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Mind Reading, Made Simple

Writing a journal allows you to dive into your internal experiences and find your true center.

Heal

Step right up! You’re about to witness an incredible act! Is it a fortune teller? Strong man? Bearded lady? No… you’re going to read your own mind.

Keeping a journal may not sound like an extraordinary feat, but it will grant you uncanny powers of insight. The act of writing by yourself, to yourself, can provide clarity, relieve tension and lead to a deeper understanding of your innermost thoughts, fears and desires.

Researchers have shown that journaling can measurably improve mental and physical wellbeing. In one study, reported by TIME, scientists investigated journal writing’s effect on senior citizens. Half of the subjects wrote about a past, traumatic experience in a journal 20 minutes a day; the other half did not. The researchers then took small skin biopsies to measure how fast each subject healed. The journaling group healed much more quickly.

Writing in a journal has also been shown to help patients with HIV boost their immune systems, and even lowered the levels of pain experienced by cancer patients.

How to Start a Journal Practice

Try to set aside 15 to 20 minutes per day to write, for 10 days straight. Hopefully by the end of the 10 days, you’ll have seen the benefits that come from acknowledging, honoring and legitimizing your feelings by putting them in writing, and you’ll want to keep going.

So should you write by hand or on a computer? Experts are split on this subject, so see which one feels more natural to you.

As you begin to fill the page, you may find yourself judging what comes out. Hit mute on your inner literary critic or inner copy editor, and keep going. This journal is for you.

What do I journal about?

If you’re not sure where to start, “warm up” by jotting down some of the day’s highs and lows, what is stressing you, even a simple interaction you had with someone today and how it made you feel.

Here are a dozen other prompts to get the conversation with yourself started:

  • Am I where I thought I would be in life? Why or why not?
  • Where do I want to be in my life in six months? In a year? In five?
  • What is my most profound fear?
  • What am I most grateful for?
  • My biggest source of joy is…  
  • I wish my boss knew…
  • I keep dreaming about…
  • Greatest challenges/joys of being a parent or caregiver today?
  • What setbacks/triumphs occurred in my marriage today?  
  • What life experience do I most cherish?
  • If I could go back in time, what scene in life would I redo and how would it play out?
  • What is calling out to me? What am I going to do about it?

Once you have written for the day, be sure to store your work in a way that feels completely secure, so that you won’t ever be tempted to censor difficult emotions. Journals help you feel centered and in touch, so enjoy the newfound perspective, clarity and relief you experience from your daily practice.

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a freelance editor and writer based in Los Angeles. She blogs about women in the workplace at CareerContessa.com.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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