Journal to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity, with Shelby Abrahamsen

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

We recently enjoyed a conversation with Shelby Abrahamsen, founder of the life style blog, Little Coffee Fox. Shelby is a young entrepreneur with a talent for art and for inspiring others. We talked recently about the ways journaling has helped her find her way in the world, create a meaningful career, and increase productivity. It’s a joy to welcome Shelby to Journaling.com 

Shelby is a 20-something who has always struggled with productivity. After years of struggling with goal setting, time management, and productivity, she finally sought out a solution. She figured out a way to use her own creativity and hobbies to whip her life into shape with the help of a bullet journal, and it completely changed her life. Now, she’s a full-time lifestyle blogger who focuses on helping others manage their time, explore their passions, and build the lives they want to lead.

To listen to the audio podcast, click on the play button below. And continue reading to discover the highlights from that interview.

Shelby began blogging after college. When she started, she never dreamed she’d turn this pastime into a career, but today she works full time, along with her husband, creating content for her dynamic website, Little Coffee Fox.

Writing about a wide range of subjects, Shelby especially enjoys sharing new approaches to organization and regularly offers readers ideas to help them set and achieve their goals.

At the moment, Shelby describes herself as being in a highly creative space. She is passionate about water coloring and brush lettering, which she writes about on her blog. She adds, “I have time to do these fun things because of the organization I did back in January.”

Growth, not perfection, is the goal.

Shelby Abrahamsen

To help get organized and to keep herself on track, Shelby’s preferred method of choice is bullet journaling.

After graduation from college, bullet journaling helped Shelby navigate challenging new waters. “Bullet journaling was like a life boat for me. When I got out of college I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was floating with no direction or ambition.” Shelby found herself in professional limbo as she waited for her husband to finish law school. “I was struggling and couldn’t ignite the passion to do the things I loved.”

Always drawn to paper, pens, paints, and highlighters, Shelby began to experiment with these tools. Along the way, she discovered bullet journaling. This popular method helped Shelby organize her time and her thoughts while it also provided her with an outlet for creativity.

Through this process Shelby learned that planning and establishing goals didn’t have to be an arduous chore. In fact, she found these acts were engaging and exciting. A single positive journaling experience led to another and another which helped Shelby build better habits and ultimately, she tells us, become a better version of herself.

Shelby often hears from readers who struggle to organize their lives doing the “digital thing.”  This makes sense to her. While Shelby acknowledges that digital tracking systems are fine task management tools for many, she says it’s not a method that works for everyone. Shelby cites the research that shows people retain more information when they engage with the physical act of writing words down. For this reason, journaling is a regularly scheduled part of her self-care routine and a practice she encourages her readers to cultivate.

Shelby is passionate about the use of  Morning Pages, a method developed and described in Julia Cameron’s ground breaking book, “The Artist’s Way.’ Cameron’s method has the journaler wake up in the morning and  immediately write, by hand, three pages of  unedited stream of consciousness. Shelby appreciates Cameron’s emphasis on removing anxiety and self-censorship from the process and finds the fact that these pages are completely private and quite liberating. “Morning Pages have played a huge role in my growth,” Shelby told us. “I discovered Morning Pages at the same time as bullet journaling. I’ve tried a lot of different things, but these were the methods that stuck.”

Shelby enjoys experimenting with materials and this shows in the colorful, creative results of her work. For journaling, her favorite notebook is the Leuchtturm1917

“This one is handy when it comes to bullet journaling because it has page numbers which help you keep perspective on where you are at.  I’ve tried others, but this is the one I use again and again.”

Along with helping Shelby organize ideas and grow her productivity, bullet journaling reconnected her with her love of art and proclivity toward creativity. “I had a revelation around the time I discovered journaling. I realized it’s not about whether you make money, it’s about how the work you do makes you feel.”

Partly through journaling, Shelby recognized that although the artist’s life is filled with challenges, it’s what fulfills her, and she became determined to organize her days in order to prioritize her craft.

