Journaling prompts for the lockdown life

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Let’s get straight into it. You are in lockdown, or in a semi-lockdown. You are spending a lot more time with yourself and in your own head. You want to journal, but don’t know what to write about or how to get started. No problem. These prompts will get you going. Just pick one at random, or use them in order. Use multiple prompts in the same session or do one a day. It doesn’t matter. Just go with it, and enjoy the process.

Journaling prompts 

  1. Have you enjoyed spending time in your home during the lockdown? Why or why not? Be specific and focus on the details and on your feelings. What do you like or dislike about your home or the people you live with? Are your surroundings comfortable? Do you crave more company or do you find this relative solitude refreshing?
  2. How have you used the lockdown time so far? All the time that you might have spent going to work, school, meeting friends, socialising, what have you done with it instead? 
  3. What is the one new thing you’ve learned during this lockdown? This can be anything?—?a skill, or a new way of doing things. For example, I acquired a whole new level of cooking skills and actually learned to enjoy cooking. Perhaps you learned a new language or learned to bake bread, or maybe you learned how to use Zoom. Whatever it is, write about it. How do you use it? Do you enjoy it? Were you forced into learning it? 
  4. How do you feel about how your government and the governments across the world have handled lockdown? Do you keep tabs on government updates? How does that make you feel? 
  5. Do you think other people are going through the same experience? Or is everyone’s experience different depending on their personal situation?
  6. How long did it take you to set into “the lockdown mode”? Have you settled in now?
  7. Do you feel anxious about having to resume a normal life, or are you excited? What about the “new normal” of wearings masks, cleaning hands, and maintaining social distance? 
  8. Has this lockdown made you reevaluate any part of your life? What changes are you going to make as a result of that?
  9. Has this lockdown made you reevaluate your relationships? What changes are you going to make as a result of that? 
  10. How do you feel on most days? Are you worried? Anxious? Are you feeling positive? What are you thinking about? What are you focusing on?
  11. Do you exercise regularly during the lockdown? What exercise do you do? How does that make you feel? 
  12. How do you feel about video calls? Do you spend a lot of time on them? Are they a good replacement for social contact? Or merely a useful work tool?
  13. Do you wear a mask when you go out? How do you feel about it? 
  14. Think about the person you were in February. Has anything changed since then? Do you feel that when the world does return to normal, you will do things differently than you did before? 
  15. What are you grateful for? List at least 10 things, and explain why.
  16. Who has made you laugh during this lockdown? 
  17. What books/tv shows/films have you enjoyed? 
  18. What do you miss the most about not being able to go out? 
  19. Are there any aspects of lockdown life that you see as positives? (i.e. not having to commute on a crowded tube)
  20. What is the one lesson you have learned? It can be a lesson about the world, about life, or just about yourself and how you want to do things.  

Action you can take today

Grab a pen and a journal and start journaling with these prompts. Whether you use them in order or at random, doesn’t matter. Just journal and enjoy the process.

 

3 ways to use journaling to cope with coronavirus

grayscale photo of man walking on tunnel

Photo by Yohann LIBOT on Unsplash

I use journaling to face just about any problem in life. It’s my first go-to solution, and it has worked for me for years. I use journaling to focus on my personal growth, my mental health, and my professional growth to name a few areas. I also use it for my ever-changing hobbies. 

Last few months have been hard for everyone. We suddenly found ourselves in a strange world. We found our global world retreating within stately borders. While we’ve all been in the same pandemic, we’ve not experienced it the same way. Some people have lost their loved ones, others have lost their livelihood. Some people have discovered new hobbies, others have found more quality time with their families. People’s experiences have varied from extreme ends of positive to negative spectrum, and everything in-between. But even if you haven’t suffered any personal tragedies, if you are like most people, it is impossible to ignore tragedies happening around us. It is impossible not to think of some messed-up dystopian future when you step outside of your home and see people wearing masks?—?and view the world as what we are now calling “the new normal”. 

It’s too soon for “the new normal”. Our memories are not that short. We may have gotten used to the lockdown and staying at home, washing hands more than usual, and taking precautions when we go out, but many of us still long for the world where we didn’t worry about any such thing. Where a global pandemic was something that existed either in history or in fiction. 

