8 Easy Exercises to Help You Journal About Your Heart

8 Easy Exercises to Help You Journal About Your Heart December 15, 2023

Woman wrapped in a blanket with fountain pen writing in a paper journal. The featured image for 8 Easy Exercises to Journal About Your Heart by Mark Whitlock on Patheos.
Photo by Jessica Mangano on Unsplash

So often when we journal, we think we have to write everything we think, do, and feel.

My friend and unofficial mentor Nate Larkin encourages the men he leads to use the first few minutes every morning to recap the previous day. This writing is not for publication or to archive for our future best-selling memoirs. It is to give ourselves sanity for the day to come. His assignment often feels like a daunting task. I want to capture everything, every emotion, every reaction, every sin, and every triumph. Most of the time I don’t think I can get write it all.

So, I write nothing.

Over time, I have compiled these methods and shared them with friends who’ve asked about my journaling practices.

1. Journal about a Picture

  • You could use a picture you took on your iPhone yesterday, go to Google Images and search for a word that describes your current emotion, or choose a classic work. Start describing it.
  • What do you see?
  • What emotion(s) does it evoke?
  • What happened five seconds before the picture was taken?
  • What happens next?
  • Where would you be in the picture if you added yourself?

Start by answering one or more of these questions and before you know it, you will be writing about yourself.

2. Journal about a Specific Event

  • What was the most troubling thing that happened yesterday?
  • When did you feel best yesterday?
  • When did you feel left behind?
  • When did you feel triumphant?
  • How did someone compliment you?
  • To whom did you minister?
  • What was the first thought that went through your mind?
  • What song is stuck in your head?
  • Why did you get angry?

By asking yourself a specific question and then writing about it, you’ll get closer to your heart. You’re writing about a few minutes and not about a 24-hour period. The good news is, before you’re done, you will have written about more than just a few minutes.

You could also finish a statement like these:

  • I had some weird emotions after watching (TV show) because…
  • I hesitated to call my friend because…
  • I isolated myself from others because…
  • While I was in the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about…

3. Create Your Own Questions

Hold a brainstorming session with yourself and brainstorm your own questions about your daily habits and rhythms. Keep these handy to answer.

4. Use The Valley of Vision

This book of written Puritan prayers says what I think and feel with such eloquence and economy of words that I can’t improve on them. But I try to add to them by using lines from a prayer as a journal entry starter.

The Valley of Vision is a great addition to your library but is also available at no cost online.

5. One Verse a Day

So often we get bogged down in Bible study that we think we have to follow others’ prescriptions.

  • Read a passage from the Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament each day (I love The Daily Audio Bible podcast for my wide spectrum Bible reading.)
  • Read three chapters
  • Read one book over and over again for a month
  • Read one chapter of Proverbs each day

While all of those are good, sometimes that’s not what we need when it comes to connecting with our hearts through journaling. I encourage you to read one verse and write about it. Starting with Psalm 1:1 or Ecclesiastes 1:1 is very helpful.

6. Headlines

I started writing as a journalism major in college. I wrote news articles for class then I wrote radio commentaries for National Public Radio. Writing in a news format can remove you from the equation. Do you have a RSS feed of news stories and/or blogs? What if you inserted yourself into a headline? For example, here are three stories in my RSS feed on the day I wrote this post.

  • Miley Cyrus’s New Video Leaked. Steamy
  • Top Five Apps for Your New SmartPhone
  • America World Ministers in Ethiopia

If I substituted my name and experience for these headlines, I might have a news story to write:

Mark Whitlock’s New Video Leaked. Confusing.
Top Five Ways Mark Got Angry Yesterday
Mark Whitlock Ministers at The Church at Brook Hills

Write about yourself in the third person with the objectivity of a journalist. Write in the famous inverted pyramid of journalism* or answer the 5 Ws and the H**.

7. Haiku

I have friends who like to write haiku about their lives. This Japanese poem format is most often referred to as 5-7-5. Five syllables in the first line, seven in the second line, and then five again in the third line. Each line should be a complete thought, but not necessarily a complete sentence.

Journal emotion
Nate Larkin encourages
Mad, sad, glad, afraid

This can feel strange but pushes you to use economy of words. As does the next idea.

8. Ten Word Journal Entries

We live online and in the Xverse. Imagine writing about your day in 140 characters or just ten words. This exercise, like Haiku, can push us to get to the heart.

What strategies and exercises help you journal better?

What barriers have kept you from journaling in the past?

Continue the discussion by leaving a comment.

*list the most important fact and then the other facts in descending order of importance.
** Who, What, Where, When, Why, How

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