Shelby ended our discussion with wise words of advice. “Don’t aim for perfection. Create something and then move on.”

When people strive for perfection, she notices they get overwhelmed and eventually stuck.  Shelby describes how this tendency has even shown up in the ways people bullet journal. “Many people have written to me to tell me they are terrified of ruining their journals, and so they never start.” Shelby inspires people to shift their perspective on perfection. “Growth, not perfection, is the goal,” she reminds us. 

Your Action Plan

Ideas and Insights from the Creator of the Bullet Journal, with Ryder Carroll

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Ryder Carroll’s bestselling book The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future has transformed the journaling landscape. Ryder’s innovative approach to productivity and mindfulness, through a method he calls Bullet Journaling, has contributed significantly to the rising number of people journaling today. He’s been featured by the New York Times, LA Times, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Vogue, Bloomberg, and others. If you aren’t already familiar with Ryder’s groundbreaking work, you are in for a treat. It is a huge pleasure to welcome this visionary thinker to Journaling.com.

You can listen to his interview by pressing the play button below, or continue on to read the highlights of our conversation.

The Early Beginning

Ryder describes Bullet Journaling as “a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” Interestingly, when Ryder set out to develop this system, mindfulness was not foremost on his mind. Growing up with a diagnosis of ADD, Ryder often struggled to keep up with peers. This challenge eventually inspired him to design a productivity system to assist with becoming more efficient and better organized.

The methods Ryder developed helped him attain his professional goals. But despite numerous work-place achievements, Ryder recognized his accomplishments weren’t yielding personal fulfillment. “I realized a lot of my goals were appropriated from the world around me—namely peers and media. I never asked myself what I wanted or what was important in my life.”

A New Direction

Ryder returned to the productivity tools he’d developed and began to use them for inward self-reflection. Bullet Journaling, he discovered, not only helped increase productivity, it also provided a foundation for rigorous self-examination. And that, he tells me, is when things got interesting!

The words we write down are experiences waiting to be born.

Ryder Carroll

A New Approach to Task Lists

Ryder observes, “We live in a time when productivity is worshipped.” Indeed, we oftentimes equate a mile-long to-do list with our level of significance in the universe.

As our to-do lists grow, so too does our anxiety. This insight led Ryder to ask, what if the task- list were to become part of an “existential” exploration that assesses the quality of experiences that fill our days?

Today Ryder helps others contemplate their task lists in order to maximize their time spent tending to activities that provide fulfillment and meaning. He explains to his readers, “I can’t tell you what will make your life better, but from my own experiences, I can share ways of thinking that may help you find those answers for yourself.”

Shift Your Perspective

Ryder’s message to journalers is an uplifting one. “The words we write down are experiences waiting to be born not just a list of stuff we have to do. Our task lists are a preview to the life we are building.”

When we think of to-do lists in this new light, it helps us to:

  • ask why we do the tasks we do each day. In turn, we become more selective in choosing which tasks we can commit to.
  • clarify what’s important in our lives on an ongoing, regular basis so that we focus on tasks that have the greatest meaning and value in our lives.
  • reengage with the content we write down in meaningful, deeper ways.

Ryder’s Tips for Reengaging with Content

Your journal is a treasure chest filled with nuggets of wisdom and insight. Reengaging with your journal’s content on a regular basis helps you assimilate deeper understanding.

  1. Keep your journal nearby:  Throughout the day, jot down tasks, ideas, and questions to pursue later on. These notes can be brief. The goal is simply to capture these thoughts on paper in order to preserve them and to free up your mind for other thoughts.
  2. Daily Reflection:  Before bed, review the content you’ve written down that day. Use this moment to observe and clarify how the day’s tasks moved (or didn’t move) your life in a meaningful and desirable direction.
  3. Monthly Migration: Once a month, review the previous week’s journal entries. After some contemplation, rewrite only those words that still have value and purpose in your life. Vital tasks and thoughts will migrate with you into the next month. Leave unnecessary obligations and distractions behind by omitting them from this migration process.

