Do you ever toss and turn at night, lying in bed trying ― but failing ― to fall asleep? When we finally slow down, our thoughts have a way of catching up to us.
Journaling is a great way to get all of those thoughts out of your head and onto paper. You might think of your journal as a kind of dreamcatcher for your troubles. Or maybe you see it as a parking lot for your unfinished thoughts. Whatever it looks like to you, journaling before bed is a powerful tool that is clinically proven to reduce worry and help people fall asleep faster.
Hop out of bed to keep it sleep-friendly, and sit with your journal. Don’t know where to start? Here are some helpful ideas to get your pen moving:
Who or what are you grateful for today? Maybe you really appreciate your partner for supporting you. Maybe you’re thankful for your job. Perhaps you’re grateful for the food you ate, your body’s many abilities, or a kind thing someone said. Whatever it is, write about it. Focusing on gratitude can help shift your thoughts from what you don’t have to the wonderful things you do have.
What things are you worried about? Feeling anxious about anything in particular? Get it off your chest, out of your head, and onto the page. This practice has been shown to help people reduce their feelings of worry.
Visualize a peaceful moment. It could be something you actually remember, or something totally made up. Maybe you think of a quiet forest, an empty beach, or a serene drive down the open road. Maybe you’re even imagining a room in your home with your loved ones. Whatever it is, write down what it looks like, what it smells like, what it sounds like. As you imagine this moment, think about who is there with you, and how you feel. Picturing a relaxing experience like this can help shift your mindset into a calmer, more positive space.
Naming our feelings sounds easy, but it’s often a challenge! Doing this exercise before you go to bed can help make sense of the emotions you felt throughout the day. List at least five that come to mind. Bonus points if you can write down when and where you felt them. This can give you amazing insight into how certain people, places, and situations tend to make you feel.
Dreading tomorrow? Write down the things on your to-do list. This can help you feel less overwhelmed at night, and can make it more likely you’ll stick to that plan the next day. Coming back to your journal each night can also help you track if you finished your checklist. Check out our guide to make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).
Want to take it to the next level? After trying one of the prompts above, try talking to someone about what you wrote down. Your coworker might really like to hear that you’re grateful for the pep talk they gave you. Your loved ones could really appreciate hearing how you felt yesterday. Your friends might be excited to help you reach your goals. Letting others see bits of your personal world is a powerful way to connect!
Find your favorite prompts and don’t be afraid to change it up some nights! Just the simple act of writing down your thoughts, feelings, or intentions is a healthy way to stay in tune with yourself.