Writing has changed my life.
I write every day. It’s a personal practice I’ve chosen, because I want to become a better writer and it practices my discipline (don’t leave that chair!). More importantly, it helps me get my mind and thoughts organized.
When I get things out of my head, it helps me understand myself better. It diffuses fear and anxiety, and increases clarity.
It’s been instrumental in changing my life.
There are so many benefits to a daily writing practice. Here are seven powerful exercises on how to use writing to improve your life.
#1: Journal for a perfect day
How do you wake up? What do you see when you first open your eyes? What fragrance of the soap do you wash your hands with? Where do you go when you leave the house?
I was first introduced to this exercise many years ago. We were guided through a visualization to write down our entire day; what we did, with whom, what it felt like, what we ate… You get the point.
What was in my day? Smooth sheets, spectacular coffee, freedom to plan my own day, moving my body, telling those close to me I love them. Presence, presence, presence…
What was not in my day? Mindlessly checking my phone hundreds of time a day. Numbing or reactive behaviors. Bingeing in any form.
This exercise highlights what you find to be important and meaningful.
It gives space to explore how you want to spend your time, what matters to you, and what details can bring joy and pleasure to your life.
You can then bring these things in to, or closer to, your own life.
#2: Journal about who you’re becoming
This is my most important daily morning habit. Writing about the person I am consciously choosing to become every single day.
What does success look like today? How can I ask for help today? Who can I help? How do I want to feel as a result of me changing?
By becoming very conscious about our upcoming day, we can break subconscious patterns. We don’t go on autopilot, and instead get in the driver’s seat of our day.
Everyday we create who we are, and we have the power to recreate ourselves. The brain doesn’t know the difference between something experienced, or something visualized. So start teaching it about the person you are working on becoming.
#3: Write to your (younger) self
Nothing like getting older to put things in perspective.
“Youth is wasted on the young”.
This exercise is about visiting your future self. Imagine yourself nearing the end of life, hopefully as an old man or woman. Maybe lazily rocking a hammock, drinking tea on a porch with a view overlooking a sunset.
You sit next to her. What is she telling you?
Your future self will help you realize that ‘this too shall pass’, in the long term – just choose love over fear.
It’s a good exercise to challenge our resistance in moving forward in life. And to make sure we don’t regret those choices we didn’t make… Issues might seem trivial through this lens.
It has helped me in many ways. Because my 90 year old usually says: “Oh just get over yourself. It doesn’t matter what others think. Just do it!”
#4: Write for how a scenario plays out
This exercise helps me immensely in situations where I feel anxiety.
Imagine the situation at hand, and write down possible outcome. Writing down the situation as you could see it play out is powerful.
The power is in seeing your part in it. Your actions and reactions. Write down how you want to act in the situations, what alternatives you might have.
If this happens, I will do this.
If that person reacts negatively, I will remain calm. I’ve simply expressed what is true for me, and I can’t take responsibility for her pain. I’m not at fault.
If my manager says this; I can be prepared and not triggered.
You obviously cannot control the outcome of life.
But look through scenarios. It helps your mind to understand and visualize different possible outcomes, which can reduce anxiety and uncertainty. It helps you get in control of your own actions, and reactions.
#5: Write for how a worst-case scenario plays out
Fear can be crippling. And keep us from doing what we want. Many of our fears are exaggerated, often due to uncertainty. This is a powerful exercise to look at our fear objectively:
What is the scenario you fear? Quitting my job and joining a startup.
What is the worst thing that could happen? List them out. I suck and get fired right away. I hate the job. Everyone laughs at me. I lose all my money. Etc etc.
If this happens, what could I do to get back or recover? Stay with parents or friend’s couch for a few months. Reach out to friends. Look for new work. Have lunch with interesting people.
Writing down worst-case scenarios have helped me in reducing fear, overwhelm and get a clearer look on what I’m dreading might (not) actually happen. And even better, if it does, I have the tools to overcome them. It’s usually not the end of the world.
#6: Write in gratitude
By now, we all know the tremendous power of gratitude. We know that what we focus on expands, and that we can’t feel grateful and fearful at the same time.
Be in awe of the chair you are sitting on, the coffee you got to enjoy this morning and the fact that you are alive.
Write about it and go deeper. Got ten fingers and ten toes? Awesome. Have someone in your life you can say I love you too? Can’t get better.
It is the quickest way I know to write yourself into joy and a state of love.
What we focus on expands, and when we focus on what is good in our life, it builds. A gratitude practice is key for a loving life.
#7: Write for help
Before going to bed, it’s easy to feel stressed out. Our mind is full of impressions from the day – perhaps there is stress, unresolved issues.
Letting go of everything before going to sleep is a practical way to get a good night’s sleep.
Include gratitude. What am I grateful for?
Ask for help. What am I struggling with right now? Where do I need help in my life?
Even better, let your subconscious process this during the night.
#8: Write with prompts
A prompt is a sentence, question or paragraph that guides you into a specific topic to write about.
Prompts can help you approach writing and a situation from a very different perspective. By writing from a prompt you might come at a situation from a perspective that is new to you. You might find a way to challenge a preconceived idea.
It can bring new ideas to your life, and it can spill over and be helpful in situations where you feel stuck.
I have found prompts to trigger some of my most interesting writing.
Writing is a very powerful tool for your life. It can help with self-awareness, reducing fear, learning about ourselves. When we are conscious and want to change ourselves, it is a crucial tool.
How do you use writing to improve your life?