Evaluate Your Task List

We are a culture on auto pilot trying to accomplish an infinite list of tasks. Streamlining task lists so they are an approximation of the life we want to cultivate is vital. To help with this process, Ryder recommends considering these questions:

  • How do the tasks on your list make you feel?
  • Which of these responsibilities do you want more or less of in your life?
  • Of the tasks you completed today, which ones were essential? Which provided you with fulfillment, pleasure, and meaning?
  • What would have happened if one of the tasks on your list was not completed?
  • Which of the items on your list could be eliminated without any negative consequences?

Put your To-Do List into Context

Whether or not an act is vital is sometimes unclear. To help untangle this ambiguity, Ryder uses the example of washing dishes. Theoretically, this task is not vital. Nothing catastrophic will happen if you never wash a dish again. You could simply use paper plates or eat all of your meals in restaurants. But context, Ryder explains, is what matters here. If you live with someone you care about who cooks dinner every evening, in this context, washing dishes is vital because it’s a way for you to reciprocate that person’s act of kindness.  

Seeing a task in its own unique context, Ryder points out, infuses even our most base chores with new meaning.

Why It Matters

In the midst of crisis, people are often compelled to face life’s “big questions.” They ask themselves what in my life matters most to me? What are my regrets? Who do I love, and have I adequately cared for these people? Have my actions made a difference in the world?

Instead of waiting for a moment of crisis to contemplate these issues, checking in regularly, asking these questions frequently, alleviates pressure and makes these inquiries less daunting.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Fancy

We see them on Instagram and YouTube all the time—those gorgeous Bullet Journals that make us swoon. Elaborate interpretations of the bullet journaling method are great fun to look at and can be a tremendous source of inspiration. But Ryder wants to be sure users remember that Bullet Journaling is based on particular methods that do not rely on looking a specific way. “Bullet Journaling is a paper mirror there to reflect your choices, responsibilities, and the things that matter back at you.” How this paper mirror looks is not an important part of its functionality, Ryder reminds us. Instead, he insists, your Bullet Journal should look however you need it to. Every life has unique requirements and so a journal should be customized for the individual it serves.

Your Action Plan

Start your own bullet journal with help from the official Bullet Journal notebook which was designed by Ryder to support your individualized needs.

  • Listen to our entire conversation on our podcast, The Power of Journaling.
  • Make space in your writing life to integrate Daily Reflections and Monthly Migrations.

In talking with Ryder, it became clear that a productivity system is only as effective as the level of mindfulness it inspires. How does mindfulness inform your own productivity? We’d love to hear all about it. Reach out to us on Facebook.

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

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

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

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

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

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

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

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

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

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

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

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

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.

Expressive Writing: A Tool for Transformation, with Dr. James Pennebaker, Ph.D.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

We recently sat down to interview Dr. James Pennebaker, a leading thinker on the impact expressive writing has on our physical and emotional well-being. His message is inspiring, and we are pleased to share it with you.

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

Listen to our interview on Journaling.com’s podcast, The Power of Journaling or read highlights of the interview (below).

Engage with Trauma and Grief in a Bold New Way

Expressive writing is a revolutionary act. It can be done anywhere, takes less time than a cup of coffee, it’s free, and, best of all, scientifically proven to improve how we process issues that compromise one’s quality of life.  

Dr. Pennebaker explains that expressive writing helps us reevaluate sources of grief or trauma. He refers to this process as “life course correction.” 

His suggestions are simple:

  • Set aside fifteen minutes for three or four consecutive days.
  • Use this time to write freely about a single issue that’s causing anxiety or pain.

Can Expressive Writing Help You?

Research shows that people who think, dream, or worry about a specific concern with intense regularity can benefit from expressive writing.

Expressive Writing Improves Health and Ensures a Better Night’s Rest

Since the 1980s, Dr. Pennebaker has measured the outcomes of expressive writing and discovered those who practice this technique may experience:

  • Stronger immune health
  • Better sleep habits
  • Improved mental health
  • Regulated blood pressure
  • Reduction in pain caused by chronic diseases

Expressive Writing Helps Us Make Sense of Unexpected and Unimaginable Events

Why does expressive writing impact us in such meaningful ways? Dr. Pennebaker’s explanation makes perfect sense.

