Sam Holstein

Nine Questions You Should Answer In Your Journal Every Day

Nine Questions You Should Answer In Your Journal Every Day

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.”
― Christina Baldwin

Welike to think of our thoughts as making sense. In reality,  though , human thought  tends  to be  messy  and disordered.  Very rarely do our thoughts occur to us in whole sentences which makes sense; more often they are just loose collections of impressions floating around in our heads.

The power of journaling is that it forces us to bri n g order to our thoughts.  The act of journaling is the act of writing your thoughts down — and we can only write a sentence in words if it first makes sense in words.  What is a tangled mess of impressions before journaling is afterward an ordered set of sometimes powerful truths.

Journaling is a powerful practice that can be used in a variety of ways — and I do.  Most of the time, I use my journal as a place to record my thoughts as a stream of consciousness narrative. Sometimes I use it to write a considered and formulated reflection on my life at that moment .

But sometimes  I like to journal the same way a ship captain writes an activity log; making a point to record the most important and critical things that happened that day, week, or month, to enable my future self to understand most clearly what happened.  I do this by answering these nine questions:

To help you understand the questions, I have paired them with answers for a fictional day, a composite of real answers I’ve actually given in my own daily journal.

Today the weather is:

Cold and kind of wet

The purpose of this question is to help future me understand what kind of day we are looking at.  Was it the kind of day that begs one to stay inside and watch Netflix, or was it a sunny warm summer day? Would I have been more likely to take a walk or sit on the couch?

Staying inside and doing nothing but bingeing Netflix sounds a lot more unhealthy on a warm summer day than it does on a cold rainy one. So  before I judge myself for my mood or my activities on a given day, I want to know what I was dealing with.

Today my body felt like:

Pretty beaten up from all the working out I’ve been doing

Our bodies are the way with which we interact with the world. If our bodies aren’t operating at peak capacity, we aren’t operating at peak capacity. Because of this, it’s good to stay mindful of how your body is operating.

Most days, my response to this question is between one and three sentences. But even though it’s short, it’s a valuable check-in. It gives me a picture through time of how my body feels.  This helps me decide whether I need more exercise, rest, or something else good for my health.

Today I emotionally felt like:

Hyped up. Then after I went for a run, felt beaten down and exhausted. Then after I visited a friend, felt good.

In the crush of modern living, it’s easy to lose touch with how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis. We can go weeks, months, even  years  feeling down without ever noticing. Having this question in your daily journal forces you to stop and notice  before  years have gone by.

Today I accomplished:

• Finished reading Educated, a Memoir
• Ran 2 miles
• Reorganized the categories on my website
• Created my website’s content strategy (need to think this through more deeply, connect it to SEO and other stuff)
• Made Pho for dinner with a friend

It’s difficult to motivate yourself to get anything done when you don’t feel good about yourself. And, it’s difficult to feel good about yourself when you don’t get anything done . It’s a catch-22.

The way out of this vicious cycle is to take notice of what you do accomplish, and congratulate yourself for it. It may not be much — for instance, some days all I have to say is wrote 300 words —  but there’s always something.

This line item serves a double purpose; in addition to raising your self-esteem, it acts as a self-check.  Are you doing what you intend to be doing with your time? Are you achieving what you set out to achieve? Answering this question will keep you accountable to yourself.

Today I socialized by:

Getting together with a friend and cooking dinner

Life isn’t all work. Your social life is just as important as your work life. Are you socializing as much as you want to be? Are you spending your time with the people you want to be spending your time with? This question is a check-in to make sure this part of your life is healthy as well.

Today I am proud of:

Getting up and running. Stopping when my body threatened to collapse.

Things that are easy for some people are harder for others.

This is your space to congratulate yourself for things that are difficult for  you , regardless of whether they are for anyone else. Congratulate yourself; you deserve it.

Things I can improve on from today:

Being a little more mindful of the type of work I am doing. I spend most of my days working now, but it’s not always on mindful, highly productive work.

No one is perfect, and every day has room for improvement.  This is your space to kindly point out to yourself what you could improve on in the future.

Don’t spend too much time agonizing about your flaws; just mindfully notice them and move forward.

Today I am thankful for:

Cannabis to help me eat

Gratitude is a universal cure. Gratitude improves your health, well-being, emotional experience, relationship quality, and life expectancy (for starters). Even better, gratitude is really easy to cultivate. All you have to do is start noticing things you’re thankful for. This is your space to do that.

Conclusion (Win or Loss and Why):

Win. My lack of mindfulness frustrates me, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a productive day.

Your day may have had good moments and bad moments, but this question forces you to reckon with your day as a whole.  Did your actions today line up with your desires? Or were your actions not consistent with your desires? Answering this question forces you to decide whether they were or not.

“ Journal writing gives us insights into who we are, who we were, and who we can become .”
― Sandra Marinella

D espite what my headline would have you think, I do not reliably journal every day.  My life would surely be better if I did, but I don’t. But even if I only journal this way once a week or once a month, it‘s still worth it.