If you’re looking for a way to improve your mental health, stream of consciousness journaling may be the answer.
This approach involves writing down your thoughts and feelings without censoring or editing yourself, which can be a great way to get your emotions out in the open while improving mental clarity and reducing stress.
In this article, we’ll discuss what stream of consciousness journaling is, the psychological benefits it offers, and how to get started.
What is stream of consciousness journaling?
Stream of consciousness journaling, or freewriting, is a style of writing in which the author writes without pausing to edit or revise their thoughts and ideas.
This practice is often used as a way to capture raw emotion and thought patterns, and many people use the technique for personal growth and self-exploration.
At its heart, stream of consciousness journaling is a tool for understanding yourself on a deeper level, as well as accessing your creativity and intuition more fully.
It can also be used to work through challenging emotions or situations by simply allowing all of your thoughts to flow freely onto paper.
Whether you’re an experienced writer or just beginning your journey into self-expression, stream of consciousness journaling can be an incredibly powerful way to tap into your inner voice.
Benefits of the technique
Writing therapy can be a valuable tool for anyone struggling with mental health issues or seeking an effective personal development activity.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the technique is to unearth thoughts and feelings from our subconscious which hitherto may have been suppressed by our more rational minds.
By silencing our inner critic and allowing the free flow of words onto the page, we can explore these deeper emotions and illuminate any unproductive mental patterns.
Providing a space to express thoughts and feelings without judgment also allows us to gain psychological distance from our situation, promoting self-awareness and self-compassion.
This distance helps us to discern our current circumstances, however troubling, with greater objectivity, permitting improved analysis and decision making.
Journaling in this way creates a sense of order out of chaos, helping us accept and understand our thoughts and feelings.
These myriad benefits all contribute to reducing stress and anxiety while improving mood and well-being.
Stream of consciousness example
Obviously, even with the instruction to simply allow yourself to write, it can be difficult to overcome performance anxiety.
We normally feel that we must produce something ‘good’ or ‘worthy’, meeting the expectations of an outside audience.
This sentiment has normally been years in the making, inculcated since adolescence, and an education that prioritizes results over simple expression.
So, here’s an example of my own to demonstrate that it’s ok to write mundanities!
“As I sit down to begin my stream of consciousness journaling exercise, I find myself drawn to the feeling of anticipation. I know that there will be plenty of room for self-reflection and exploration in this process, and I can’t wait to get started. My goal is to pay extra attention to my thoughts and feelings as they unfold, without censoring or judging anything. Each moment will just be what it is – a unique extension of the present moment, with all its endless possibilities. Whether my mind is going in one direction or another, it’s up to me to make note of where my thoughts are leading. And who knows – perhaps this very act will be enough to reveal some deep insights about myself and my place in the world around me. Whatever happens, I’m ready for the journey ahead!”
If you’re looking for more famous examples of stream of consciousness writing in literature, just look at some of the great works like Ulysses by James Joyce, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, or On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
These authors use the literary technique not only to assist their own creative process, but also to explore the rich inner lives of their characters.
Sometimes it can be difficult to start writing when facing a blank page.
In these instances, starting with prompts or questions might help to overcome the initial creative fear.
- What am I feeling right now?
- What worries me most?
- What’s the biggest challenge I’m facing right now?
- What decision am I trying to make?
- What makes me happy?
- What do I want most in life?
- What do I love about myself?
- What do I need to let go of?
- What would I say to my future self?
Writing exercise – how to do it
Stream of consciousness journaling shouldn’t be overcomplicated. Here are some simple instructions for how to begin:
- To get started, find a quiet place where you can write uninterrupted for at least 10-15 minutes. Set a timer if needed. Alternatively, give yourself the goal of writing three pages in a notebook.
- It’s normally best to handwrite, rather than type, which provides a greater connection to your writing.
- There are no rules or wrong answers in stream of consciousness journaling – just write whatever comes into your mind, and see where the words take you. Do not go back and edit your work to make it “sound better”. Just keep moving forwards with more words.
- Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation.
- The goal is to keep your hand moving across the page, without pausing to edit or think too much about what you’re saying.
- If you get stuck, try using one of the prompts or just writing completely random words on the page until something else comes to mind.
- Keep going until the timer goes off or you feel like you’ve said everything you wanted to say.
- Once you’re finished, you can read over what you’ve written or simply close the journal and move on with your day.
- Stream of consciousness journaling can be done daily or as needed.
- It can also be combined with creative reading, which you can learn about here.
Subconscious journaling summary
Stream of consciousness journaling is a form of writing that allows you to explore your thoughts and feelings without interruption or censorship and provides an invaluable tool for dealing with anxiety, creative blocks, or simply getting to know yourself better.
It’s an activity with an incredibly high psychological return on investment and a fantastic way to promote mental health and wellbeing. So why not give it a try? I’d love to know how you get on!