Tools for Creativity (2020)

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Connect with Your Creative Self

Journaling clears the mind for bold, colorful thinking. Your journal can help you actualize your most creative self.

Gather your paintbrushes, easel, writing paper, and boldest intentions as you explore Journaling.com’s Top Ten Tools for Creativity. Infuse your days with inspiration, and don’t be afraid to color outside of the lines!

A special thanks to Final Draft for sponsoring this list. Final Draft is the industry standard in screenwriting software. Used by such industry giants as J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and Aaron Sorkin, Final Draft automatically paginates and formats your script to industry standards, allowing writers to focus on what they do best – writing scripts.

Journaling.com’s Top 10 Resources for Creativity

1. The How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci Workbook by Michael J. Gelb

For over a decade, this guided workbook has been much loved by members of the journaling community. We know authors and artists who work with this book first thing each morning to expand their thinking and to get their creative juices flowing. Designed as a companion to the best-selling book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, this workbook can stand on its own. Guided questions and a variety of innovative exercises help cultivate creativity and curiosity. As a bonus, flip the book over, start from the back, and it becomes a blank journal where you can reflect on the the ideas this book inspires.

2. The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal by Julia Cameron

Many peoples’ first experience journaling involves a daily practice described as “Morning Pages.” We believe this method is among the most powerful ways to discover, recover, and retain creativity. The creator of this beloved practice, Julia Cameron, explains that the technique entails writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness every morning. She describes this writing as “spiritual windshield wipers.” Morning pages declutter the mind, heart, and soul. Although any notebook or journal can be used, we think this companion journal is the perfect place to write morning pages because it includes inspiring quotations from Cameron’s groundbreaking work, The Artist’s Way and also provides 12 weeks of lined pages to encourage follow-through.



3. Start Where You Are: A Journal For Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel

This uplifting resource is among the most aesthetically pleasing of all the journals we’ve seen. Its watercolor artwork is vibrant and full of cheer and warmly invites readers to explore page after page. The author writes honestly in her introduction, “It took me a long time to become comfortable with where I am.” Feelings of heart, empathy, and kindness shine through each of Patel’s pages. This journal may be the very tool you need to help tap into your creative self with confidence and joy.


4. The WordSmith Deck: 150 Writing Prompt Cards

Use these writing prompt cards to conquer the blank page! Whether you are journaling to unleash creativity or to improve your writing skills, WordSmith prompt cards can move you closer toward your goal. We like these smart cards because they nurture new ideas and keep journaling fresh and engaging.

5. Art Before Breakfast, A Zillion Ways to Be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are by Danny Gregory   

If you’ve ever tried to devote time to creative pursuits, you know how important it is to establish a routine you can stick with. Danny Gregory recognizes this too, and he’s written a book help. He opens with these reminders: “Making art will make you saner and happier. You don’t need to think you have “talent” to make beautiful art. Making art can fit into the craziest, busiest, most hectic and out of control live—even yours. And it will take just a few minutes each day.” The same can be said about journaling! This book made it onto our list because it’s chock-full of project ideas that can enhance any art journaling practice. And we are certain you’ll appreciate Gregory’s humorous, empowering tone.

6. Art Journaling 101 at the Mindful Art Studio

We adore Amy’s Maricle’s creative spirit, and we admire the many ways she inspires her students at Mindful Art Studio. So much so, we invited Amy to join Journaling.com’s advisory board! Amy’s online course, Art Journaling 101, takes you through a series of creative exercises to help you create a stress-free, intuitive art journaling practice. To hear more about Amy’s work and the ways she supports the journaling community, listen to our interview.


7. Get Messy Art: An Online Art Journaling Community

When we chatted with Fairy Art Mother, Caylee Grey, on our podcast, we were in awe of the dynamic online art community she’s created.  Caylee works tirelessly to empower artists in her “Get Messy” community to let go of perfectionism. Along with her creative team, Caylee provides weekly art and journaling prompts, actionable inspiration, nurturing support, and art techniques. To learn more, visit her website.