But it is our present, and while there is not much I can do about the state of the world, I can do something about the state of my mind. And I can also help you do something about the state of yours. Just grab a journal and a pen and get started. These three exercises are incredibly effective.

But before we get into the exercises, set yourself up properly. Sit comfortably, and somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Grab your journal, or if you don’t have a regular journal, grab a notebook. I highly recommend writing by hand. If you want to know why, check out this post on hand-written journaling versus e-journaling.

Then start writing. 

Mind dump 

This is free writing at its best. Set a timer and just write. I recommend setting a timer for 7 minutes. It’s just short enough to not feel daunting but long enough for you to get into the flow. At the end of those 7 minutes, you may find that you still want to keep writing. Keep going. 

Mind dump means writing rather than thinking. Your paragraphs don’t have to make sense. Your words don’t need to be spelt perfectly. Just let the words tumble out. Write with your heart. Write your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, even the petty argument you had with your loved one. It doesn’t matter what you write about. Let your subconscious dictate that. This is about the emotional release and letting out the frustration. 

Depending on what you are focusing on, you may feel a number of different emotions. You may feel a sense of relief as if you have just vented. You may feel down if you have focused on painful memories. You may feel relieved if you have written things down that put things into perspective. You may feel happy if you wrote about the positive things happening in your life, or just in your mind. Some problems are genuine. Others are fixable by changing perspective. But this exercise is not about fixing anything. It’s just about letting it all out. 

Make a list of things that are worrying you

During this time, this is important. Collectively, we are all worried about coronavirus and its impact. But on an individual level, people are worried about many different things. We are not going through an identical experience. Depending on where you live, who you live with, how much money you have, what other challenges you face, what job you have, and numerous other factors, your experience and your worries are unique to your situation. So make a list of things that are worrying you. But be very specific. Don’t just say “I’m worried about coronavirus.” Why are you worried about coronavirus? Are you vulnerable and at a higher risk? Are your loved ones? Are you worried about coronavirus’ impact on your child’s education? Are you worried about losing your business? Whatever it is, be very specific. 

The point of this is to burst the bubble of vague fear. There is so much negativity in the media that it’s impossible not to be worried about everything and feel like the world is going to end. But we are here, and life continues. So instead of focusing on a big cloud of fear that just follows you all day, break down your worries, make them specific. 

You may find then that some of those worries are small things that perhaps you don’t need to worry about. It might identify some worries that you can fix. For example, if you are worried about being made redundant, perhaps you can start preparing and brush up your CV. Maybe you can start thinking of ways to make small money on the side. 

That is not to say that all your worries are baseless. They are not. But this list should help you identify which worries deserve your mental energies and which ones don’t. 

Gratitude 

It’s important to end on the positive. Especially when you are surrounded by negativity and fear. 

For this exercise, make a list of at least 10 things that you are grateful for. If anything, coronavirus has reminded us that things many of us take for granted, like health, are not available to everyone. If you are healthy, you’ve something to be grateful for. If you are healthy and have a safe roof over your head and enough food, you are very lucky. If you have all of that, and people who love you, you are massively fortunate. Appreciate that. 

Yes, problems are relative. Just because you have those things doesn’t mean you have to be content with your lot in life. You are still allowed to want more things, strive for things, complain about things. But during this exercise, just focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have. 

Make that list. Say “Thank you” out loud, after you write each point. Just be present in that moment, as you thank god, the universe, whatever for each of those things. It will make you feel better. 

Action you can take today

What are you waiting for? Go do those exercises. And if you are really committed, do them at least once a week. The gratitude one, I recommend at least 3 times a week.

 

Journaling in time of coronavirus

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My last journal – My current journal (pretty apt for the times we live in)

How are you all doing? I hope you and your loved ones are well during this strange time that we are living in. Who would have thought, a mere six months ago, that entire world would be experiencing the same crisis. But here we are.

I’ve been in the lockdown for over 4 months now. Things are starting to open in the UK, but I am still cautious about where I go. Things are most definitely not back to normal and I don’t think they will be for a while.

If there was ever a time to journal, this has been it. We’ve all been home, close to our notebooks and pens, with more emotional chaos and uncertainties. I’ve continued to journal as normal. What might surprise you is that my journals include very little information about coronavirus or what’s happening in the world. So from a historical perspective, my journal would be pretty useless. I don’t care, as I am not writing for posterity here.

