I love the practice of writing morning pages, created by the wonderful Julia Cameron.
The morning brain dump provides a profound release of what is inside, taps into my inner creativity and wisdom, and prepares me for my day.
Recently, I flipped the process to be a nightly ritual and am digging this change! I find this practice to be fabulously clearing at the end of the day and wanted to share it with you. Before sleep, I get in bed with my journal, light a candle, and open to a blank page. I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and then blink my eyes open and begin writing.
I have created three versions to date, so choose your own adventure:
Version One: Freestyle
There are no rules. I write about what has happened that day. I write about things I am obsessing over. I write what makes me curious and my hopes and dreams for the following day and the future. I write about what I am grateful for. I write about what I feel is missing in my life and what I can do to cultivate that. I write until I feel completely finished. I do not put specific rules around this practice, but I typically end up filling two to four pages.
Version Two: The Day in Reverse Catharsis
I begin by listing everything that happened that day in reverse order, starting with getting in bed to write, journeying back through all the events of the day, and ending with waking up that morning. I recommend listing things that happened during the day as objectively as possible, without story or explanation. This exercise is wonderful for cognitive recall, firing various parts of the brain associated with different functions, and can even promote lucid dreaming and visions of “forgotten” past memories.
Once I have written the day’s events in reverse, I read it over and take note of a few areas where my mind gets stuck or I begin to ruminate on. Then I write about those instances to clear the mind clutter out. Usually there is simply more story, processing, and emotion to release. If I had a conflict, unpleasant interaction, or what feels like unfinished business, I will write about the situation in a letter to that person (not to be sent). In the letter, I express all the things I did not say directly or wish I had said instead. I write about each sticking point until I feel like I have nothing more to say and no other angles to explore.
If I want confirmation of the catharsis, I will review my list again, and this time, as I read over each line, I am usually pleasantly surprised that those previously triggering lines do not jump out anymore. They become just one of the many things that occurred that day—in the past and cleared out of my system.
Version Three: Artistic Style
I write about my day until I feel like everything I want to get out is on paper. Then I turn to a new blank page and draw. Sometimes I move my different colored pencils around the page in a way that feels abstract and free-flowing, maybe even with my eyes closed. Sometimes I depict something in my writing that sparks my creativity or I draw some peaceful image that represents the therapeutic clearing from getting my day out of my head and into my notebook. I think it is beneficial to incorporate color if possible so various parts of the brain are simulated. The colors also represent the variety of emotions and experiences that came up throughout the day.
Once the writing is complete and the day is purged onto the pages, I put down my pen, smile for the catharsis, and sink into bed for the most relaxing, peaceful sleep.
Some of the benefits I have noticed are:
I get all the unprocessed emotions, obsessive cycling, and built up or depleted energy out of my body and mind.
I calm my mind and let the sleep chemicals seep into my bloodstream naturally, since I am looking at a piece of paper instead of a screen.
I sleep better, wake up less during the night, and feel more refreshed in the morning.
I dream more peacefully and clearly, and with less chaos and stress.
I wake up happier.
I feel more present as I close my day, especially compared to watching TV or even reading, because I am really being with myself, with my life, and with my emotions.
I recommend trying the version that piques your curiosity most or trying all three, and then creating your own.
As Julia Cameron pointed out all those years ago, writing—handwriting—is good for the soul. It allows the mind to process, move through, and clear in ways other methods do not. And the body, in turn, can also release the tension that builds up throughout the day, and we can easily sink into relaxation and a peaceful sleep.