One of the brain’s functions is to help us understand events in our lives. Writing helps construct a narrative to contextualize trauma and organize ideas. Until we do this, the brain replays the same non-constructive thought patterns over and over and we become stuck.

Writing about grief and trauma helps achieve closure which tells the brain its work is done. This closure frees us to move forward.

Expressive writing gives us the opportunity to stand back and reevaluate issues in our lives.

Dr. James Pennebaker

You Can Start Expressive Writing Today

If you would like to incorporate expressive writing into your own journaling practice, Dr. Pennebaker offers the following ideas:

  • Write for fifteen minutes a day for three consecutive days. Give yourself enough time to write uninterrupted.
  • Identify a single issue you wish to address. Thoroughly explore the emotions and thoughts attached to this issue.
  •  Ask yourself why you are experiencing particular emotions. Connect the dots. How does this event relate to relationships or events in your past?

It’s Okay to Experiment and Play

Dr. Pennebaker explains there are different ways to maximize the benefits of expressive writing. Everyone is different. Play with methods and see what works best for you. Here are a few ideas to start with:

  • Write with your non-dominant hand.
  • Finger write (mimic the act of writing without actually putting pen to paper).
  • Alternate between typing on a keyboard and pen and paper. Which do you prefer?

The key, Dr. Pennebaker explains, is to slow down our thinking. This shift in gears helps us to understand feelings in new and productive ways.  

Your Action Plan

For more ideas and information, listen to our interview.

If Dr. Pennebaker’s research has sparked your curiosity, I hope you’ll give expressive writing a try. And please do let us know how it goes. Share your experience with me at rebecca@journaling.com or on our Facebook page.

Journaling: Your Brain on Ink, with Deborah Ross

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Nostrum minus ea suscipit porro alias corporis libero at. Perferendis omnis, veniam nemo beatae vel? Tempora numquam a repellat eaque natus, magnam?

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Heading 2

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Autem ipsum mollitia neque, illum illo excepturi, eum incidunt fugit nostrum est, voluptate eaque minima corporis debitis at, dolores ipsam. Quaerat, dolores.

Deborah Ross is co-author of Your Brain on Ink, A Workbook on Neuroplasticity and the Journal Ladder which is a study of the place where neuroscience crosses paths with expressive writing. Deborah’s knowledge is wide and deep, and it’s with great excitement that we welcome her to Journaling.com.

Deborah is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Journal Therapist, and faculty member at the Center for Journal Therapy’s Therapeutic Writing Institute. At the end of 2015, she left the world of private practice psychotherapy to focus on teaching workshops, hosting writing groups and offering private instruction in journaling/expressive writing in the Washington DC metro area. She describes this new season of life as “refiring” rather than retiring. Deborah completed her studies in Interpersonal Neurobiology through Dr. Dan Siegel’s Mindsight Institute and incorporates those learnings into her work as they are hopeful, promote resilience, and can help us live a more integrated life. In addition, she offers a year-long meditation program and teaches in health care settings including those that serve cancer patients and people with brain injuries.

To learn more about Deborah’s work, listen to her interview on The Power of Journaling or read below to see highlights from our conversation.

What the Journaling Research Tells Us

 Deborah refers to journaling as an “evidence-based paradigm,” which means it’s a practice that has been subjected to rigorous research over many decades.

In the early eighties, researchers asked why talking to a therapist provided better therapeutic outcomes than confiding in a a family member or a friend. Dr. James Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin, and a recent guest at Journaling.com, asked a different question. Can individuals achieve therapeutic outcomes through self-engaged reflection and observation? We journalers won’t be surprised to learn that the answer was a proven yes. But Pennebaker showed that the methods we choose matter, and he became an eloquent spokesperson for the unique benefits of expressive writing.