8. Story by Story: 15 Projects to Write Your Family Legacy by Brenda Hudson

What we love about this book is how easy Brenda makes it to organize and write a family memoir. This book is the definitive guide to compiling memorable family sayings, self-portraits, character sketches, visual diaries, mementos, and wisdom gleaned in the midst of your loved ones’ company. Learn creative ways to put your keepsakes into meaningful order. Highly recommended.

9. Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

We had amazing amounts of fun digging into the pages of Keri Smith’s best-selling guided journal. This author’s voice radiates humor and insight as she gives permission to throw perfectionist tendencies out the window. You’ll feel the stress melt away as Smith encourages you to crack your journal’s spine, use colors normally avoided and get the pages dirty! We promise this isn’t like any other journaling book you’ve seen.

10. Azure Dreams Journal (Diary, Notebook) by Peter Pauper Press

The place that holds your most inspired ideas, wildest dreams, and deepest reflections should enhance your writing experience. Peter Pauper Press’s visually stunning blank journals feel good to write in. Artful covers, high quality bindings, and thick-lined paper means these journals do your words justice.

Journaling.com’s Top 10 Favorite Tools for Mindfulness (2020)

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Journaling helps us slow down and reflect on our lives with intention. If you aspire to glean the most meaning from your days, look over our Top 10 Tools for Mindfulness. We trust there’s something for everyone in this resource list. Dig deep and see what you discover!

Our Top 10 Favorite Tools for Mindfulness

1. Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice by Michelle Obama

If you’ve read Michelle Obama’s inspiring memoir Becoming, you were probably as excited as us to learn she’s come out with this companion resource. Obama’s guided journal features over 150 questions and quotes to help get your pen moving. The primary message this journal delivers is that everyone’s story matters. The prompts in this book will help you unfold and understand your special story.

2. The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life You Can Thrive In by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

We wholeheartedly recommend this resource for people at all stages of life. The authors of this workbook show you how to live life on the deepest level and to spend your time engaged with activities that give your life the most meaning. Its exercises are designed to help engage with life’s big questions, to establish and pursue goals, and to track and measure progress. A must read!

3. Dream journal: Notebook for your dreams and their interpretations – by Keep Track Book

If we hold on to them long enough, our dreams inform us in meaningful ways. But often, we wake up, have that first sip of coffee, get ready for the day, and before we know it our dreams have faded. If you’d like a way to track your dreams, this journal is a gem to keep on your nightstand. The journal’s creator recommends giving each entry a title and recording the date. A lined page follows where details of the dream are recorded. Finally, a series of questions are provided to get you thinking about the significance of each detail of your dream.

4. The Journal Writer’s Handbook by Juliet Platt

Author Juliet Platt believes that “picking up a pen and making meaningful words appear on a page is the first step in taking a more reflective and considered approach to our existence.”  Platt writes eloquently about the relationship a writer can have with their journal. She provides straightforward exercises to help maximize the benefits of journaling and shares the names of additional resources to help you move  further along on your writing adventure. This book is unique and powerful reading.

5. A Buddhist Journal: Guided Practices for Writers and Meditators by Beth Jacobs

We had the chance to chat with Beth on our podcast, The Power of Journaling, and discovered she speaks with the same eloquence that infuses her writing. We can’t recommend Beth’s work highly enough. This guided journal invites its readers to combine personal writing with meditation. We think this pairing makes perfect sense. Beth, an expert in psychology and Buddhist meditation, is the perfect teacher to model how to weave these important practices together. Beth invites playful experimentation and introduces novel techniques.

6. Self-Awareness Journal by Meredith Lynch 

Time spent in self-reflection observing thoughts, actions, and emotions leads to self-wisdom. Without self-wisdom we are likely to repeat mistakes, get stuck in ruts, and miss opportunities. This book provides a space to nourish a consistent journaling practice where you can track and reflect on important moments in your day in order to better nourish your own self-understanding.

7. Meditation Sidekick Journal by Habit Nest

Every guided journal from Habit Nest is superior quality and we were glad to see that they have turned their attention to meditation. Habit Nest’s Meditation Sidekick Journal is a meditation book, a 90-day mindfulness journal, a happiness planner and a guided self-discovery gratitude journal for beginners. This guided journal will help you integrate meditation with your journaling practice and help you find the motivation you need to make this habit stick.  Highly recommended. 


