Self-exploration is the foundation of internal alignment.
In this exercise, we will explore the world of freewriting – one of the most powerful tools we have to uncover, organize and understand the immense inner worlds we consciously and subconsciously experience.
What is freewriting?
Freewriting is one of the most creative, effective, and simple forms of self-exploration. The idea of freewriting is essentially stream-of-consciousness writing with an intention. The goal (if you can call it that) is to simply write for a specific length of time (say 10 minutes) or fill a specified number of pages and see what comes out.
The cohesion of what you write, the grammatical correctness, or even what you write about is not that important. What matters is that you write continuously without stopping, thinking, evaluating, or judging what you write.
The point is to let your psyche and subconscious breathe.
There are many benefits to this practice, but the main one is to learn not to interrupt your stream of consciousness. In doing so, you move past the critiquing mind and into the subconscious, where previously repressed thoughts and emotions can live (you may be surprised at what you write). This gives your mind and psyche a chance to sort through a world that is otherwise difficult to access and understand.
The practice also gives us a space to let things tumble out uncensored. It allows us to practice being in flow without the need for criticism or judgment. It helps clear the mind and body of emotional clutter, relaxes the chaotic nature of the mind, and allows us to explore important parts of us that might be buried just below the surface.
How does freewriting work?
Freewriting works on two different levels: our thoughts and our feelings.
On a thinking level, a simple freewriting practice allows us to organize our thoughts and experiences into logical sequences that allow us to examine them.
We can begin to see the cause and effects and form coherent stories about our internal and external experiences. Through this process, we give ourselves distance from our experiences and can begin to understand them in ways we didn’t before. This opens us up to understanding our thoughts, perspectives, and experiences on a deeper level and gives us a sense of clarity and groundedness. It also provides us with a sense of control.
Second, freewriting is a way of disclosing, working through, and understanding the emotions running through us, rather than burying them where they linger in the subconscious. Through freewriting, our emotions get translated into words that exist outside of ourselves. Not only can we begin to see what’s actually going on, but we can work through it and organize them as needed. As we bring awareness to them, we enable our subconscious to process them and they no longer take up valuable room in our psyche. If you can get them out, it allows your brain to file them appropriately and move them on.
Freewriting is a tool to put our experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and desires into language, and in doing so, helps us understand and grow and make sense of them.
When to use these prompts.
The freewriting prompts below offer specific themes and topics to reflect on.
Choose the areas of life you want to focus on most (or are most resistant to) and use them when you want to better understand your inner experience.
We designed the prompts to help you explore your thoughts and emotions, sort through inner conflict, and better understand where you sit within yourself. They are designed to empower you as often as you need it.
Use them daily or as needed.
And know that while just five to ten minutes of daily journaling has scientifically proven to have significant and numerous benefits, if the thought of writing things every day overwhelms you, we recommend working through just one or two prompts a week to begin.
Maybe this is each morning as you sip your coffee or as an exercise before bed that signals to your body its time to let go of everything during the day.
Whatever feels best.
Just let your psyche breathe.
Tips for developing the practice.
If you have never done freewriting before, writing on a regular basis might feel a bit challenging or overwhelming. That is okay.
Remember, the goal of this is not to get anywhere, but to simply go through the process and let your subconscious work wonder.
The best way to start is to pick up your pen, pick a prompt, and start scribbling away without judgment.
This exercise is for you and the best part, the benefits come from the process of freewriting, NOT from what you actually write. Ten minutes of gibberish is completely accessible in this practice.
Here are a few tips to developing the practice:
- We recommend you write by hand with paper and pen, not on your computer. Not only does this eliminate many distractions, but neuroscience has proven that writing by hand allows us to access different parts of our brain.
- Find a quiet place to write. Outside noise and other distractions can disrupt your thoughts, especially if you’re new to journaling. If you can’t find a quiet space, try listening to instrumental music (anything without vocals) as you write.
- Write without stopping or even lifting your pen from the page for a set length of time or a certain number of pages. This allows your brain to get into a state of flow and helps keep the critical secondary thinking brain at bay. This leads us to our next point…
- Do not censor or edit anything while you are writing. The point isn’t to put together perfect prose, it’s to let everything out, even if doesn’t make any sense.
- Create a ‘no-judgment’ zone that allows you to access your subconscious. You are not being graded on this and in many cases, will not even need to go back and read it. Embrace that the most important parts of this process are happening inside of you and not on paper. Allowing yourself to edit, judge and critique will sabotage your access to your subconscious, which is where all the good stuff is.
- Don’t worry about getting it “right.” When it comes to journaling, you can’t really go wrong. If your writing helps you process emotions and learn more about yourself, that’s what matters.
- Most importantly, let yourself know that no one ever has to read this. Not even you. When you are done, you can throw it out, burn it, flush it down the toilet, or let the birds wisp it away to oblivion. The whole point is in the process, not the results. This is for your eyes only!
