Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It + INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY

Self-Help

Did you know that 99% of life’s greatest problems could be solved with stream of consciousness journaling?

Ok, I made that up. But in case you didn’t know this about me, I’m a huge fan of stream of consciousness journaling. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. Journaling has gotten me through my worst days, helped me to realize my passion in life, gave me the courage to be myself, and strengthened my spirituality.

That’s why I’m a huge advocate for using stream of consciousness journaling for self-help and self-discovery. It’s why I mention it in many of my blog posts, talk about it on social media, and recommend it to those who reach out to me for advice.

However, as someone who wants to spend all day everyday writing, I was surprised by how few people actually practice stream of consciousness journaling or know what it is! WHAT? Does not everyone spend hours a day writing? What do they do with their time? So today I wanted to explain what you need to know about stream of consciousness journaling and why this simple activity is so beneficial. I’ll also talk about how to incorporate stream of consciousness journaling into your life for those who are curious about it and are interested in starting.

I really wish that more people would regularly do stream of consciousness journaling. It’s a freeing, introspective, and therapeutic method that helps you work through life’s challenges and improve every aspect of your life for a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. It may not solve 99% of life’s problems but I honestly believe that if more people implemented this simple act into their daily routine, the world would be a much better place.

Make sure to stay until the very end of the post to learn how you could win my Gratitude Journal Giveaway!

What is stream of consciousness journaling?

What stream of consciousness isn’t is a narrative, a story, or a diary. It’s not meant for you to provide a timeline or create an autobiography. It’s not a description of your day.

Stream of consciousness journaling is when you write whatever is in your head, completely unfiltered. You write every thought just as is, exactly how it’s flowing through your mind. Curse words, improper grammar, subject changes and all. You write about anything and everything that’s going through your mind. You don’t plan it, you don’t wonder what you should write next. You pick a topic, like something that’s bothering you, and you write down everything.

It’s meant to be very messy. You don’t worry at all about spelling, grammar, or run-on sentences, because it’s probably the only type of writing that’s not meant to be read. It’s an exercise, it’s a therapeutic method. And if you’re doing it correctly, trust me, you will NEVER want to read it. You’re brain-dumping all of the emotions, all the stressors, the challenges, the problems, the insecurities, and the things you don’t want people to know about you and putting them on paper to clear your mind.

It’s not like any other writing because there’s no structure and there are no rules – no editing, no five-paragraph format, not even an intro or a conclusion. It’s your brain! It doesn’t follow rules! And that’s why the most important thing to remember is to not be critical of it or worry about how it reads because it will never be read! That’s why it’s so freeing.

PRO TIP: Relax about it.

It’s not weird! Stop thinking it’s weird!

I noticed that the one thing that turns people away from journaling is that they associate writing down their thoughts in a journal with a 14-year-old girl writing in her pink “diary” about the boy she has a crush on and the girl she doesn’t like a school. It seems adolescent or immature. It seems like something that isn’t socially acceptable. But it’s not a diary. Trust me, I had diaries as a kid. (Not that there’s anything wrong with having a diary.)

Stream of consciousness journaling is a therapeutic technique that is beneficial for anyone and everyone no matter what their age or gender. However, you won’t reap those benefits unless you calm down and stop judging yourself for doing it. The first few times you do it may be weird, because you’ve never seen your own thoughts on paper before, but it does get easier and it starts to feel more natural and more freeing the more you practice it.

The very real benefits of stream of consciousness journaling

Why is it beneficial? The reason why I preach about stream of consciousness journaling all the time is that I’ve seen so many benefits from it, particularly when I started to do it regularly. By making it a part of my nightly routine I saw that it started to change my mood and my mindset so I felt happier all day, even when I wasn’t journaling. It allowed me to put the challenges and the negativity down on paper instead of carrying it with me. That’s why after making it a part of my daily life, I believe in it wholeheartedly and think that the world would be a much happier and better place if everyone adopted this simple activity.

