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Hello, hello GOALfriend! Welcome to episode 287, the one where we are talking about journal prompts. Last week, I covered the Top Five Weight Loss Questions I hear most frequently from women getting started on their weight loss journey, and I almost included a bonus question of “What should I journal about?” but quickly realized that I had enough to say about this topic that it should be its own podcast.
So here we are!
The truth of it is that I could probably talk about journaling all day – in fact, I feel like I frequently do in the Get Your GOAL group. Journaling really is the main focus of what we do there, because journaling … well, we’re going to talk about it in this episode, but journaling is the most useful tool in your weight loss toolkit.
So, today, I wanted to share some of my tried and true tips with you, so you can feel like a journaling pro and really get the most out of it.
And let me clarify quickly here that the reason we’re talking about journaling today is because it’s one of the five things you do each day for weight loss with The 5-0 Method.
The 5-0 Method is my free weight loss program for women over 50, that you can get from https://getyourgoal.com/ where every day we do five things that make you say, “Oh, I had no idea it could be so simple to lose weight at my age.”
Every day, we manage our mindset by finding our thoughts and deciding if they’re helpful (that’s what we’re talking about today!), we eat the right number of calories (which is your current weight with a zero on the end), we drink the right amount of water (half your body weight in pounds in fluid ounces of water), we get the right amount of sleep (by going to bed at the same time every night, getting up at the same time every morning, and not worrying about how much in between was actual sleep), and we exercise moderately (for about 23 minutes).
I find that so many women are really on board with four of the five tasks – water, sleep, eating, and exercise seem more “weight lossy” than journaling, you know? But in my experience, it’s the mindset work that can really make the difference between long term success versus those who struggle or give up.
For a really thorough discussion about the entire journaling process, go check out Ep. 252: How to JOURNAL for Weight Loss – there’s a link in the show notes or description box. https://getyourgoal.com/podcasts/252-how-to-journal-for-weight-loss/
So, let’s start with my five journaling tips, then I’ll dive into each of them individually, and then – stick around to the very end, because I’ve got a special gift for you, in the form of a free journaling prompt download.
Here are my five best journaling tips:
Know WHY you’re journaling
Keep your journal prompt question simple and direct
Start your question with “What do I think about …?”
Stick to one topic
Quit while you’re ahead
Let’s dig into each of these, starting with “know WHY you’re journaling.” I think some of you might be like, “Pahla, I’m only journaling because you told me to.” And I totally appreciate that, but this tip will make your journaling so much more productive!
The one and only reason you are ever journaling is for self awareness. This is super important. So many of us come to our journal looking to solve a problem, or figure out the answer to a question, or to try and feel better about something that’s bothering us.
But none of those are actually helpful ways to journal.
Self awareness is the gift of understanding what is going on in your brain, the clarity to see where it could take you, and it’s the unskippable root of deep transformation. You cannot change your life (or your weight) without self awareness.
Notice how different you feel, thinking that the only thing you’re looking for is self awareness. It takes the pressure off, right? Like, you’re not trying to resolve some big issue, or figure out what to do next, and you don’t have to feel amazing afterward. In fact, sometimes you really won’t.
You’re just here to see what’s going on. It’s like window shopping, instead of trying to buy the perfect outfit. No big deal.
And even though I’ve put this out there that you’re only aiming for self awareness, the fun truth is that, over time and with consistent journaling practice, you actually WILL solve problems and you WILL feel better. But that’s the long game, not the thing you’re aiming for today, at any one journaling session.
Journaling tip number two is to keep your journaling prompt question simple and direct. And let me back up here, with implied tip number 1A, which is that you’re going to ask yourself a question, rather than just stare at a blank page and have no idea what to write.
Asking yourself a question is a great way to become AWARE of what’s going on in your brain. Your brain will always answer a question. Which does also mean that you need to be careful of what kind of question you ask, hence my tip to keep it simple and direct.
Your best self awareness is going to come in very short sentences. Phrases, even. The longer and more drawn out your question is, the longer and more drawn out your answers will be, and that makes self awareness much more difficult.
A good journal prompt is going to be something like, “What do I think about the number of calories I ate today?” versus a not-so-good journal prompt like, “What’s going on with all the food I’ve been eating over the last couple of weeks?” Notice how the first question focused you in on today, and a specific thing that happened. It’s very clear and very direct.
Whereas the second question has your mind running over everything you’ve eaten all week long, plus all the stress and other “life” stuff going on that might have caused it. Your answers could be about the project you have at work, or the fight you had with your spouse, or the cake at that restaurant you went to last Tuesday.