- Write regularly. You might set aside 15 or 20 minutes to write several days a week. It’s OK if you can’t find time to write every day. Writing at a specific time each day, such as after dinner or just before bed, can help the habit stick.
Freewriting prompts for self-discovery.
- What do you appreciate most about your personality? What aspects do you find harder to accept?
- Describe yourself using the first 10 words that come to mind. Then, list 10 words that you’d like to use to describe yourself. List a few ways to transform those descriptions into reality.
- What three changes can you make to live according to your personal values?
- What values do you consider most important in life (honesty, justice, altruism, loyalty, etc.)? How do your actions align with those values?
- Explore an opinion or two that you held in the past but have since questioned or changed. What led you to change that opinion?
- List three personal beliefs that you’re willing to reconsider or further explore.
- When do you trust yourself most? When do you find it harder to have faith in your instincts?
- Finish this sentence: “My life would be incomplete without …”
- Describe one or two significant life events that helped shape you into who you are today.
- What three things would you most like others (loved ones, potential friends and partners, professional acquaintances, etc.) to know about you?
Freewriting prompts to better understand your relationships.
- Who do you trust most? Why?
- What are your strengths in relationships (kindness, empathy, etc.)?
- How do you draw strength from loved ones?
- What do you value most in relationships (trust, respect, sense of humor, etc.)?
- What three important things have you learned from previous relationships?
- What five traits do you value most in potential partners?
- How do you show compassion to others? How can you extend that same compassion to yourself?
- What are three things working well in your current relationship? What are three things that could be better?
- What boundaries could you set in your relationships to safeguard your own well-being?
- What do you most want your children (or future children) to learn from you?
- How can you better support and appreciate your loved ones?
- What does love mean to you? How do you recognize it in a relationship?
- List three things you’d like to tell a friend, family member, or partner
Freewriting prompts for letting go.
- Why is this becoming harder to hold on to?
- When I think about letting this go, what fears come up?
- When I imagine my life one year from today (after letting go of what no longer serves me), how have my relationships, experiences, and beliefs changed?
- What would I like to discover about myself throughout this process of letting go?
- What am I afraid I might learn about myself?
- What would happen if I woke up tomorrow without ________?
- How can I celebrate the courage that letting go required?
- What person can I share this with, who’d honor, celebrate, and support me in letting this go?
Freewriting prompts for navigating uncomfortable emotions.
- What difficult thoughts or emotions come up most frequently for you?
- Which emotions do you find hardest to accept (guilt, anger, disappointment, etc.)? How do you handle these emotions?
- Describe a choice you regret. What did you learn from it?
- What parts of daily life cause stress, frustration, or sadness? What can you do to change those experiences?
- What are three things that can instantly disrupt a good mood and bring you down? What strategies do you use to counter these effects?
- What are three self-defeating thoughts that show up in your self-talk? How can you reframe them to encourage yourself instead?
- What go-to coping strategies help you get through moments of emotional or physical pain?
- Who do you trust with your most painful and upsetting feelings? How can you connect with them when feeling low?
- What do you fear most? Have your fears changed throughout life?
Freewriting prompts for helping understand what you want from life
- Describe your favorite thing to do when feeling low.
- What three ordinary things bring you the most joy?
- List three strategies that help you stay present in your daily routines. Then, list three strategies to help boost mindfulness in your life.
- How do you prioritize self-care?
- Describe two or three things you do to relax.
- What aspects of your life are you most grateful for?
- How do you show yourself kindness and compassion each day?
- Write a short love letter to some object or place that makes you happy.
- What place makes you feel most peaceful? Describe that place using all five senses.
- List 10 things that inspire or motivate you.
- What are your favorite hobbies? Why?
Freewriting prompts for personal growth.
- What parts of life surprised you most? What turned out the way you expected it would?
- What three things would you share with your teenage self? What three questions would you want to ask an older version of yourself?
- List three important goals. How do they match up to your goals from 5 years ago?
- Do your goals truly reflect your desires? Or do they reflect what someone else (a parent, partner, friend, etc.) wants for you?
- What helps you stay focused and motivated when you feel discouraged?
- What do you look forward to most in the future?
- Identify one area where you’d like to improve. Then, list three specific actions you can take to create that change.
- How do you make time for yourself each day?
- What do you most want to accomplish in life?
- List three obstacles lying in the way of your contentment or happiness. Then, list two potential solutions to begin overcoming each obstacle.
Freewriting is a powerful tool in self-discovery.
It cuts past our objections, can help ease stress and uncertainty, and will teach you so much about yourself and what you want from life.
While writing may not always feel fun or easy at first and it is normal to experience a little bit of discomfort, this practice can lead to healing and growth.
Take these prompts, carve out 10 minutes, and dive in.
We hope they help.