Here are the top 11 reasons why stream of consciousness journaling is beneficial in hopes that it will inspire you to start today…

1. It allows you to purge

The number one benefit that everyone can agree on about stream of consciousness journaling is that it gets everything down on paper or your computer so those thoughts don’t keep circling in your head. It allows you to take a load off and to get rid of the baggage that distracts you from feeling content and at peace. I didn’t even know how cluttered and chaotic my mind was until I started journaling and noticed how much calmer and clearer my mind was afterward. I didn’t realize how much the thoughts and stressors had been building up and weighing on me until they were finally gone. I had gotten so used to the stress little by little that I couldn’t remember life without it.

2. It stops thoughts from amplifying

You know how when something is bothering you or stressing you out, your mind does this exciting thing where it continues to amplify the problem? You’ll be bothered by something that’s happened to you and suddenly your mind can make it a hundred times worse by building up the problem, thinking of all of the other bad things that could happen, thinking about how other people will think and feel, etc. Your mind goes from worrying about that passive-aggressive thing your boss said to suddenly convincing you that you could be fired, wondering what would happen if you got fired, stressing about bills, thinking about how you would feel, thinking about how a job loss could ruin your reputation, thinking about what your partner will think of you, or thinking about how you should act around your boss. The problem snowballs from one stressor into a full-blown life crisis in a matter of 15 minutes.

What stream of consciousness journaling does is it stops those thoughts from circling and amplifying in your mind. It prevents them from blowing up into something that ruins your day and your happiness with pointless worrying. It also makes you realize how extraordinarily unrealistic those thoughts can be once you actually write it down. That way it makes the problem more manageable and grounds you again instead of keeping you sucked into that miserable anxiety loop.

3. It helps you solve a problem

Stream of consciousness journaling is also incredibly beneficial for problem-solving and helping you make better decisions. And don’t we all need help with that! One way that it does this is by removing that clutter in your mind and preventing the negativity from amplifying, so you’re actually able to figure out a problem or what your next step should be because it removes those distractions. You have space to figure out what to do and come up with solutions.

Often times we’re also unable to figure out the root of a problem. There’s so much going on in our minds that you don’t really know what’s going on. There have been countless times where I’ve had life-changing epiphanies because writing about a problem allows me to peel back the layers and find out what’s really going on deep down in my subconscious mind. This journaling allows you to discover how certain circumstances have been triggered that reminds you of an event or person from your past. What journaling has taught me that your mind is kind of like an onion, and onions have layers. You have to peel back plenty of layers on the top to get to the center of the problem and figure out what’s really bothering you. (If you didn’t get that Shrek reference, I don’t know if we can be friends).

Lastly, stream of consciousness journaling helps you solve problems by discovering what’s actually best for YOU. One of the major lessons I learned in my senior year of college and after graduating college is that everyone and their mother thinks that they are an expert on what is best for me. Everyone seems to think they know the perfect place for me to live, the perfect way to go about finding a job, the perfect career path, the best way to invest money, the best freaking house that I should buy, the best time to get a pet, etc. Everyone has a major opinion about how you, and I, and everyone else should be living our best life.

But here’s the thing, only YOU know what is best for YOU. Other people may have ideas and opinions based on their own experience, but just because something works for another person and makes sense for their life, doesn’t mean that it makes sense to you. Stream of consciousness journaling helps you separate the outside opinions and uncover what makes the most sense for you.

4. It reduces stress

Immediately after stream of consciousness journaling, I always notice an incredible sense of relief. Do you know how you get a runner’s high after a nice long run where you feel refreshed, happy, and uplifted? That’s sort of how I feel after a long journaling session where I release any of the drama, stresses, or insecurities that I’ve been dealing with. By the end of an hour of a long writing session, I feel an enormous sense of relief. It clears why mind and relaxes me so I can feel happy and free of stress.

However, it’s not just immediately after journaling where you’re able to feel this sense of release. By incorporating it into your daily routine and releasing that stress each and every time, you’ll notice that over time you’ll be less anxious in general. You’re incorporating a therapeutic exercise into your life and you’re dealing with your problems in a healthy way so you can be happier, more relaxed, and more fulfilled all the time. I started to notice this feeling after about a month of journaling for half an hour to an hour each night and then following it with mediation. Side Note: Journaling also made meditation much easier so I started to feel the benefits from that practice as well.