So why is that? Why not write about what is possibly going to be one of the most significant periods in my life time?

Because I didn’t want to dwell on it. It’s that simple. My day job is all about coronavirus and I focus on it every single day. It takes a lot of energy to do that. And overall, what is happening is quite depressing. News, in general is just a downer. If I were to record all that in my journal, that would be even more time I am spending, dwelling on it. No, thanks.

So instead, I journal about whatever is going on in my head, or things I want to focus on. Sometimes, it is about coronavirus and the state of the world, but more often than not, it’s about personal endeavours, my personal struggles and my personal ambitions.

I also tend to keep my journal a place for positivity. So while I do have rants, and sometimes even have a go at myself for not doing what I set out to do or for not being as good as I set out to be, overall I focus on things I want to do and the person I want to become. This changes of course. It changes depending on mood, but also where I am in life. Indirectly, despite life still being busy on a day-to-day level, coronavirus has given most of us a break (not necessarily a welcome break for all) from our usual routine. It has disrupted the routine of our lives, and forced us into trying something else. It’s not been easy for a lot of people. I’m in more fortunate position than many for just being employed, and having a safe place to stay. I hope you are too. But even then, we all have our individual struggles, and this forced disruption has perhaps also resulted in some forced reflection for some of us. My journals include that as well.

It’s not necessarily changed my life or given me an incentive to do something drastic. But it has forced me to reflect on whether or not I am going in the right direction, whether my current actions are aligned with my long-term goals, and it has allowed me to discover a brand new hobby in cooking, and the joy of that process. All these things make into my journal, and it becomes a mix of both reflection and discovery. So it doesn’t matter if my journals are not going to be historically important, they are helping me in the here and the now. And I think that’s a great way to use your journal.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Journal about your here and now. Where are you in your life? Is that where you want to be? Are you enjoying the process and the journey of where you are? If not – how can you pivot?

 

Journaling to just feel better

Journaling is more about one’s inner life than outer life but you can’t dismiss that our outer life has a lot of impact on our inner life. So when your life, in general, feels difficult, or just too busy, too stressed, too anything – journaling can help.

Today, I am feeling super gloomy. There is no particular reason. Perhaps a multitude of small reasons. I have also been having such a packed summer that I am quite worn out. Yet, there is still no time to just be because of prior commitments. So I turn to my journal. I pour out the words, feelings, sometimes irrational feelings but worth mentioning nonetheless. It’s better than keeping it all in, because if I keep it in, it churns around in my mind, exploding into a bigger thing. It’s better than constantly barraging people in your life with your moaning because really, there is enough gloom around.

So today, I am journaling, just to feel better. There doesn’t have to be anything worthwhile written in there. There doesn’t have to be a stroke of brilliance or great writing skill. It’s not poetry. It’s not literature. It just is. It reflects my mood today, what’s on my mind, and it makes me feel better as I get those words out. 

Your journal can do that for you. It can’t fix everything. It can’t offer you a permanent solution for all your problems. But it can sometimes bring that temporary relief. And sometimes that’s enough to just get you going. 

It’s important to value our feelings. To acknowledge how we feel. Our society is so used to giving the standard answer “I’m fine” that we start doing it even to ourselves. We tell ourselves we are fine. Except that we are not. Lying about how fine we are, only leads to bitterness, which actually makes you less appreciative of the good things you do have. So instead, acknowledge that some days you are not fine. Some days you are just angry, hurt, sad, bitchy, gloomy etc. And get those feelings out. Process them. Give them room to make themselves known in the privacy of your journal, which is your safe space. By doing that, you may also just get to know yourself a bit better. 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Pick up that pen, get your journal, and write your heart out. 

 

Handwriting evolution in my journals

Handwriting is an incredible thing. So much of an individual’s personality is infused in it. If you are a regular reader of Kaizen Journaling, you know that I am a big advocate of handwritten journaling. Recently, I was talking to a friend who also journals and we were talking about handwriting and how it’s evolved over time. 

So out of curiosity, I dug out my first journal. I started journaling in 2000, but my first journal lasted a while. 

The first picture is from September 1, 2002.
The second picture is from September 11, 2017.

