I love the stillness of the early morning. It’s quiet. It’s unhurried. And it gives me space to ease into my day.
Each morning, I pour myself a strong cup of coffee and spend about an hour in my journal. First, I do a brain dump to release any nonsense that’s swirling in my head. Then, I jot down at least three things I’m grateful for to help shift my attention toward what’s going well in my life. And finally, I move on to writing about what I want to accomplish over the course of the day.
What I’ve learned is that how I spend those early morning hours determines the tone for the rest of my day. On the days that I invest in my journaling practice, I’m more productive, focused, and in tune with opportunities that are aligned with my goals. In a way, my journal serves as an emotional release valve, a whiteboard for new ideas, and a trusty decision-making tool. And that’s why it has become a non-negotiable part of my morning self-care practice.
5 Benefits of Journaling in the Morning
Part of the reason I look forward to my morning journaling routine is that I never know what will come out of it. Sometimes I come up with a creative solution to a problem I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time. Sometimes I get an idea for a new project or product for my business. And sometimes I find more efficient ways to complete tasks.
Many benefits have been linked to journaling. Here are just a few reasons to consider making it part of your morning routine:
Journaling offers a healthy outlet for intense emotions
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your emotions? Maybe you can’t stop thinking about an argument you had with a co-worker. Or maybe you can’t shake the lingering feeling of sadness about something that didn’t turn out the way you hoped it would. Intense emotions can quickly become distractions. Journaling can help you release unhelpful thoughts and emotions, so you can free up your energy for other things.
Journaling helps you stay connected to your goals
Spending just a few minutes in your journal each morning can keep your goals and desires at the forefront of your mind throughout the day. And that makes it more likely that you’ll be able to recognize opportunities that bring you closer to achieving them. Staying connected to your goals is essential.
Journaling generates creative solutions to problems
Whether you’re facing a big decision or a little one, taking inventory of your options will help you sort them out more easily. Journaling can help you see and assess your choices more clearly, and for that reason it can be an amazing decision-making tool.
Journaling clears out mind clutter
Julia Cameron has written extensively about the value of “morning pages,” which she describes as a stream of consciousness exercise. This uninterrupted and unrestrained form of writing clears out the nooks and crannies of your mind, just like a vacuum. Clearing out the clutter in your head frees up space for more important things in your life.
Journaling helps you establish priorities more clearly
Journaling has a way of bringing out the most important and relevant issues you’re navigating at any given time. As you begin to see your priorities more clearly, you’ll be able to invest your time and energy more wisely.
How to Structure Your Morning Journaling Routine
How you structure your morning journaling routine will depend on your personal style and preferences, but here are a few things to consider incorporating into your practice:
I like to begin my morning routine with a brain dump. This gives me unrestricted space to “dump” out anything and everything that’s on my mind. It offers a healthy outlet for any persistent negativity or intense emotional energy that might interfere with my success throughout the day. A brain dump has no rules or restrictions, so you can freely write down whatever comes to mind. And getting all the “yuck” out is essential to free up space for creative work.
Beginning my day with a grateful heart feels really, really good. Once I’ve finished my grumpy brain dump session, I shift gears and turn my attention to the blessings in my life. Gratitude can be expressed in lists, stories, short narratives, or even simple sketches. Regularly taking inventory of what’s going well in your life can also enhance your mood, which can lead to improvements not only in your productivity, but also your relationships.
Consider any lessons you learned from the previous day. What events or experiences brought you more insight or clarity? What might you do differently if a similar situation presents itself in the future? How could you have handled a situation differently to produce more optimal outcomes? Be careful not to spend too much time judging or criticizing yourself. Take only what you need to grow, and leave the rest behind.
To Do List
Journaling can also help you identify how to invest your time and energy more effectively and efficiently. Creating a to do list based on your highest priorities and goals makes it more likely that you’ll follow through and take necessary actions on a consistent basis. Use your journal to identify crucial steps for completing projects, so you can achieve your desired results more quickly.
But if you find that you’re still struggling to come up with things to write about in your journal each morning, try these prompts to get your creativity flowing:
What needs to happen next? Whenever you’re navigating a challenging situation, ask yourself this question to begin generating ideas for how to move forward.
How can I _____? This is another great prompt to shift your attention away from your problem and toward possible solutions.
What is the best possible outcome? Envisioning the “best possible outcome” is an effective way to move into a more creative space.
What is the quickest way I can achieve or resolve this? When it comes to solving problems, the simpler solutions are usually the best solutions. After you’ve generated some possible solutions to a challenge using the other journal prompts, focus on the ones that would solve the problem the fastest.
What do I want to come of this? This open-ended question is one of my favorites, as it often brings some interesting thoughts to the surface.
Spending even just a few minutes each morning in your journal can dramatically improve your success throughout the day. Begin designing your morning routine by experimenting with a few different journaling formats to see which style works best for you.
_Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as providing or replacing medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment._
Information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as providing or replacing medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Author bio: STACY FISHER, RDN, LD, CDCES is the founder of LivingUpp™, a lifestyle design company that teaches women how to use a self-care planning system to create more ease and better health. She is a registered dietitian and lifestyle coach with 20+ years of experience in the healthcare industry, where she’s worked with large companies such as Dell, Boeing and Nike. Stacy is the author of The Lifestyle Design Planner, a flexible life organizer for high-achievers who value self-care and simplicity.