5. It helps with self-discovery

One of the most interesting benefits to me about stream of consciousness journaling is how much it helps with self-discovery. I’ve always been an incredibly introspective person, but even I am blown away by how much you can learn more about yourself simply by writing down your thoughts. Engaging in regular self-reflection brings up things that you didn’t even realize about yourself. These could even be things that you thought about your whole life but haven’t been able to figure out.

I’ve spent many nights learning new things about myself that I’ve never noticed before or have been stumped on for years. The most significant one that comes to mind is how I learned of my passion and life’s purpose through journaling. I answered a prompt late one night and used stream of consciousness journaling, as I always do, and suddenly it hit me that my passion was self-help and wellness. At the exact moment, I was laying in bed surrounded by a pile of self-help books that were all highlighted and stuffed with notes. I listened to self-help podcasts, read self-help books for years, and envied the self-help writers that I knew of. But somehow it never occured to me that that’s what I wanted to do. My passion and purpose had been hiding right underneath my nose my whole life.

There are many nights when journaling did not lead to an epiphany, but there were also many nights when it did. Through exploring a new topic or answering a prompt that might not even stick out to you, it can pull information out that you may have ignored or kept buried for weeks, months, even years.

6. It improves mood

You’ll notice that when you get into the habit of journaling every day, you will slowly start to see a shift in your overall mood. You’re engaging in deep introspection that helps you learn about your self-sabotaging patterns, toxic relationships, dreams, hobbies, and past – which is not only rewarding, but also uplifting. After journaling for weeks or even months you’ll start to notice that you’re feeling content and more positive, and if you’re anything like me, you may notice that you no longer feel like you’re in a fog.

You begin to feel free from the things that weighed on your mind before and your mindset slowly starts to change for the better. I know I’m making big statements here, but after spending an hour of journaling each day for months, I saw this change myself. When you dedicate that much time to your mental health and wellness, you do begin to feel much happier and positive. All it takes is committing to it.

7. It helps you to become mindful

After journaling for such a long period of time, the self-reflection helps you to be more mindful. It helps you go about your day with intention and focus rather than letting the day pass you by in a blur of scrolling or stress. It makes each activity you do more thoughtful. It also alerts you to the behaviors or habits that you have that don’t support your health and happiness so you can make better choices throughout the day. Choices like not engaging with a negative person, using your free time wisely, taking care of your body, and saying goodbye to self-sabotaging habits.

8. It strengthens personal discipline

If you choose to start journaling as part of your morning or nighttime routine, you’re strengthening your personal discipline. You’re choosing to set aside time every day whether you’re in the mood to or not to engage in a healthy behavior. That alone strengthens your personal discipline, but you’ll notice that it soon starts to bleed into other areas of your life. By making yourself engage in one healthy behavior, before you know it you’re choosing to eat better, or exercise more, or go outside, or use social media with intention. Making one decision that contributes to your health, happiness, and growth inspires you to make those decisions elsewhere. Again, this is one of those changes that I didn’t notice until weeks of practicing stream of consciousness journaling regularly. A benefit like this doesn’t happen until you’ve committed to making it a ritual instead of an occasional activity.

9. It unlocks your creativity

I believe that purging all those stressors or insecurities through writing and freeing up your mind from the drama gives it more room to be creative. When I started incorporating stream of consciousness journaling into my life, I noticed that I suddenly had more ideas than I knew what to do with. That I was inspired more often and that I wanted to write even more. It’s actually when I put in a month of stream of consciousness journaling that I started to get serious about my blog and wanted to pursue writing as a career. I even started to branch out and write about topics that I don’t typically write about. It unlocked creativity and inspiration within me that I didn’t even realize existed.