8. Joy Journal: Make Joy a Daily Experience by Rebecca Kochenderfer 

Joy Journal, written by Journaling.com’s founder, is a 12-week guided journal that helps you practice a new positive mindset each week. Rebecca encourages you to treat the book as a series of weekly joy experiments. Find out what happens when you  “say yes more often,” “catch them being good,” “focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want,” and create days that are “fun, productive, and filled with delightful surprises.” 

9.The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing world by the Dalai Llama, Desmond Tutu, et al.

In our experience, the more we journal the more curious and alive to the wonders of the world we become. The Book of Joy will grow your feelings of wonder as you read about a week-long visit between Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. During this time together, the friends explored a single question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? The Book of Joy is a reflection on the time they shared together exploring the Nature of True Joy and confronting the Obstacles of Joy. The stories shared in this important book will move you and might provide new ideas to explore in your journaling practice.

10. The Seeing My Time® Adult Planner and the The Set Up Success™ Student Planner by Marydee Sklar

We know we’re cheating a bit by listing two products instead of one, but we couldn’t resist! Both of these unique calendar systems were created by an executive function expert and are designed to build key skills like time-management, planning, and organization.

Designed to support a brain that is “time-blind,” we love the easy-tear pads with forms to support your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule. Clear vinyl pockets keep goals visual and achievable. Both planners come with access to helpful support videos. Those with working memory issues, ADHD, executive function deficits, concussive brain injuries and aging brains will find these systems particularly effective.

Online classes designed to support executive functions at school, work, and at home are also available at their website, www.executivefunctioningsuccess.com.









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.

Journaling.com’s Top 10 Favorite Tools for Physical Health (2020)

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Achieve Your Health & Wellness Goals

From stress reduction and improved immune function to better sleep and blood pressure regulation, journaling’s impact on health is well-proven. We’ve noticed a growing number of guided journals and other tools designed to help achieve health and wellness goals, and we’ve listed our favorites here. So grab an apple and a tall glass of water, and check out Journaling.com’s Top Ten Tools for Physical Health!

Our Top 10 Favorite Tools for Physical Health

1. Green Smoothie Habit by Jane Haddad

You may wonder what smoothies have to do with journaling. Trust us; if you’re looking for a surefire way to get quick, nutritious foods into your diet, this is a book you don’t want to miss. We love this kind-spirited, easy to use food program because it offers so much more than just recipes; it’s also a program that combines weekly menu plans, shopping lists, recipes, and journaling opportunities so that green smoothie drinking becomes part of your regular routine. We wish more recipe books and diet programs included journaling. Big dietary changes bring up intense feelings. Addressing these emotions goes a long way in ensuring your efforts are successful. 

2. Weight Loss Affirmations: Guided Journal for Women by Felicity Jenkins

Affirmations sprinkled throughout this guided journal’s pages remind us to tune in and nourish both our bodies and our spirits. This book, a celebration of self-love and self-care, provides guided journaling prompts like, “Do I invest in my own health and well-being?” which help you dig deep to understand thoughts, processes, and habits.

3. The Fat Loss and Nutrition Sidekick Journal by Habit Nest

The goal of this book and guided journal is to help develop positive daily eating habits. It starts by helping you understand your why – why do you want to change dietary behaviors? This book’s solid information about nutrition, along with its daily motivational entries, can help you stay on track. What we especially appreciate about this resource is its versatility. If you are excited to experiment with a new way of eating – Keto, Paleo, Whole30, or any other– this journal can help you develop a plan that’s realistic, rewarding, and successful. This journal takes only five minutes of your day and yet, as the author points out, “every single day in your life where you start your morning with focus, intent, and energy will automatically be a better day of your life.”  We totally agree!

4. The Weightlifting Gym Buddy Journal by Habit Nest

Habit Nest has a journal to suit your every need, and in our opinion, this resource is one of their best! It’s evident that a great deal of work and care went into this training journal. It includes a 12-week workout and exercise journal/log and a fitness planner that begins with a crash course on nutrition and weightlifting; it ends with special content showing how to create accountability systems that keep you going. This journal program comes with video guides and detailed exercise descriptions. It’s designed for on-your-own workouts, but we find it’s also a great recording tool for those working out with a personal trainer. We particularly appreciate the highly motivating daily challenges included. 

5. Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live by Mary L. McCarthy

20 years ago, Mari McCarthy lost feeling and function in the right side of her body; these symptoms led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. In response, Mari used journaling techniques to regain control of her health, and the results were exciting. As she began looking at research studies and interviewing others who were also experiencing profound physical benefits from journaling, she made a decision to share the power of journaling with others. We had the pleasure of talking with Mari on our podcast and found her stories and knowledge tremendously moving. If you or someone you know is experiencing health challenges, this book is a powerful tool to help unlock the healing benefits of journaling.

6. Morning Yoga RITUAL: Yoga | Journaling | Meditation: Six Unique 30-Minute Routines Brett Larkin DVD

Maybe you’ve seen Brett Larkin’s popular yoga videos on YouTube. Now you can combine her yoga with your meditation and journaling practice in the comfort of your own home. Larkin understands the powerful relationship between physical and emotional health, and this workout speaks to both. Each routine is appropriate for people with varying skillsets and she provides tips for those wishing to level up.

7. Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain by James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth

Dr. James Pennebaker is a pioneer in the field of expressive writing and was a recent guest on our podcast. Along with Joshua M. Smyth, a professor of biobehavioral health and medicine, he’s written one of our favorite books about the benefits of therapeutic writing. Opening Up by Writing It Down explains the sociological and scientific research that proves the healing power of expressive writing. Pennebaker and Smyth’s work is a fascinating and affirming read. A great place to start.

8. Happy & Free: A Food Journal and Activity Log to Track Your Eating and Exercise for Optimal Weight Loss (90-Day Diet & Fitness Tracker) by Happy Books Hub

Straight forward, encouraging, and easy to use, this food journal makes tracking your diet and exercise choices a seamless part of the day. The research shows that healthy eating is well supported by a journaling routine that helps to recognize patterns and provides accountability. This journal provides space to log water intake, sleep time, cravings, and responses. There’s room to reflect on progress and to contemplate areas of growth. We love this book because of its no-nonsense, comprehensive and supportive approach.

9. HEALTHMINDER Personal Wellness Journal by F. E. Wilkin

If you live with chronic pain and need a way to track your progress and health setbacks, this journal might be the very tool you need. HEALTHMINDER helps track medications, vitamins, vital signs, pain, sleep habits, daily exercise, and meals. Honestly, this journal’s creator has thought of everything–right down to including pictures of the human body that can be marked to show where you are experiencing pain or other symptoms. Tracking the details is an efficient way to help connect the dots and understand the key factors impacting your health.

10. Journaling the Chakras: Eight Weeks to Self-Discovery by Amber Lea Starfire

This book made it onto our list because we believe that physical health and emotional awareness go hand in hand. Self-awareness and meaningful self-expression can alleviate some physical symptoms and also help achieve the kind of balance that’s required to live more peacefully with long-term health issues. Whether you are new to journaling or have a long-established writing practice, there’s something in this book for you. The powerful journaling prompts and guided activities found here will help you navigate a wide range of life’s circumstances. This is the sort of book you’ll want to keep handy on your bookshelf to refer to often.

Discover Legacy Journaling, with Merle Saferstein

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Our guest today, legacy journaler Merle Saferstein, discusses writing techniques to help you extract your journals’ deepest insights and share them with the younger people in your life. We think you’ll find the process she describes inspires an experience as meaningful for the writer as it is for the recipient.

Merle was the director of educational outreach at a Holocaust Center in South Florida for twenty-six years. When she retired in 2011, she developed and currently teaches a class entitled Living and Leaving Your Legacy®. She lectures on the subject of legacy nationally and internationally, trains hospice staffs on how to do sacred legacy work, and works with individual patients at the end of their lives. She is the author of Room 732, is a council member of the International Association of Journal Writers, and is a contributor to the Huffington Post and Thrive Global.

