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Change the Channel in Your Brain with this Journal Prompt

The only self-esteem journal you’ll ever need connects you with core emotions.

Denis Gorelkin, Shutterstock
Source: Denis Gorelkin, Shutterstock

There is one simple and powerful journaling technique that you can do for ten minutes a day that will not only improve your daily life but offer you a strong foundation of self-care on which you can build larger life changes: the self-talk journal. This self-talk approach has a simple structure designed to connect your mindsets and make you aware of the different parts that make up who you are.

How Journaling Helps

Connecting with internal mindsets helps overcome inner conflict so you can do four things:

  1. Be kind to yourself.
  2. Validate your feelings.
  3. Set limits and/or inspire action.
  4. Guide yourself.

Regardless of what you’re coping with in life—depression, anxiety, relationship issues, or making behavioral changes—the above four skills will help you.

Self-talk journaling is never just about writing down your thoughts from a single point of view; it’s always about dialogue. Dialogue is the key to making this practice effective. Neuroscientific theory indicates that different parts of the brain can take turns in the role of our inner voice. So, what you think may be simply “the voice of your thoughts” is likely different mindsets taking turns using the microphone that is your inner voice. By focusing on the point-of-view of a particular part of the brain, you can actually promote internal communication and integration, rather than conflict or detaching.

Ok, but how do you connect with different points of view? It’s not so mysterious or complicated. We always start with two:

  • Inner child
  • Healthy caring adult

Why these two? Our inner child connects with our experience of core emotion. Using the image of a child helps focus emotional awareness and may actually connect with memories of powerful emotions from childhood. Imagining and using the mode of the healthy caring adult helps us mindfully re-connect with our values and an experience of the self we want and need to be.

By focusing on the inner child and the simple feelings we feel, we connect with the right side of the brain and the amygdala, the place of powerful impulses and feelings. Then we switch to an idea of our best self—the healthy caring adult—where we connect with the pre-frontal cortex, or the place of judgment, logic, and useful self-awareness. When we start to engage each of these parts in dialogue, we are essentially building integration between thoughts and feelings, united in an experience of validation and focus. Even when we’re stuck in a feeling or mindset—such as anger, resentment, or abandonment—this exercise can pull us out of a mood, change the channel in our brain, and provide perspective.

How to Practice Journaling, Step-by-Step

  • Before starting to write, do a brief mindfulness exercise. Sit in a chair, plant the soles of your feet on the ground, straighten your spine, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Now, focus on an image of your inner child—it could be based on a childhood photo if you like.

  • Keeping in your mindfulness posture, now connect with the emotions you are feeling today, or from a time when you were recently upset or triggered. Think of simple words to describe the emotions, from the point of view of your inner child. Now open your eyes.
  • Prepare to write. You will be taking notes on the dialogue as it happens, switching point of view as you go. In this exercise, you aren’t using the usual journal language like “How am I doing today?” Instead, imagine you are acting out a dialogue between two characters talking to each other and writing it down as it happens.
  • On the left side of the page, you can write “Healthy Adult” or “Adult Me” or “Best Self.” Add a dash and start the dialogue with an opener like, “How are you feeling? What’s going on today?”
  • Underneath, write “Inner Child” or “Little Me” or any nickname for your inner child with a dash and then try to answer. So, something like: “When my boss told me Suzie was going to be helping with the project, I felt really hurt. Like I’m not good enough, or I failed. I tried to pretend I was OK, but it hurt my feelings.”
  • Next, you respond from the position of that healthy, caring adult self. You are taking the role of someone who validates, who offers sympathy: “That really must have hurt. Especially since, when you were growing up, people didn’t know about your learning disability and were always judging you unfairly. I’m so sorry. I get how that really stings.”
  • Allow for your inner child to feel the validation and sympathy: “It’s true, it was unfair, and I was like ‘here we go again!’”
  • Next, try to take up the position of an adult who can help with the situation: “Do you think your boss meant to tell you that you’re failing? I mean, suppose the truth is, the project is bigger than we thought, and it’s going well, you just need help?” Let your inner child respond.
  • Think of a way your healthy caring adult can take action. “I’ll try to talk to our boss, and just check in and make sure all is well with our work, would that help you feel better?”

Okay, but suppose there really was a problem with your performance. What happens when inevitable failure actually happens in life? You may still have a triggered, painful rejection feeling happen from the inner child, and it will always help to have a healthy adult mode to do a reality check, make a plan, and validate the feelings.

4 Reasons to Use the Self-Talk Journal Every Day

  1. It’s a way to check-in with yourself and stay connected to core emotions.
  2. It keeps you from being overly influenced by triggered feelings.
  3. It’s a daily mindfulness practice that helps calm you and stay in touch with your values.
  4. It’s a practical check-in that helps you achieve the goals you set out for yourself.

Try this for a week, and see the results.

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