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Journaling - The Path to Self-Discovery

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Author: Kristy Schadt, MFT, RPT-S


Often in my work with clients I encourage them to add journaling in their lives as a way to understand themselves better. Journaling is a personal growth tool that can be used either in conjunction with psychotherapy or as a tool you utilize for self growth and discovery on your own.

Journaling can be a road into an exciting journey of self discovery. This experience can help you to:

  • Know who you are

  • Release feelings, tension and stress

  • Become aware of your own feelings

  • Explore your personal responses to life issues and your part in the problem

  • Find answers to your life questions

  • Travel through your past and heal the hurts

  • Envision and create your own future

As journaling becomes a regular part of our lives it can help you move through what causes you pain, fear, and heartache. Knowing yourself helps you to pay attention to how the life choices you make can either make you happier or create discomfort. As we begin to become more aware of life and our response to it we open our own hearts to ourselves. Journaling can become the mouthpiece for your inner self (Chapman, 1991).

There is no right or wrong way to journal. Many people simply begin by purchasing a special book (Journal, or even a spiral notebook used just for this purpose), and writing on their day and their response to it. Others need ideas to help them begin this experience. Don't worry about handwriting, spelling, run on sentences! Be creative and let yourself be free to write whatever comes up.

Over the years I have noticed some people need a place to begin. So I have collected, from my own journaling experience and the experiences of my clients, a selection of ideas to journal about. Also consider: Writing on your day, A time of your childhood, write about a person you have known or loved, familiar feelings you're having, a dream, write a letter to someone you may be having a problem with (don't sent the letter!) and then journal your feelings and responses after writing, draw a picture (of your family, of an ideal way to be, of your hopes, of a situation that frightens you) and then journal , sort through photos from childhood and journal. The list is endless.

Good luck and share with me any other ideas you may have for Journaling!

  • Write about making sacred space and time for yourself.

  • Write about self care for yourself.

  • What is your vision for your life? Where do you want to be in 5 years? Who will be in your life? How will you be feeling? What will you be doing? This is not goal writing but exploring and visioning. Dreamstorming!!!

  • Write some letters to your inner child. Affirmations, reassurance, acknowledgement, losses, feel his/her feelings. CONNECT!

  • Write about certain feelings or issues: anger, trust, betrayal, happiness, hurt, disappointment, fear. (i.e. I felt angry when...)

  • Write down some of your hopes and dreams.

  • Write about your expectations: of others, of yourself, of life.

  • Happiness...

  • Facing parts of yourself: The angry part, the shy part, the competent part, the insecure part...

  • Control in your life: The role control plays, how you feel when you have none, how you feel when you are in control, the role control played in your childhood, in your parents life.

  • Write about Chaos.

  • What contributes to your positive energy? What drains you?

  • What do I want to do to give my life more meaning, to make peace with myself, my family, spouse, kids, parents, friends.

  • In what ways do I live my life unconsciously? Am I fully alive?

  • How happy am I right now? What does it take to be happy? What is happiness? What specific things bring a smile to my face, contentment to my heart, or trigger feelings of delight in my day?

  • We so quickly list our weaknesses and difficulties. Look for and notice the dents and scrapes in life that you and others have endured.

  • List and develop your life story. Include significant dates, experiences, events and how they affected you: celebrations, disappointments, births, deaths, highs and lows, holidays, people, travel, moves, awards/accomplishments, accidents, etc.

  • List ten changes you'd like to make.

  • I am afraid of... My courage lies in...

  • Change feels uncomfortable because...

  • Write about excuses.

  • List parts of yourself that you dislike. Name and describe them and how they affect you and your family.

  • List parts of yourself you like. Name and describe them and how they affect you and your family.

  • Being home - When have you felt most at home with yourself? The most at peace? What do you need to do to feel that way about yourself now?

  • Red Flags - Identify the flags that pop up in your life. What are they, what do they tell you regarding yourself? How do you avoid them? Why and what are you hiding from? How can you use them to benefit you?

  • Write about people to whom you are grateful. List who and reasons why. Write letters to them. You may want to send these, you may not want to send them. Why is your life different because of these people?

  • Write an article about the person you want to be in 5 years. What you are wearing, where you live, what life is like.

  • Write a "Whining Letter". Be as negative as possible - Get it all out! Re-read it!

  • Write a "Gratitude Letter". Write about all of the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. Whether they are simple things or big things.

  • Stop! Be quiet! Listen for 5 minutes to the sounds around you. Also listen to yourself. Now write and reflect for 15 - 20 minutes.

  • Write about the turning points in your life.

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