You are not aiming to fill your entire journal in one session, so a long, convoluted question – and its attendant long, convoluted answers – is unnecessary. Your daily 5-0 Method task is to spend either five minutes journaling, or find five thoughts, whichever comes first. Journaling is a quick task.
So, that’s why we stick with a clear, simple question, because it will encourage short, manageable answers. The shorter your answers are, the more self awareness you’ll get out of them. Seriously.
Tip number three, I already demonstrated for you: Start your journal prompt with “What do I think about…?” and then fill in the blank with whichever simple, direct topic you’d like self awareness around today.
Asking your question this way will prime your brain to see all of your answers as thoughts. Because they are. Every single thing you think is a thought. This is truly at the heart of self awareness – recognizing your thoughts as thoughts.
They sound like facts in your head, and they’re supposed to. That’s your brain being a brain. But as humans, we have this unique ability to see our thoughts and think about them and consider them. Because they’re THOUGHTS.
Digging underneath that “truthiness” is how we change our lives.
And, the other reason I bring this up about asking yourself WHAT you think, is because I see a lot of women asking themselves WHY they think something.
And I’m here to tell you that that is a completely useless line of questioning. The only “answers” – and I’m using air quotes on that word – you’ll get when you ask yourself why you think something, is going to be to blame somebody or something, or to shame yourself for thinking something that’s painful.
It doesn’t matter why you think something. You just do. It’s a thought in your head that got in there somehow. Yes, you did probably hear it from your parents, or you probably did start thinking it when something difficult was going on in your life. But you don’t actually need to know any of that to get self awareness about whether or not that thought is moving you toward your goal.
The only thing you need to know about a thought is A.) that it’s a THOUGHT, and B.) if it doesn’t create a good feeling in your body, it’s not taking you toward your goal.
That’s it. It’s SO much simpler than trying to dig up everything that’s ever happened in your life and trying to make sense of it all. You only need to know WHAT you’re thinking and HOW it feels.
That’s a relief, too, right? Way less pressure!
Tip number four is following in the vein of keeping it simple, and that’s to stick to one topic. The more narrow the topic, the better. When you can get your brain really focused in on one thing, it’s so much easier to understand what you’re thinking and how it makes you feel.
In the example I gave earlier, when you were searching for all the things you’d thought all week long about your calorie target and what was going on with it, you’d likely have pages and pages of journaling. That gets exhausting!
When you constrain yourself to one specific topic, it’ll be super easy to find just a couple of thoughts, check on how they feel, decide if they’re helpful or not, and then close your journal and get on with your day. Or go to sleep. Or whatever you do after journaling.
This task is not meant to be a burden that takes half your day. It’s quick, it’s simple, it’s moderate. (I used that word intentionally, because I can hear you arguing with me that finding five thoughts a day isn’t enough – just like you say to me about 23 minutes of exercise. But it is enough, because you’re going to do this every single day. It’s consistency over time that gets you results, not finding a thousand thoughts today and then never picking up your journal again. You know?)
Which brings me to the last tip: quit while you’re ahead. Five thoughts a day. Or five minutes, if that’s quicker. “Over journaling,” much like over exercising, will wear you out, and you’ll burn out from the effort. If I, and The 5-0 Method, teach you anything at all, let it be this: consistent work done over time will get you further, faster, and more successfully, than bursts of work done sporadically.
Your journal will still be there tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. You never need to find ALL of your thoughts, you just need to take a look at five of them at a time, and that will get you everywhere you want to go.
So, now that you’ve got a handle on exactly how to craft a fantastic journal prompt that will gain you insights and self awareness in a quick, timely manner – I’m actually going to give you 30 of them! I have a full month of weight loss journal prompts for you that can help you kick start your weight loss journey.
Here’s how to grab your copy, it’s completely free. Just go to https://getyourgoal.com/podcasts/287-journal-prompts – there’s a link in the show notes or the description box, so you don’t have to type all that in – and you’ll get a fantastic PDF download that you can print and use for an entire month (or more) of journaling!
And, that brings up a great bonus tip: you can reuse journal prompts over and over, as much and as often as you like. Your brain will always answer a question, even one you’ve asked it before, and there’s always more self awareness to be had.
So, head on over to getyourgoal.com for all of the resources we talked about today, including and especially your free 30 days of journal prompts! And, my friend, thank you so much for listening. I’ll talk to you again soon.