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Writing Therapy Exercise: Make a Life Timeline

Mari L. McCarthy January 29, 2013

Your life’s story is continuously unfolding, and each major event, decision, relationship, success and misstep has an influence on which direction it takes. Do you ever have moments where you look back on past events and marvel at how far you’ve come? Do you ever stop to think about the most pivotal milestones in your life so far? Create a personal timeline in your journal to reflect on what experiences have shaped you and helped you grow.

Journal Writing Your Personal History

1. Open your journal to two blank side-by-side pages. Use a ruler to draw a horizontal line across both pages. Write your birth year at the left end of the line and the current year at the right end. If you are worried about having enough space for your timeline (not that you’re old!), you can stretch it across two more pages.

2. Begin filling in important memorable dates as they come to mind. You can add colors or symbols to help categorize them (for example, a heart to represent your wedding date, a cardboard box to symbolize your move from Pennsylvania to Florida). Here are some examples of milestones that would be a good addition to your timeline:

● The birth or death of a family member or friend
● The beginning or end of a romantic relationship
● Graduation from high school or college
● Travel dates
● A job change
● A move to a new location
● An illness or injury
● An award or achievement
● An important friendship
● A personal loss

3. When you feel that you have recorded the most significant events on your timeline, read over it in chronological order. Which memories make you smile with nostalgia or affection? Which make you shake your head or cringe in embarrassment? Which still give you pangs of pain or regret? Free-write for a few minutes about the emotions and reflections that this therapeutic journaling activity brought to the surface. Which events do you think changed you the most? Which helped you grow? Which do you see in a different light now than you did at the time?

What did you remember during these exercises? Share a milestone from your personal timeline


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