10. It allows you to explore and strengthen your spirituality

I won’t dive too deeply into this because this isn’t a spirituality post, but I do want to touch on this subject. I’m Buddhist and believe that we’re all on our own journey and are experiencing this life to learn, grow, and become enlightened in some way. And I believe that self-discovery and self-help work allows you to do that. When I continued to do stream of consciousness journaling I started to evolve and to connect with a higher power like I never had before.

You may not have the same spirituality as me, but every spirituality or religion that exists encourages introspection and self-growth. No matter what you believe, journaling can help you to become a better version of yourself, strengthen your faith, and connect with a higher power.

I believe this happens through deep introspection, but also because once you’re free of stress, anxiety, and the problems amplifying in your mind, and you start to become mindful and it becomes easier tap into spirituality – just as journaling helped me unlock my creativity. Through stream of consciousness journaling, your mind is able to focus on more introspective and soulful pursuits rather than being distracted.

Through journaling I came to profound realizations that I used to read about in books, but had never fully understood because my mind was too busy. For example, I was able to comprehend how everything and everyone is connected, that we must let go of our stories to become our highest selves, that coincidences and universal signs happen all around me, and that each experience (even painful ones) are helping me to evolve and become the person that I was brought to this planet to be. It also helped me become aware of divine intervention and trust that the universe has my back, because through writing I could reflect on how circumstance, people, and events are slowly shaping me to become the person that I’ve always wanted to be.

11. It improves your writing

Don’t let the stream of consciousness technique fool you. Just because stream of consciousness journaling isn’t necessarily formal writing, with proper spelling, structure, and grammar, that doesn’t mean that it won’t help you to become a better writer. After I put in hours of journaling, I started to realize that I began to find my voice. My writing became even more conversational, vulnerable, snarky, and honest. I found my own style that didn’t conform to what I had learned in school my whole life. But just as Pablo Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

The other way that it helps with writing is by forcing yourself to write every day, no matter what it is, writing anything becomes easier. When you write any paper, blog post, report, depiction, etc. it’s so much easier to do because you’ve been using those muscles regularly. You become a better writer even accidentally because you’ve been practicing each day, even if it didn’t feel like you were.

Ok, I get it, but what do I write about?

The biggest issue that people tend to have about this type of writing is that they don’t know what to write about. Many people struggle about what to write because the vast majority of people don’t write unless they have to for work or for school when there’s someone telling them what, when, and how to write. But the beauty of stream of consciousness writing is you can write about anything. You can write about your family, relationships, stressors, your day, traumas, your bucket list, your perfect day, your dreams, your goals, etc. You can write about anything that you feel pulled to write about that day.

I personally like to write about whatever is stressing me out or weighing on my mind. Whatever is bothering me that day is what I’m writing about, and by doing that I feel like I’m liberated from all those negative thoughts once I write them down. I’m not a huge fan of journal prompts because they don’t offer me that same benefit which is purging the clutter and chaos in my mind, but occasionally I use them to help me with self-discovery on the days when I feel like being more introspective.

But prompts can still be incredibly beneficial, especially if you’re new to journaling. One of my followers and readers I talked to about stream of consciousness journaling was overwhelmed when I told him that you can write about anything and said that he needed more direction to get into journaling. So if you are having a difficult time figuring out what to write, consider picking a prompt first to get you warmed up. You can still do stream of consciousness journaling and “brain dump” even if you’re using a prompt for inspiration. Writing about anything could seem intimidating and this type of writing can be particularly difficult to get used to if you’ve never journaled before. Luckily there is no shortage of journal prompts available to you.

