Your journal is not messy.
It’s immediate and spontaneous. It captures your thoughts and feelings in the spur of the moment. It’s without hesitation. It’s flowing freely, quickly, and intuitively.

Your journal is not boring.
It’s practical and simple. It’s straightforward and minimal. It is what it is. It works for you and lets you organize your thoughts and feelings in a way that suits you best.

Your journal is not embarrassing.
It’s private, raw, and honest. It’s uncensored. It’s where you are brave enough to be vulnerable with yourself. It’s your safe space to open up, reflect, learn, and grow.

Your journal is not ugly.
It’s freeing and liberating. It’s full of things you need to let out and let in, full of memories you want to forget and memories you want to remember. It’s authentic and genuine.

Let’s not judge our journal harshly.
Know that it doesn’t need to look a certain way.
Stop determining the worth and preciousness of our journal by comparing it with others.
Our journal is worthy and precious because it is the archive of our thoughts and feelings through every stage of our lives—a mirror of how we’ve grown through thick and thin throughout the years.

It’s us, documented.

hanny
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I was watching Kimberley’s video the other day, where she mentioned our tendency to envision our future self (or even looking at our present self) based on ‘the library of our past’—and something clicks inside of me.

I tend to do this as well: referring to my past successes, failures, experiences; or even my family background or my upbringing—to define who I am today.

Sometimes, it feels like having an explanation on why I have certain triggers or behaviors. Other times, it feels like having the foundation to decide where to go next, and most of the time, more than I’d like to admit, it feels like having a perfect excuse not to change or not to face my fears.

But, in line with what Kimberley said in her video, what if one day we wake up with no memories or attachment towards our past? Who are we today if we are not the sum of our past? Who are we today if we start our journey onwards with a clean slate? What if we no longer refer to our past hurt, past trauma, past achievements… to live our lives today, or to shape our future? How are we going to think and behave differently? How are we going to live differently?

***

This idea reminds me of the concept of time as understood by the Aymara people—who inhabit some of the highest valleys in the Andes, northern Chile. While most of us think of the past as something that happens behind us and the future lies ahead of us, researchers found out that for the Aymara people, it’s the other way around.

The Aymara people see the past as something that lies ahead of us, and the future as something that lies behind us.

Notice how in our concept of time, we tend to see the future as the continuation of the past, how it seems like we are ‘stepping’ into the future from the past, or ‘carrying’ the past into our future.

The Aymara’s concept of time, on the other hand, invite us to see the past as something that lies in front of us: something visible to the ‘eyes’, something ‘known’—while the future is something behind our back: something unforeseen and unknown, representing potentials and possibilities.

To me, it’s like an invitation to step back (instead of stepping forward) into the future without ‘seeing’, without knowing where to go, without following a pre-made map. Sure, we can’t erase the past. It has happened already, and their traces are right there, right in front of us.

However, as we step back into the future, the past we see in front of us doesn’t particularly give us a clue on where we should go or where to step on next, as the ‘road’ behind our backs remains unknown.

The only way we can get a hint about where we’re going and where our steps are slowly taking us is by taking a leap of faith and walking that ‘moonwalk’: stepping further ‘back’ into the future.

***

I ask these questions often when I am working on my journal these days:

  • Who am I today if I am not defined by my past?
  • How can I live as who I am today, as who I want to be today–without referring to who I was yesterday, without referring to my past experiences or memories? What would I do today? How would I behave today? What would I believe in based only on everything I experience today?
  • How would I treat the people in my life today if I do not feel the need to adjust my approach based on my past experiences with them? How could I relate to them as my present self, instead of my past self?

_______

Photo by Lia Stepanova | Illustrations by Beradadisini
hanny
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*) It may not be the cozy-and-comfy self-care journaling prompts you are expecting…

I used to think that self-care means taking the time to do the things that will make you feel good. However, lately, I realized lately that self-care is not only about doing things that will make you feel good; but also about doing things that are good for you; even when initially, they don’t feel good.

Self-care is not always rainbows and marshmallows. At times, taking good care of ourselves can feel uncomfortable, difficult, and challenging. Here are some of my go-to journaling prompts for self-care:

1. WHAT AM I RESENTFUL OF AND HOW CAN I LET IT GO?

Do you feel like you hate something, or hold a grudge against someone? Is there a situation that makes you feel bad, stressed out, or agitated? Is there anything you can do to let it go, even if only a little bit? Maybe by being assertive, communicating your needs, or setting boundaries? Is it something you can or can’t change? Maybe by accepting that you can’t change someone or something?

2. WHICH AREA OF MY LIFE NEEDS A BIT OF TIDYING?

Are there specific areas of your life that feel or look a bit messy? Maybe it feels abandoned, or you haven’t been in touch with it for quite some time. Perhaps one area is too heavy and packed with too many things you have no room to breathe. How can you tidy this area of life a little bit? What can you do for 5-10 minutes a day to do a little clean-up?