I found the evolution of my handwriting interesting. The fact that it has kept its neatness, but it is distinctly different. I seemed to have shaded all the flourish and go for far more straight-up efficiency now. And probably gotten stingier with old age, as my handwriting is far smaller :-D

How about you? How has your journaling changed over time? 

 

Journaling exercise: challenging your mindset in challenging times

I’ve been facing some personal challenges recently. Unexpected twists and turns that threw all my plans aside, forced me to shift priorities, and focus on things that I didn’t want to focus. That’s also one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to post here regularly, though that will hopefully change. I miss interacting with you guys, but also more importantly, regardless of what else is happening, I want to keep giving you journaling goodness, and inspiring your journaling journeys. 

Forced change is never pleasant, but it is what it is, and has to be dealt with accordingly. So today’s exercise reflects that: 

In your journal, answer this question: 

When was the last time you were forced into an unexpected, unwanted situation? What was it? What was your initial reaction? What did you then do to resolve it? How did you feel afterwards?

Do you believe now that whatever happened, happened for the best? Do you believe in that positive outlook that everything eventually turns out for the best? 

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

Do the above journaling exercise. Be honest with yourself. About your reactions to the situation, and about how you felt. Don’t sugarcoat anything.

 

Journaling exercise: dissecting your nearest and dearest

Well if that title caught your attention, I don’t know what that says about you :-) But in this exercise, we are going to dissect people closest to you.
Not literally. 
Just on the page. 
Who are the 5 people closest to you? 
Why?
What makes them closest? 
Why do you trust them?
Why do respect them?
Why do you love them? If you do?
Is there a pecking order among these five people? Be honest if there is. You don’t need to feel bad or guilty about it. 
The purpose of this exercise is to understand those closest to you, and by doing so, you understand more about your self. 
 

Journaling exercise: are you self-centred?

Image result for it's all about me

image credit

Too much self-centered attitude brings isolation. Result: loneliness, fear, anger. The extreme self-centered attitude is the source of suffering.

Dalai Lama

I had a conversation recently with someone who is going through a rough period, but what I noticed was that every single sentence was about them. Even when they were trying to talk about not hurting someone else, their sentence was phrased such:

“I don’t want to feel guilty for hurting my loved ones.”

Notice the sentence pattern. First, it begins with an ‘I’. That’s not bad necessarily. You could say, “I don’t want to hurt my loved ones.” or “I want to behave better towards my loved ones.”

But that’s not what that sentence does. It clarifies that the person doesn’t want to feel guilty for hurting their loved ones. So its’ not so much hurting others they are worried about, but feeling guilty for it.

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t talking about a horrible human being here. This person doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone. However, their focus is all on them. All they are thinking about is how it would make THEM feel if they hurt someone. Their focus is entirely on self, but superficial self. The outside self, not the inner self where self-awareness exists and makes you take stock of your behaviour and allow you to change it.

Self-centeredness can take many forms, from above where one is the sole emotional focus of one’s thoughts, to where one is deliberately using others for one’s benefit and all the degrees in between. It is also possible that you may not even be aware of how self-centred you are.

I believe in general human goodness, and I don’t think most people actually want to be self-centred. I think most people do want to be able to give and receive affection, have healthy relationships – but not everyone is consciously working on overcoming their internal triggers and limitations to achieve that. So that’s what this exercise is about. If you find that you are self-centred, or more self-centred than you thought, that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person. Awareness is the key. You need to know exactly who you are in order to determine if you want to continue being that, or if some changes/improvements are needed. 

So ask yourself these questions:

  • When you are talking to other people, particularly people close to you, how often “YOU” are the sole focus of your conversation?
  • Do you ask someone, “How do you feel?” or “How are you?” and actually listen to them, or you can’t wait to get to your part of the conversation?
  • When considering other people, are you more concerned about how it would make you feel?
  • When talking to other people, are you often thinking about how they annoy/amuse/irritate/adore/inspire you? 
  • Do you find yourself ever thinking of others, in their own right, their problems, just wanting to listen to them for their own sake, because you care?
  • Do you think you are better than others in every way possible? 
  • Do you think you DESERVE everything in life – attention, affection, admiration – without having to give anything in return?

Be honest with yourself as you answer these questions, and give specific examples wherever you can. Don’t just give up at the first try. If you can’t immediately come up with an answer, try again. But answer these questions in as much detail as possible. 