Merle provides tools to craft an enduring gift for your loved ones. She also shines new light on how you’ll think about your own legacy. Great stuff here! To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Defining Legacy

Merle is a vibrant, engaging speaker. She’s got the spirit of a storyteller and understands the long lasting impact one’s stories have on future generations.

Legacy journal writing is defined by Merle as “words written specifically for the benefit of others.” This form of writing has benefits not only for the recipient but for the writer as well.

The Benefits of Legacy Journaling

A life-long journaler, when Merle began her own legacy work she was struck by all that she’d processed through the act of writing. “I consider myself a very positive person, but when I sat down to work on this project and reread all of my notes, I realized I’d wrestled with a lot of tough feelings and emotions, and my journal was the place where it all went. It was through writing things down that I was able to maintain the positivity I associate with myself.”

Merle points to the ways legacy journaling enriches our lives by providing:

  • an opportunity to impart wisdom.
  • new insight into a specific moment in time.
  • deeper understanding of important people in our lives.
  • historical documentation that can be passed on to future generations.
  • preservation of important times and places.
  • clarification of values and beliefs.

Legacy journaling enables Merle to maintain meaningful records for her grandchildren to hold onto. Since their births, Merle’s journaled about their shared moments. She also writes about specific subjects she wants her grandchildren to consider, and periodically offers a life lesson for reflection. Merle has not yet decided how or when these journals will be presented to her grandchildren, but she’s confident in the connection she knows they will foster.

In addition to this gift for her grandchildren, Merle has taken on an ambitious and significant legacy project that grabbed our attention. Merle has filled over 360 journals in her decades of journal writing. That’s right, 360! Years ago, she decided to glean highlights from these pages to put into a format she could share with her family.

Marriage was the first topic Merle dove into. The timing proved perfect as she’d just been asked to officiate her great niece’s wedding.  Merle’s own marriage of 52 years, and all she’d written about it, proved to be the perfect primary source. The entire process entailed boiling 100 pages down to just 12. “I needed to excavate those ideas most worthy of sharing,” she explains.

One pearl of wisdom Merle chose to include was her take on the old adage she’d been told years ago. Never go to bed angry. 45 years later, Merle recognizes that emotions run deep and that sometimes we need time to sift through strong feelings in order to make meaningful peace with them.


The wisdom that comes with living is a gift to share.

Merle Saferstein

Project Ideas

In workshops, Merle guides students through the different forms their legacy journaling can take.

  • Legacy love letters. So often our hearts and minds fill with thoughts we forget to express. Merle suggests marking graduations, birthdays, and other special days with a legacy love letter. Here important sentiments, wishes, and values can be poured onto the page in a memorable way.
  • Ethical wills. Those wishing to pass on life’s lessons and dreams for loved ones may compose this spiritual document meant to be shared after the writer has passed. The ethical will does not contain directives and is intended to read as a hopeful, positive piece of writing that recipients can hold onto.
  • Memoir, autobiography, scrapbooks, and oral history are other popular forms Merle encourages.

Legacy Journaling Tips

When it comes to process, there’s not one “right way” to approach legacy journaling, but Merle shares her own methods to help you get started.  

To begin extracting gems from her personal journals, Merle broke the project down into manageable stages she shares below.

  • Identify your intended audience. Deciding who this writing is for helps you hone in on what material is especially relevant.
  • Read. Spend some quality time looking over your journals. Reread pages carefully and immerse yourself thoroughly. Give new awareness a chance to spring up and present itself.
  • Identify the themes you want to share. Use stick-it notes to mark ideas and topics.
  • Organize the text.  In Merle’s case, she identified 70 topics she wanted to cover. She made files for each on her computer and put relevant text into corresponding files.
  • Edit and synthesize the text. Keep on refining until you have the product you want to pass on to family members.

Merle summed up our discussion with words that truly resonate.  “The wisdom that comes with living is a gift to share.”

Your Action Plan

  • Learn more about Merle’s work. Visit her online.
  •  Listen to my conversation with Merle.
  • Get started on your own legacy journaling project today. It’s never too early to start.

If you’ve enjoyed this conversation, you might also appreciate our interview with Brenda Hudson, author of Story by Story: 15 Projects to Write Your Family Legacy.