5 Ways to Journal Your Way to Happiness

The research confirms it: Writing heals.

Posted Sep 26, 2018

Writing has always been a big part of my life. From writing short stories as a child to love poems in my teen years, a lot of things have been tested. Now, in adulthood, my journal is never far away. I write to process things, to get clear on what I want, and to more clearly visualize the path I'm meant to take. Now, I also write to heal.

Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Initially, I followed Dr. James Pennebaker's expressive writing prompts. Once I realized how helpful these were for me, I played with creative writing exercises too, like the ones by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way. They all served me in one way or another and I was keen to keep mixing it up to keep it interesting and to keep growing through them.

That's why I was delighted to discover Dr. Megan C. Hayes' new research on positive journaling. Her new book, Write Yourself Happy, shares the writing exercises she recommends you take to not only feel better but also to live better. Through it, she takes you on a journey of the most commonly experienced positive emotions and teaches you how to experience more of them.

When I asked her how one should make a start with positive journaling, she had five tips to share:

  1. Most of us are familiar with the concept of a gratitude journal, but there are many other positive emotions that we can use in a writing practice. Why not try writing about your joy. You could begin by looking to your past for any particularly joyful times. What happened? Where were you? What were you feeling besides joy? How might this joyous time alter the way you feel about other areas of your life?
  2. If life feels particularly stressful right now, try writing with serenity. Visualize serenity as a beautifully wrapped gift box that you are handing to yourself. You might even want to write some dialogue between these two inner selves: the giver and the receiver. Say “thank you” to yourself. Say “you are welcome” in return. Write whatever else arises when you place these two facets of your psyche in conversation.
  3. Don’t be afraid to use creativity and metaphor in your journal. Creating new metaphors in our writing is a method of understanding our emotions in a whole new way, and of helping us re-access them if they have become dull or commonplace to us. Try writing about interest, and what this emotion feels like—but also what it looks like, tastes like or smells like. Perhaps interest is cobalt blue and fizzes with electricity. Or perhaps it has the scent of new books. Use your imagination and write any potential insights.
  4. We can also choose to write with hope in our journals. You may like to begin this by contemplating what gives you hope, or even how you bring hope to others. Perhaps you made a donation to a charity or offered a kind word to someone who was struggling. Write about further ways you offer hope to others, or might strive to.
  5. Finally, we can use our supreme emotion in our journals: love. Who do you feel the most love for in this instant? Why? How does it feel? If there is no particular person in your thoughts then you may want to write about love as a sense of benevolence toward all creatures, cultures and the planet. There is also nothing to stop you from writing about the love you feel for yourself – we all need to hear this sometimes.

I hope this inspires you to pick up your pen and journal, and dive deeper into these beautiful positive emotions you are able to experience. In a way, tapping into your positivity is a superpower and the more you practice it the stronger it becomes. What better way to practice it than through these feel-good writing prompts? Give it a try. I suspect you won't regret it.

For more tips on positive journaling, grab a copy of Megan's book Write Yourself Happy.

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Hayes, Megan C. (2018). Write Yourself Happy: The Art of Positive Journalling. London, UK: Gaia.