Recording your thoughts and intentions is one of the most powerful personal (not to mention cheap and easy) growth tools available. Not only does it reduce stress and increase self-esteem, it creates a framework on which you can build not only your day — but also your life. Morning pages, a specific exercise design by Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist's Way, offers a way to record your thoughts and intentions in a very specific way. Here's how the daily process works:
Essentially, morning pages are just a way of emptying your head, especially if your head is full of anxiety and judginess and mean little thoughts. Clean all that negativity out with the mental mop that is morning pages. Here's why it works:
Morning pages force you to be honest with yourself
And let's face it, we all spend a lot of time being less than honest with ourselves. With a regular practice of morning pages, you start to realize the truth about what's working and not working in your life. Really, you can only complain about something so long before you feel motivated to do something about it, even if complaining is only in secret, tucked away in a notebook that only you can see.
Morning pages force you to brainstorm solutions
For many people, those "ah-ha moments" often show up during showers, commutes and runs — those times when your brain has a little space to move around and stretch. Morning pages put those moments into overdrive, giving you more direct access to your creative, subconscious self, where often all the good stuff hides. You'll gain clarity and new insights, simply by writing things down and analyzing them. It's a special kind of magic, where you get big, powerful ideas or inspiration to take action through a relatively simple process, where brilliant flashes of insight show up right in the middle of the sentence you're writing.
Once you've arrived, it's hard to go back.
The journey of writing your morning pages regularly (dare I say religiously?) will create a change in you that is irreversible. By writing down your hopes, fears and how annoying your sister can be, you give yourself permission to be exactly who you are, practicing radical self-acceptance in a safe and limited environment. The next natural step is to take it beyond your journal out into the real world, where you can honor your truth and express what it means to be you. Going back to your old life isn't really an option.
9 tips to enhance your morning pages experience
Don't know where to start? Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Start writing about where you are in your life at this moment. Start where you are. That's good advice for life in general. Write about what's bothering you, why you're stuck, where'd you like to go, when you'd like to get there and how that might happen. Start with the weather, if you have to.
2. Don't edit, censor yourself or worry about grammar. Worrying about that stuff is unneccessary and blocks you from where you're trying to go. Just let it flow, allowing stream-of-consciousness to take over. The more you censor yourself, the less effective you'll be, especially at first.
3. Try writing with your non-dominant hand. Oh, hello there inner child! You were here hanging out all along? Wow, you've got some issues I didn't even know were there! Writing with your non-dominant hand is just another path to your subconscious. Try it and see what happens.
4. End with gratitude. The research here is pretty clear: by writing down and clearly acknowledging the things you're grateful for, you'll increase your happiness and well-being. It doesn't have to be complicated, just a few bullet points is fine.
5. Doodle. Even if it's just stick figures or that puppy you learned to draw in middle school using six circles (does anyone else know what I'm talking about here?), drawing shapes and even using color engages a different part of your brain. Sometimes a picture just better conveys what it is you're feeling.
6. Go outside. We here at the Outdoor Book Club are obviously big proponents of taking it outside. Even if it's just on your porch or your picnic table, connecting with the sky, the seasons and the weather reminds you that the world is a big and mysterious place.
7. Acknowledge your successes every once in a while. It doesn't have to get in the way of your stream-of-consciousness honesty session, but don't forget to add a little sunshine when appropriate. So many of us fail to see where we're making progress and how hard that progress was to achieve. Writing it in your morning pages might remind you of exactly how far you've come.
8. Try writing in the third person. Writing in the third person gives you some distance and perspective you might not otherwise see, especially if it's something hard or something that's really bothering you.
9. Buy a beautiful journal or a nice pen. I've gotten to the point where a drugstore spiral bound notebook works perfectly for me, but I really do love writing with a nice pen. Whatever it is that's going to motivate you to keep up the practice, especially in those first few critical weeks (remember, it takes 30 days to create a habit).
Sounds simple, right?
It is. Don't make it harder than it has to be. Just get up a little bit early and do yourself this one favor. It's one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to improve your life. It doesn't matter if you're a writer or a scientist or a prisoner, morning pages will give you the context and clarity you need to make some real change in your life.
Jill Hinton Wolfe