If you’d like to check out journal prompts, head over to my “Self-Discovery” Pinterest Board. I regularly pin prompts to help you with introspection, self-love, discipline, and motivation, so you can always use that as a resource. For now, here are some of my favorite prompts to help get your writing flowing today…

30 Journal Prompts to get you started

  1. How are you… really?
  2. Something I thought a lot about as a child was…
  3. One thing that I really need to work on is…
  4. Describe one thing that you are the proudest of yourself for.
  5. Describe one person that you admire the most today and why.
  6. The quality I admire most in others is…
  7. When I was little I wanted to be…
  8. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  9. What would you do if you knew for certain that you wouldn’t fail?
  10. If I could be a go-to person for anything it would be…
  11. One thing that I am the most passionate about is…
  12. Who are you the most envious of and why?
  13. When people first meet me, I hope they feel…
  14. What do you need more of in your life?
  15. What skills do you wish you had the most?
  16. What do you love about yourself?
  17. What are your priorities at the moment?
  18. The last time that I truly felt alive was…
  19. What hobbies would you love to try?
  20. What can you do to take better care of yourself?
  21. At the end of my life, the legacy that I want to leave is…
  22. Where do you see yourself in six months? A year? 5 years? 10 years?
  23. How can you feel more fulfilled in your life?
  24. Set 3 short term goals and 3 long term goals for yourself and write why you chose them.
  25. What are your 5 favorite ways to relax and fill you up?
  26. What limiting beliefs are holding you back from fulfilling your dream life?
  27. What actions can you take to simplify your life?
  28. What does happiness mean to you?
  29. What is your dream job?
  30. If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be and why?

Bonus: End with Gratitude

Now, if you really want to see the maximum benefits from journaling as I talked about above, I recommend ending each and every stream of consciousness journaling practice with gratitude. There are countless testimonials, studies and experiments that prove that incorporating gratitude into your daily life can improve your mental and emotional state and help you become more successful. That’s why thousands of successful people, celebrities, influencers, and change makers swear by a daily gratitude practice and owe their accomplishments to their simple gratitude ritual.

Even Oprah has a daily gratitude practice and swears that her daily gratitude journal has brought her the most joy, allowed her to keep up the stamina to build her empire, and attract a fan base that completely aligns with her message. Her gratitude practice is simply writing down 5 things that she feels grateful for each and every day – even if it’s something incredibly simple. Today, there are thousands of articles and videos that you can find online where successful people share their gratitude practice and open up about how it impacted their life and allowed them to be happier. Each practice may be slightly different, but it proves that incorporating gratitude practice or a gratitude journal into your routine improves your life in more ways than one.

My gratitude practice

Personally I’ve found that jotting down 3, 5, or 10 things that I’m grateful for is not enough for me. Writing down a bullet point isn’t enough to bring me that overwhelming sense of gratitude that has the potential to change my mindset and my life. Many people swear that their bullet journal changed their life, but I’ve had no success with it. Instead, I incorporate gratitude in my own way. At the end of each journaling session, I pick one thing that I’m grateful for that day and write about it in detail. It could be an insightful conversation with a stranger, or my partner, or an accomplishment – but whatever it is I write at least a paragraph about it. I write about what it is I’m grateful for and why I feel so happy to have this thing in my life. By writing in detail about one thing in particular it helps me feel a heightened sense of gratitude and completely shifts my mindset towards a positive one. It’s impossible to feel crappy after I finish my own gratitude practice.

It’s GIVEAWAY Time!

Since I’m such a huge believer in practicing journaling and gratitude each and every day and I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for months, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for another Instagram Giveaway! I will be giving away a beautiful and super colorful daily gratitude journal to one lucky winner on my Instagram @heather.ione. It’s a gorgeous and lightweight journal that you can take with you anywhere to make it nice and easier to get yourself into your own daily gratitude practice! Make sure to head over there today to see how you could this beautiful little book, that I completely fell in love with because it 100% reminds me of my favorite book, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I really hope that you enjoyed learning about stream of consciousness writing, the benefits, and how to incorporate it in your daily life. And I hope that you can take something away from it that will be beneficial to you. I’ve seen this simple ritual impact my life like nothing else before. I swear by stream of consciousness journaling and I believe in its ability to improve our mental stage and make us happier. It’s a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for many months on the blog in hopes that it could help others and inspire them to start journaling too.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Was this post helpful to you? Did you learn anything? Do you do stream of consciousness journaling? Did you see any benefits of your own? If so, what were they? And do you have your own gratitude practice?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photo Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

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