3. HOW CAN I TREAT MYSELF AND OTHERS MORE KINDLY?

How have you been treating yourself? How have you been talking to yourself lately? Have you been kind and understanding, or harsh and judgmental? How have you been treating others: colleagues, friends, spouses, family members… are there more ways in which you can treat yourself and others kindly, mindfully, patiently?

4. WHICH BOUNDARIES DO I NEED TO SET? WHAT DO I NEED?

What are the things you wish you could say NO to? Why? Which part of these things you do not like—and how would it impact you in the long run if you do not set boundaries or express your needs clearly? Are there people in your life who always cross your boundaries? What makes them think it’s okay to cross your boundaries? Is there anything you can do to protect yourself, your time, and your energy?

5. WHAT HAVE I BEEN PROCRASTINATING ABOUT? WHAT IS THE ONE THING I CAN DO TODAY TO FREE UP SOME SPACE?

The things that we don’t do (but we know we need to do at some point) take up mental space in our minds. Postponing them is like piling one thing on top of another, and the more things we postpone or delay, the more burden we place onto our minds. It feels like a black cloud that follows us everywhere, hanging low above our heads.

6. DO I FEEL LIKE I AM OWING SOMETHING TO SOMEONE?

This doesn’t always mean owing money.

Maybe we feel like we owe an apology to someone we’ve hurt in the past. Maybe we feel like we owe that quality time of spending a weekend together to our spouse. Maybe we feel like we owe a thank-you to someone who has helped or contributed something meaningful to our lives.

The feeling of ‘owing’ something to someone (also to ourselves!), can weigh us down. It’s something that needs to be expressed but haven’t—and in the long run, it can make us feel guilty or regretful. The act of ‘paying what we owe’ can make us feel lighter.

Maybe you owe yourself a good rest? Nutritious food? That 45-minute exercise? An apology? Or a pat in the back?

7. WHAT WOULD I DO TODAY IF I LOVE AND RESPECT MYSELF?

This is the question I ask myself, again and again, several times a day, to remind me that self-care is not only about ‘loving’ myself but also about ‘respecting’ myself.

It’s not always about doing the things that feel (temporarily) good and easy, but also about doing the RIGHT thing for myself, even if it feels hard.

_______
Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado
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Dear friends,

Happy New Year 2022! Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, I hope you’re all well, healthy, and safe. As usual, on the last few days of the Previous Year and the first few days of the New Year, I will spend some time journaling. Not so much about creating a resolution of some sort, but more about taking the time to reflect and refocus—like doing warm-ups before going on a long hike.

Here are some journaling prompts I have been using this year to ease my way into 2022.

Feel free to go through each one and notice if some of them (or maybe all of them?) are calling out to you.

1. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST MEMORABLE THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME LAST YEAR?

They are things that you want to keep, remember, and cherish, either because they remind you of the things you’re good at, how strong or blessed you are, or because they teach you a valuable lesson about life, or because they give you an experience that opens up your horizon and change your perspective. Do you see any resemblance between them?

2. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MOST CHALLENGING THINGS FOR ME LAST YEAR?

Despite all those challenges, here you are. You are still here. Know that you can thrive at one thing and barely survive another, that you can be proud of something and be disappointed in something else, that you can feel grateful for some things and still feel sad or unfulfilled from time to time, that it’s okay to feel like things are hard or challenging or difficult while enjoying little bursts of joy.

3. WHAT ARE THE THINGS FROM LAST YEAR THAT I WANT TO DO MORE THIS YEAR? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS I AM CURIOUS ABOUT/ INTERESTED IN?

I love the message from the book Essential: Essays by The Minimalists, where they talk about cultivating a passion instead of finding/following a passion. I like to think of it as things that make our lives beautiful, fun, or enjoyable (however that looks to you)—the things we live for.

4. WHAT ARE THE THINGS I WANT TO DO LESS THIS YEAR? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS I WANT TO LET GO/STOP DOING?

I love the concept of ‘mentally/emotionally decluttering’ and ‘unlearning‘. We’ve absorbed so many things throughout our lives (information overload, over-stimulation, societal pressure) that might have weighed us down. Is it possible to declutter or unlearn these things?

5. WHICH ROLE I WOULD LOVE TO TAKE THIS YEAR, AND WHICH ROLE WOULD IN’T MIND TAKING?

When I was still working full time, we had a weekly team meeting where we asked each other what role would we choose in the office—if that role had nothing to do with our job titles, tasks, or functions.

Someone said, he’d be the clown, making people laugh with his jokes and funny impressions.
Someone else said, she’d be the decorator, making things look neat, pretty, and artistic.
Someone said, he’d be the problem solver.
Someone said, she’d be the cheerleader.
Someone said, he’d be the dreamer.
Someone said, she’d be the devil’s advocate.