In Pennebaker’s paradigm, Deborah explains, expressive writing puts the writer in relationship with their writing. To foster this meaningful connection, one must step back and become an objective observer. Expressive writing helps us to figure out how to move forward and extract meaning from an experience. This approach to journaling, Deborah points out, is a different style of writing than simply raging on a page.  

In the nineties, with the use of the functional MRI, research began to focus on the brain. Researchers showed that what we pay attention to actually helps determine our individualized brain structure. Deborah shares a Buddhist expression that exemplifies this idea, “The brain takes the shape that the mind rests upon.”  This knowledge reminds us to focus our thinking in positive ways.

Better understanding of how the brain works can help guide our journaling practices.

Deborah Ross

Rewire Your Brain and Counter Your Negativity Bias

The Negativity Bias is explained by Deborah as the idea that our brains remain wired toward survival based on a time when the operative question was “Am I going to have lunch or be lunch?”  Deborah references a fitting analogy that describes our brains’ typical tendencies. The brain is Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.

In more dangerous times these tendencies were beneficial in that they kept us alert and alive. But today, when hyper-vigilance is less imperative, negative experiences continue to be stored in our brains more efficiently than positive experiences. This, Deborah explains, is the reason that we must consciously archive our positive experiences with mindfulness and intention. Writing is a beautiful and integral part of this archiving process.

While we can use our journals to record trauma, grief, rage and disappointment, Deborah reminds us that our journals can also “house positive installations to serve as resources that add immeasurably to the quality of our lives.”


Journaling Increases Firing Efficiency

As the research evolved, many exciting discoveries were made. Deborah points to current thinking showing that brains of elite experts in all fields demonstrate a “firing efficiency of circuitry” when performing their specialized skillset. The rate of firing was found to be 3000% more rapid than the average individual! It is assumed that this is in part due to the number of times that expert has repeated a single skill over and over again.

Deborah invites us to imagine the outcome if we were to repeatedly focus on a single theme in our journals. In time, she surmises, this repeated exploration would increase our firing efficiency as it relates to managing specific thoughts and feelings.

Deborah shows that understanding how the brain works can help guide our journaling practices as well as influence how and what we journal about.

The Source of Our Creativity and Intuition

An understanding of the brain helps us to tap into our full potential. Deborah reports that there is a common assumption that we have pinpointed areas of the brain that determine our levels of intuition and creativity.

In actuality, she explains, science shows that creativity and intuition are the results of how well we integrate our brains and whether or not parts of our circuitry successfully communicate with each other. How our circuity becomes wired is a direct result of where we focus our thinking. Journaling, which Deborah considers an intention practice similar to meditation, directly impacts the circuitry in our brains.

Writing Tips to Rewire Your Brain

Deborah provides two simple techniques to help rewire our brains

  • Try a Reflection Write. When you’ve come to the end of a writing session, take a short break. Then return to your journal and absorb the words you’ve just written.
    • Identify and write about aha moments that are revealed.
    • Notice unexpected places your writing led you toward.
    • Observe absences. Did thoughts and feelings you expected to wrestle with get left off the page?
    • Be aware of the embodied experience of writing. Notice words that made your shoulders hunch as you wrote them, observe where you gripped the pen tighter or your breathing eased.  This is actually putting you in relationship with your writing and allowing you to witness your brain’s processes.
  • Rethink your expressions of gratitude. Deborah observed, “Many of my students have reported gratitude journaling to be a flat experience,” and she explains the reason for this. “When people express positives merely as the absence of a negative, for example, ‘I’m grateful that I didn’t get angry at my teen today,’ the brain doesn’t actually register this detail as a positive.

Deborah suggests flipping this sentence to express it as a positive. “I’m grateful my teen and I had an easy exchange today.” 

Follow an expression of gratitude with writing that tells the brain the reasons this moment matters. That statement lets your brain know the reasons it should make room for this story and should store it as a memory. Deborah goes on to explain that our brains are good at metaphor and meaning making. We are a story-prone species. This means that simply listing things can be helpful but adding another line about why the details are meaningful will cement them in your mind and have a more long-term and meaningful impact.