Keeping a journal can be a spiritual practice that allows you to connect internally and express yourself. It can also be a healing experience during difficult times—one that can help you understand how you’re feeling in the moment. “Journaling lets you get your thoughts and emotions out,” says Julie Haber, M.Div, director of spirituality at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. “The process serves as a useful tool for bringing insight and heightened awareness to ourselves and our lives.”
Whether you write in a notebook, type on a tablet or laptop or speak into a recorder, documenting moments of your life is a personal practice that you can engage in as often as you like, whenever you feel inspired.
Not sure how to start? Consider these types of journals:
Recognizing what you’re thankful for can boost your mood and contribute to your overall happiness. Try writing down three things you’re grateful for each day—a hot cup of coffee, your grandchildren, the sun beaming through your windows. “It can be big or small,” says Haber. “It’s the act of writing it down and reflecting on it that makes it more real for us, allowing us to appreciate what is good in our lives.”
Setting—and marking down—some spiritual goals for yourself is a great way to look back and see if you’re making time for things that matter to you. “You’re declaring what you want to accomplish and it’s there on the page as a reminder to live it,” notes Haber. Ask yourself, What is my intention for today, for the week? It could be something as simple as smiling at a stranger, or a more difficult goal, like forgiving someone who’s hurt you.
This type of journaling is about observing yourself and everything around you. “Take some time to sit quietly and notice your thoughts and the longings in your heart,” says Haber. “What haven’t you done in your life yet that you can move toward?” Reflect on your surroundings too. Sit outside and jot down what you see, hear, smell. Describe the wind moving through the trees or the scent of your garden.
Sometimes you may not be able to explain things in the standard way, but a poem may capture how you’re feeling. “Creating poetry can help you express your current state,” says Haber. “Let yourself freely associate words and see what comes out.” There’s no ‘right’ way to put the words together—it’s a unique practice. You can also take an existing poem and write it in your journal if it fits your mood.
If you have a rich dream life, you may want to document it. “Exploring your dreams can surface a sign or symbol that provides you with spiritual guidance,” Haber notes. You may come to a realization about a problem you’ve been having or a person you’ve been worrying about. You may even discover something about yourself that you hadn’t yet recognized. Using a recorder can be helpful when recounting your dreams as you recall the details and sequence of events.
Of course, you don’t have to keep separate journals for the ideas mentioned above. One journal can hold all your thoughts, intentions, dreams and so on.
Discover more spiritual guidance in our Your Spiritual Path section.