No matter which kind of journaling you do — from writing in a gratitude journal to doing Morning Pages — it’s the perfect release for HSPs’ overstimulated minds.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I love deeply, thrive in and yearn for meaningful connections in relationships, and often put caring for others before caring for myself.
But, when I do make time for myself — something I’ve gotten better at lately — one thing I have introduced, consistently, into my self-care practice is journaling. And it has made a huge difference.
Journaling drastically changed my life and the way I approach challenging situations. Through journaling, I am able to pour out my emotions, thoughts, and fears without judgment or condemnation. When reflecting back on old journal entries, I am able to see how I’ve grown emotionally and how my ability to handle situations has evolved. Additionally, my journal offers me a tangible resource, dedicated solely to what I’m feeling, to consult as I navigate this world as a highly sensitive person.
When I first began journaling, I would just pick up a pen and paper and write. I had no topic or direction, just me and the words. I was convinced I was doing it “wrong”: This is too simplistic, I would tell myself. I’ve got to be missing something, I would muse.
But I’ve learned that there isn’t a wrong way to journal. One reason journaling is considered self-care is that you get to “self-choose” which method you’d like to employ. Here are nine you can choose from.
9 Types of Journaling Perfect for Highly Sensitive People
1. Gratitude journals
Gratitude journals are journals that chronicle what you are grateful for — they help us focus on the positive aspects of our lives, both big and small (which comes naturally to us HSPs already!).
Easily overwhelmed by external and internal stressors, HSPs can greatly benefit from having an outlet to aid us in shifting our perspectives and accentuating the good in our lives. In doing so, our mood and emotions will shift toward positivity. We can be grateful for anything from our morning cup of coffee to the bright, sunny day to having a job that we love.
Research has found that there are also health benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, from increased happiness to being less likely to experience burnout.
2. Prayer/devotional journals
Prayer and devotional journals are intended to increase one’s spiritual awareness and deepen their spiritual journey. Typically, they follow the same format, regardless of what religion the journal is based in: there is a scripture, passage, or quote for the day, and then the reader is given the opportunity to reflect and write in the pages of the journal.
Prayer journaling can also be done by writing out daily prayers. This allows you to transcribe concerns and worries onto paper, and begin formulating a plan to work through them.
At the beginning of the year, I began using a prayer journal, My Prayer Journey, that was gifted to me. The first prayer I wrote was “Lord, help me to live more intentionally in thought and in action.” Reading back over this prayer reminds me to act and speak with purpose.
Prayer and devotional journals allow the writer to delve deeper into their religious teachings, and provide an opportunity for a person to see how much they have learned and how far they have come in their religious journey and growth.
3. Free writing journaling
Free writing journaling (FWJ) is a very popular form of journaling. In this style, you set a period of time (like 15 minutes) and you spend that designated time writing down your thoughts.
One main draw to free writing journaling is its uncensored nature. There is no right or wrong way to write and no specified topics on which to write. The goal is not to follow a prescribed set of “dos” or “don’ts.” When free writing, you are not editing the words you put down — you are just allowing them to flow. It can be a great way to declutter the mind.
4. Vision journals
Many highly sensitive people are also creatives. We see beauty where others may not, and we need a safe space to create. We yearn to shift vision into action.
Vision journaling can help you plan out your overarching goals — similar to how dream/vision boards can. For example, last year I set a goal to begin writing down and collecting my personal recipes so that I can eventually write a cookbook. Using a vision journal, I wrote the goal down, then I wrote out small steps (such as “Write out one recipe per week”) toward completion of my goal. As an added incentive, I included titles of some of my favorite cookbooks for inspiration.
It is fulfilling to watch my journal pages fill up with notecards of my recipes as I work toward my ultimate goal.
5. Dream journals
HSPs have vivid imaginations, which leads to vivid dreams. Dream journals allow you to record your dreams by writing them down — or even recording them onto your phone. This offers you the opportunity to analyze your dreams, attempt to work through some unresolved issues, and then put effort into resolving them during waking hours.
Those who utilize dream journaling report having the ability to, over time, give insight into their minds during sleep. In this way, people are able to have some control over the “story” (or fears, or realizations) told to them in their dreams.
Dream journals have many other benefits, too, from helping you reduce stress to helping you problem-solve.
6. Morning Pages
The concept of Morning Pages originates from The Artist’s Way by Julian Cameron. In her book, she describes Morning Pages as “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.”
Morning Pages include anything that comes to mind, from what you’re going to have for breakfast to how you’re feeling about the important conversation you and your significant other are having later. Morning Pages “provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize, and synchronize the day at hand,” Cameron says in her book.
This type of journaling can be especially helpful for HSPs, as decompressing first thing in the morning is a great healing practice for the highly sensitive mind and can help us prepare for all the stimuli we’ll encounter in the day ahead.
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7. Line-a-day/five-year journals
For a more time-efficient style of journaling, line-a-day journals are an ideal practice: you literally write down just one line per day about a significant occurrence or thought, such as: “Today was the day I decided to believe I AM enough” or “Finally got my dream job as a (paid) writer!”
I spoke to certified counselor Betsey McGuire and she said she’s a fan of line-a-day journaling due to its ease and efficacy. “This type of journaling doesn’t lend itself to drifting into novel-like entries where the writer places emphasis on style rather than substance,” she told me.
What’s more, line-a-day journaling helps people process complicated thoughts and emotions succinctly, which can greatly benefit us HSPs. Line-a-day journals are also commonly referred to as five-year journals. This offers us the opportunity to read over our entries and reflect back on our thoughts and emotions from years’ past. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: A Five-Year Record, is a popular example of this type of journal.
8. Bullet journaling
Bullet journaling is an organized way to combine artistic expression, planning, and journaling. Done by ways of “to-do” or “tasks” lists, bullet journaling is great for individuals who are results-oriented and who thrive when they are checking things off of their “to-do” lists, such as “Do new workout,” “Complete homework,” or “Meditate for at least 10 minutes.”
Bullet journaling is a more structured style of journaling in which the writer can create different sections for different things, like tasks, goals, notes, and events in a grid notebook. Each entry can be done in short sentence or list form, then checked off the list.
9. Video journaling
Social media influencers have increased the popularity of video journaling over the last few years, as they openly share their lives and experiences on their video journal or vlogs.
Video journaling can, however, be introduced into a self-care practice without welcoming the world’s critiques: it can be for your eyes only. It is beneficial to individuals who would like to journal, but who are disinterested in writing down their thoughts. For some, it is easier to grab a phone or camera and record the expression of thoughts and experiences.
Video journaling presents a paperless option with the same cathartic release and benefits that more traditional journaling methods offer.
Getting Started Journaling: Figure Out Which Method Works Best for You
Journaling is one of the best ways to practice self-care — it prioritizes you, your goals, and your accomplishments. It allows you to celebrate the big and small triumphs, and to lament when needed. According to McGuire, it’s not the how of journaling that matters, but the act of doing it at all.
“Journaling is helpful in just getting out the ‘stuff’ that must get out. [It] is a fairly painless, cheap way to address your feelings … wade through them, and come out of the other side better for it. If the “stuff” doesn’t come out in a healthy manner, it threatens to manifest in unhealthy ways, such as anger, overeating, or toxic self-medicating.”
Journaling is an inexpensive investment into yourself which positively affects your mindset, habits, level of self-esteem, and productivity. And, as an HSP, staying grounded through journaling is more important than ever — and such an easy way to do so! It is well worth looking into which method works best for you. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you!
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