So how did you get on with the January journal prompts? They were a sort of warmup, particularly for those who are not quite into journaling yet but want to find their way to a regular practice.

I’ve written earlier about some of the reasons people like to maintain a journaling practice. I want to add two more specific reasons of my own.

Cognitive Defragmentation

In our times today, we have information coming at us 24/7 from everywhere. Our brains are taking in so much and it remains there raw and unprocessed unless we take the time to think some of it through.

A journal allows for the processing, filtering, and distilling of our thoughts and responses. Those of you who are old enough might recall the “defrag” process you had to run on your computer’s hard disk from time to time to defragment and consolidate files and improve your computer’s performance. I see journaling as helping our brains with defragmentation so that we can free up vital space for more important and optimized brain activity.

Ideas Overspill

As a writer, in addition to the defrag process, I find that journaling helps with managing or containing the “overspill” from my actual writing projects. I use the journal space to freewrite the themes or topics I’m working on so I can then sift through and include the critical, meaningful, and relevant ideas in the actual piece(s).

This does not mean that the journal is filled with useless thoughts either. Often, I open up old journals after years and discover a forgotten thread or two I want to (and am ready to) explore further. The best writers will tell you that nothing is lost and we must get everything down anyway.

[That said, it is quite easy to use journaling as a way to procrastinate “real” writing and I will address how to avoid that next month.]

FEBRUARY PROMPTS:

Let’s not do the obvious thing with making all the prompts related to romantic love this month. Instead, let’s look at how we approach/manage relationships in general.

1. Think of something important you’ve learned about human relationships, and write about what you learned, how you learned it, and how it could benefit others.

2. Are you the kind of person who needs plenty of relationships in your life? Why or why not?

3. What does the “quality” of a relationship mean to you?

4. It is believed that we become like the five people we spend the most time with. Who are your five with whom you spend the most time? And how do you think you are like them?

5. What things about you surprise people most often? [This is a repeat from January but some questions deserve more scrutiny and excavation, don’t you think? Besides, we don’t always see ourselves as others see us.]

6. What, generally, about people surprises you most often and consistently?

7. Write about when a total stranger helped you. Think on this, if it helps: when two people meet, each alters the other in some significant way. How did this stranger and his/her help alter you?

8. Write about some of the people in this world you’ve never met but who have affected your life.

9. Tell the story of how you met a best friend or significant other.

10. Write about your siblings. Describe their appearance, their personalities, and your relationship with them. If you don’t have siblings, write about why you would want them, or why you’re happy as an only child.

11.Who do you most seek approval from? Why? Are they capable of coping with such responsibility?

12. Some relationships aren’t simple enough to be classified as toxic or healthy. Writing about one of your more complex relationships.

13. Write a list of all the people in your life you trust (you can include people from your past.) What qualities do these people have that makes (or made) you able to trust them?

14. What does it mean to love yourself and to accept yourself as you are? Are these the same things or different? How? And how does loving and accepting yourself affect your ability to love and accept others?

15. How do you know someone cares about you?

16. What is the most important thing you can do to nurture a loving relationship? Think about people you know who are in good relationships. How do they demonstrate this quality/action/trait?

17. List the qualities of good communication. Which of these is most important to you and why?

18. Tell a story of a conversation you were nervous to have, and how you handled it.

19. What are your strategies for communicating with people who intimidate you?

20. Conduct an imaginary interview with someone you’ve always wanted to talk to, living or dead — real or imagined.

21. What words or phrases do you try to keep yourself from saying, either at work or in your personal relationships? Why?

22. In the past, when you had an argument with someone you loved, how did you feel and behave? Is there anything about that behavior that you would like to change for the future? Write about it.

23. Think about the last large gathering/party you attended. Was there a meaningful connection you made there? Why or why not? How did it feel?

24. Fast forward to your 80s. Who are the most important people in your life and why?

25. What, besides people, do you have strong attachments/relationships with? Pets? Books? Write about why these are important to you.

26. Staying with non-people relationships: what would you like as an important factor/presence in your life that is not there today? Why?

27. Continuing from the previous day’s question: how would you go about bringing in this important factor/presence into your life? Write out concrete, specific steps.

28. Continuing from the previous day’s question: of the various steps you outlined yesterday, what is the one thing you can do today and how will you go about doing it?

Journal Thoughts

Let us end with this nugget from Anaïs Nin:

I only feel close to people who arouse my energy, who make enormous demands of me, who are capable of enriching me with experience, pain, people who do not doubt my courage, or my toughness. People who do not believe me naive or innocent, but who challenge my keenest wisdom, who have the courage to treat me like a woman in spite of the fact that they are aware of my vulnerability.

Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

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