What role would you be happy to play in life?
What role would you choose for yourself at work, at home, at school, among friends, that had nothing to do with your assigned function, expectations, duties, or assumed responsibilities?
What role would you not mind filling?

When you’re thinking that you have no idea about your passion or not knowing your life purpose yet, maybe you can focus on the role you’d love (or wouldn’t mind playing).

How can you play this role more often wherever you are, whatever you do, whomever you’re with?

6. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE THAT HELPED ME MAKE LAST YEAR FUN, ENJOYABLE, MEMORABLE, OR BEARABLE?

Write their names, what they did, and what it meant to you: how the things they do have impacted you. Write them a message, call them, text them, write an open letter, or send them a postcard telling them about what you have written, about what they mean to you. They can be people you know, someone from work, a client, a good friend, a stranger, or someone on the Internet. Reach out. Build bridges.

7. FROM A GENTLE HEART, WHAT ADVICE WOULD I GIVE MY FUTURE SELF TO FACE 2022?

Take a deep breath and imagine all the things you’ve experienced in life that have brought you here, at this point in your life. See your future self in 2022 with love, kindness, and affection—the way you see a good friend or a loved one. Write a letter/a piece of advice to them, write whatever comes to mind for 10-15 minutes, and write as fast as possible, without stopping, without editing. See what comes up.

with much love,

hanny
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I get this question a lot, in varying degrees. 

Sometimes, it can also come up as:

  • How can I develop journaling as a habit?
  • How can I journal every day?
  • How can I find the time to journal?

To answer these questions, I believe it’s essential for us to know these three things:

1. DEFINING OUR EXPECTATIONS

What do we expect from developing a journaling habit? What kind of changes or improvements would we like to see once we are journaling consistently? How would our journaling practice help or benefit us?

Answering these questions will help us to understand what we need from our journaling practice. 

For example, do we expect journaling to allow us to be more creative? To keep memories or life lessons? To resolve issues? To express or process emotions? To organize our thoughts? 

Knowing what we would like to experience from our journaling practice—and the benefit we may get from it—will help us find the time and motivation to do our journaling practice. 

We will want to be consistent with our journaling practice if we know that it will be rewarding—whatever that ‘reward’ may look or feel like.

2. MAKING IT FEEL GOOD

My favorite yoga teacher, Adriene Mishler, always encourages her students/viewers to find ‘what feels good’ while doing their yoga practice. 

The same goes for journaling. 

Journaling can feel hard when we’re comparing our journaling process, our frequency of journaling, or our journal, with others.

Because someone writes three journal pages every morning, we think we need to do that, too. 

Because someone posts aesthetic journal pages decorated with washi tapes and collages, we think our journal pages also need to look like that. 

Because someone is adopting the bullet journal technique, we think we need to start doing that, too.

To be consistent with our journaling habits, we need to focus on our own expectations and find what feels good—for us. 

Thus, ask ourselves:

  • What feels kind, enjoyable and comforting? 
  • What makes journaling feels light and breezy?
  • What works?

When journaling feels heavy, takes too much time, or gives us too much hassle, it is no wonder if we find it challenging to be consistent with our practice.

3. JOURNALING WITH KINDNESS

With everything that is going on in our lives at the moment, how much time can we spare for our journaling practice—that wouldn’t feel like a burden?

One minute per day will do. Three minutes per week will do. Thirty minutes per month will do. Writing in our journal every morning is great. Writing every other day is great. Writing every other week is also great. 

Treat our journal as a kind and friendly companion. Know that our journal is patient and non-judgemental. 

If we break our journaling habit or have a falling-out for a month or two, it’s okay. We can always get back to it: we can always pick up our journal and our favorite pen, and we can always start again where we left off.

Release the guilt from not being able to show up for our journaling practice. 

Instead, celebrate every time we sit down on our desk, on a train, in the waiting room, at a cafe, on a park bench—simply writing our heart out.

***

Why do you journal or keep a journaling practice?

How does your practice look like?

What works for you?

hanny
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Maybe you’ve realized that you want to change direction.
Maybe you’ve had enough.
Maybe you won’t tolerate certain things any longer.

Maybe you have found something better, healthier, or more rewarding.
Maybe you no longer want to stay where you are.
Maybe you don’t care that much about what people would say or think anymore.
Maybe you want to be your own person.
Maybe you’ve tried or worked so hard, and you are on the brink of burnout.

Maybe you want to persevere somewhere else, for something else, with someone else.
Maybe you want to grow.
Maybe you want to expand your horizon.

Maybe you want to risk it.
Maybe you want to know if you can quit.
Maybe you want to see what can happen if you quit.

Because quitting is also an option.

Because quitting can also be a courageous act.
Because quitting can also be an act of self-care and self-respect.
Because quitting can be a great relief.

Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re weak.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get back on track.
Just because you quit, it doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough.

Even if you quit, at least you’ve tried your best.
Even if you quit, you can always start over.
Even if you quit, you are still worthy.

———————

Accompanying #journalingprompts: Do you think ‘quitting’ can be an option? Why? Have you ever quit? Why? Or why not? In which way ‘quitting’ can be good for you? In which circumstances ‘quitting’ can be bad? Why?

hanny
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There were (and will be) times in life when ‘gratitude’ feels hard. I guess it’s only human.

Despite knowing the benefits of gratitude, we also know that knowing what to do is one thing, while actually DOING IT is another thing. It can be hard to feel grateful when we’re going through rough patches, although this is probably the time when we need the ‘attitude of gratitude the most’.

So, during those times when I sit down to write my gratitude for the day and it feels somehow difficult (or I keep repeating the same things to be grateful about without really feeling it), I do this instead:

I begin by acknowledging the things that (I think) don’t go well in my life at the moment, and then I work with these prompts in my journal (or say these things in my mind):

1. “But at least, at the moment, I don’t have to worry about _______. So, thank you, for _______.”

2. “But, maybe it’s not THAT bad, because at least I _______. So, I’m grateful for _______.”

3. “However, today I can still _______. So, thank you for _______.”

I realize that framing my ‘gratitude’ this way, makes it feel easier. At times, it even feel more genuine, more relevant, and more immediate.

Let’s see one of those prompts in action:

“My flight is delayed for 3 hours, but maybe it’s not THAT bad, because at least I can spend my time working from here. Thank you for I still have work! And that my laptop is fully charged. And I’m grateful for this waiting room, with its free Internet access, with the AC working well, the plugs for recharging, and oh, thank you for those coffee shops nearby; so I can grab a cup of latte when I want. Wow, I’m grateful that I have more than enough money to buy a cup of latte…”

I find these prompts helpful to let me ‘roll’ into the ‘attitude of gratitude’ even if I started out by acknowledging my fears, worries, or difficulties.

As I write/think the next sentence, and the next, and the next, I can feel how each one gives my mood a tiny uplift.

hanny
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>>> Click here to download my morning journaling prompt <<<

I have always considered journaling as a private and intimate practice. I have always been writing in my journals since my childhood days, writing my thoughts, feelings, and dreams. It wasn’t until recently that I started to share some pages of my ‘art’ journal online… and I have been lucky enough to find a community of kind people who are interested in journaling as much as I do.

However, I wouldn’t deny that being exposed to many people who journal in many different ways, with different supplies and notebooks and favorite tools is a slippery slope. If we’re not careful, it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. Suddenly, we are confused about our ‘journaling style’. We don’t have the right notebook. Or pen. We don’t have those lovely stickers or stamps. Suddenly, we want more, we want to buy more. Journaling practice becomes a burden, a reminder that we’re not good enough, or we don’t have enough.

I am not immune to those feelings, of course. However, I tried to ‘catch’ myself from time to time, by asking some questions that can help me gain clarity about my journaling practice and my personal connection to it. After all, journaling is a personal journey. We need to find something that feels good and kind, something that works for us.

So, I’d like to invite you to join me in this 9-minute journaling practice to ask ourselves some questions about journaling. I hope, this can help you gain more clarity about your connection with your journal and your journaling practice.

As much as I love to share some pages of my daily/art journals on social media, I also have some private journals that I keep strictly for myself. For me, it’s about finding balance in what you can share and what you can’t, and about not having to feel stressed or burdened by your journaling practice.

Journaling should be something relaxing and soothing, don’t you think?

Do you have any similar experiences? I would love to hear from you 🙂

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
hanny
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>>> Click here to download my morning journaling prompt <<<

Morning journaling has become a part of my morning routine for years. I find this practice helps me to ease into my day gently, with more awareness and clarity about my state of being (how I feel, what I’ve been thinking, etc.) before the rush of the day begins. It’s a way for me to find my ‘calm’ in the morning, something that keeps me centered and grounded.

It took only 4.5 – 5 minutes for me to do this practice but it’s enough to help me approach and plan the day better. For instance, how I would structure and plan my day would be different for the days when I woke up feeling groggy, grumpy, and tired, and the days when I woke up feeling cheerful, inspired, and energized. This is my way of checking in and reconnecting with myself, to see what I need more or less of on a particular day.

This video explains more about my morning journaling practice, and the journaling prompts I use (that can be downloaded here):

Do you have any morning journaling practice? Do you journal in the morning or work on your morning pages? Feel free to share your practice and journaling prompts down below! I would love to hear from you!

Happy journaling!

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash
hanny
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Hanny illustrator
Hi. I'm HANNY
I am an Indonesian writer and an artist/illustrator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.

hanny

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