Journaling: Tips for Expressive Writing


Woman writing in her journal

Journaling has been found to help process big emotions. If you’ve had a really hard day (or week, or month) then creating a daily journaling practice can be a huge support to your overall well-being.

Journaling has been found to improve mood, boost creativity, and even help you heal from trauma.

When starting a journaling practice, you may find that the words don’t come.

 Be patient . . .

 Be still . . .

Listen as the feelings come and then flow into words. Give it time. Be present with your thoughts and the words will come.

You might only be able to write one word. If that’s all you can get out, that’s okay! As you stick with it, you will find more words. After a while, you may find your thoughts flowing like an endless waterfall.

By putting your thoughts, feelings, or experiences on paper, you free your mind and body for new thought patterns and perspectives.

As you write, you move from feeling that “this experience is my entire life” to “that experience was a part of my life. I am more than the experience.” Writing also provides a way to link the many parts of you together and make meaning of your lived experiences.

Science shows that expressive writing is an effective practice in helping you find the words and move trauma out of the body, integrate it with self, and move forward in healing.

You can even think of trauma as a previous chapter in your life. Then journaling gives you a way to write a new chapter. Your story is not over. You get to write the ending.

Through the process of journaling, you can find relief and healing.

Writing is essentially becoming free

General Tips For Expressive Writing

Before you start writing, here are a few ideas to set yourself up for success.

1. Create A Sanctuary 

By creating a sanctuary to write, you will mentally associate the space with writing.

Here you can relax and let the mind flow. First, ask yourself, what place inspires me? Where do I feel safe and at peace?

2. Set A Time

You don’t need hours each day to write. Your could write a sentence or two, or three pages. Some days the words will be there, other days you may feel more contemplative.

Whatever you’re feeling each day, set a time or length and commit to writing.

3. Select Your Supplies

Gathering the supplies you need will help make your writing time more focused. Keep your pen and paper handy in one place so their easy to find when you’re ready to write.

4. Get Creative

If you have trouble writing, try dictating into a voice memo. Or try using video and record yourself talking. Some people prefer using a computer.

Choose the tools that help you easily express your thoughts.

Your writing style may be the same from day to day, or it may differ. If you have trouble with words on a particular day, try something different. Have fun by making a list, a comic strip, drawing a picture, or making a web.

Now that your space is set and you’ve dedicated time to write, here are 15 writing options to keep you inspired and your thoughts flowing.

15 Ways To Stay Inspired With Your Writing

1. Brain Dump

When doing a brain dump, write down whatever thoughts come to mind. This type of writing is completely unfiltered with no concern for cohesive thoughts or complete sentences.

Allow your mind to wander from one idea to the next. When you have all your thoughts on paper, circle around and revisit each one again.

2. Write A Letter

Writing a letter is a great way to get emotions out of your body. Maybe your letter is a kind word of appreciation or expressing a deep pain you feel. This is a powerful way to express yourself in an unfiltered way.  You don’t even need to send the letter. Keep it for yourself or throw it away.

3. Future Thinking

If you think of your past experiences like a chapters in a book, then future thinking is like writing a new chapter.

Write how you would like to feel, or how you might handle a situation if it comes up again. Write what you value about yourself, others, or your relationships. Write about your strengths or your talents. This is an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Journal notebooks

4. Make a List

If writing a paragraph or a page in your journal seems daunting, try making a list. You could list your feelings, what you need to do for the day, what you did today, or possible solutions to a challenge.

5. Photo Journal 

Take a photo and write about it in your journal. Describe what you see in the picture or how it makes you feel. You could even tell a story about what was happening in the photo. Allow the photo to be like a journal prompt and write whatever comes to mind when you look at the picture.

6. Use Mementos

Keep mementos such as postcards, birthday greetings, ticket stubs, or awards and insert them into your journal. Write down your thoughts or tell a story about what this memento means to you. You may even want to think forward again and put in pictures or elements of things you would like to do!


7. Write a Card To Yourself

Write a card giving yourself some encouragement. Maybe it’s for a special holiday or event, the anniversary of something significant in your life, or just general encouragement. Come back to this card anytime you need a lift.

8. Send a Card

Remember how special it feels to receive a letter in the mail from someone you love? Share that special feeling by sending a card to someone you know. It could be as simple as sharing a favorite memory you have of them.

9. Draw a Picture

Instead of making words the focus, try sketching or doodling in your journal. If you feel inspired, come back and write a caption, quote, or a note about the picture.

10. Gratitude Journal 

Gratitude is a wonderful way to shift your perspective out of the negative. Science shows that when you think about what you’re grateful for before going to bed, it helps you feel more positive, hopeful, and sleep better.

Journal or make a list of 5 things you are grateful for each day.

11. Make a List Of Accomplishments

Make a list of what you hope to achieve that day or what you need to accomplish. If you prefer to save your journal time for the evenings, then make a list of what you did that day.

12. Track Your Progress

With this style of journaling, you choose one thing you’re working on and track it each day. This helps you see your progress.

Feelings web

13. Feelings Web

Make a web about how you feel each day.

Start by writing a feeling you experience that day in the middle of the page. Next, draw a line outward. At the end of the line, draw another circle. Inside the circle jot down what made you feel that way.

Continue drawing lines outward with connected circles until you run out of things to say. Use colors, shapes, or pictures to add creativity.

14. Recap Your Favorite Passage

After reading a favorite book, quote, affirmation, or Bible study passage, write about what it means to you. What was interesting? What questions came up? How does it apply to your life? What connections do you see?

15. Stop And Observe 

Each day, take a moment to stop and sense what is going on around you. Where are you? Look, listen, and absorb what is going on above, around, and below you. Later, journal a handful of sentences describing what you took in.

Expressive writing doesn’t have to be the same every day. Allow these ideas to inspire your writing.

Journaling is a habit, so try to keep it up for 30 days. It might feel challenging at first, but like all habits, over time it becomes much easier. You will continue to see a difference in how you process your emotions and continue to feel better.

Happy Writing!

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