Once you know the extent of your self-centeredness then you can work any changes you think you might need to execute to be the person you want to be.

 

Hand-written Journaling versus E-Journaling

 

NOTE: All images in this post are from my personal journals.

I’d always intended to do this post, because this is the question that always comes up when I talk about journaling. It’s the same sort of debate as e-books versus paper books. A comment from a reader on the previous post bumped this up the schedule, and I decided to do this post straight away.

Amit said,

Hm… I actually use my computer for my journaling. My computer it a literal bio-electric extension of my body. I can type 500 times faster than I can write. Is it bad that I don’t use paper and pencil, or is personal preference the important thing?

 

I gave him a short answer in the comment, but now I’m going to go into detail and explain my position on this.

First, let’s begin with rules. There is only one rule in journaling. You can tell what’s coming, right?

Yup! The rule is: There are no rules.

Journaling is a personal process. It’s an extension of our personality, and our lives. It’s a tool for our growth, and so each of our journals are as unique as us. Even if you and I sat down together, followed exactly the same prompts or guidelines for a week, wrote about the same topic, and followed the same format, our journals would still be different. That’s why I never tell anyone what their journaling should be like. It has to be whatever you want it to be.

But saying that, I’m here to share my experience and knowledge, and also to give my opinions. (Hey, it’s no fun being neutral)

E-Journaling

It’s definitely on the rise. People who avoided journaling before for various reasons – such as bad hand-writing, too slow, didn’t want to carry a journal around – started trying journaling apps, or even just keeping it in MS Word or equivalent.

Now, with mobile phones and tablets being mainstream, and majority of us having one tool or another on the go, e-journaling has become even easier.

Another key consideration is that for a lot of people, myself included, typing is a lot faster than writing by hand.  If you have bad hand-writing, e-journaling is tidier. Less chances of spelling mistakes too, especially if you are a perfectionist.

I definitely can see its advantages, and one of the biggest ones is convenience. Logically, e-journaling is a very useful way to do it in this day and age.

Logically….but if we only followed logic, we would miss out on so many things.

Hand-written journaling

All my journals are hand-written. I’ve tried e-journaling, but it doesn’t work for me. This is the method I strongly advocate, and for several reasons.

The physical journal.

For me, selecting a journal I like is an emotional experience. I know that whatever I write in it is going to be important to me. These are the things I dwell on. That’s why what I mentioned about quality in the previous post is important. These days, it’s not so much selecting, as purchasing. I have tried many journals, and I still have some brand new ones that I haven’t used because they are too pretty, and I’ve got particular milestones for them. Plain moleskine is my favourite. I also like Paperblanks, as a chance from moleskine.

The act of writing.

This is where the goldmine is. I actually believe that the process of writing by hand makes a difference. It’s slower than you can type, but that means that you are connecting more with your words. I personally find that if I write something down by hand, it makes a far stronger impression on me. Of course this could be just a personality thing, but I’ve always found things easier to remember, understand or assimilate if I wrote them down.

I feel there is something special about seeing your thoughts in your own writing. It’s another way of personalising your journals. It makes them even more uniquely yours. There is the smell and feel and texture associated with each journal. Your handwriting also shows evidence of your mood, and your state of mind. Usually, my writing is neat. But sometimes, I’m either too upset, or in such a rush to get words out that it’s a mess. Sometimes, I feel like using different coloured pens, and sometimes, an entire journal is in same black ink. Sometimes, I put stickers or drawings or little memorabilia in my journals. Sometimes, I’ve post-it index sticking out of pages.

All of these, puts a stamp of my personality on it, which I don’t think e-journaling can achieve.

I’m totally a gadget girl. I love computers, and I have more than what one normal being should want or need. I love my Blackberry. I like finding nifty apps. And if I don’t talk myself out of buying a tablet, that’s going to be the next thing. The lure of gadgets…it’s stronger than buying clothes. So when I tell you that it’s not technophobia that’s keeping me from e-journaling, you can believe it’s the truth.

It comes back to what I have said before. Journaling, for me, is not just about recording my day-to-day life, or about achieving one thing. Journaling is a part of who I am and a part of my life, and so I want my journals to reflect that.

ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:

If you haven’t tried hand-written journaling or if you haven’t tried it for a long time, give it a go. Just try it for a week. See if it achieves more result for you. You can always return to e-journaling.