I’ve been told my entire life to “listen to my body.” Every time, I felt bewildered and asked in my head, “How? Nobody taught me what that means!” I had to create my own methods, and what I learned was journaling, specifically body journaling, helped me finally connect with my body.
What Is Body Journaling?
Body journaling is simply journaling about our bodies. But circular definitions suck, so I’ll elaborate.
A body journal is a dedicated space to write or think on paper about what we’re feeling in and toward our bodies. The space could be a notebook, Word document, notes app, or doodle pad if we think better through art. It could be digital or on paper because it depends how we best reflect. For instance, I think better through typing, but I journal in a lined, spiral notebook because it forces me to slow down, giving my thoughts their due. Plus, I’m a notebook junkie or a “paper squirrel” as my husband calls me.
When journaling comes up, some folks panic thinking, “What do I even journal about?!” It’s not that there’s nothing to write; it’s that there’s too much!
The magnitude of our bodies doesn’t help either. Our bodies affect and are influenced by everything from scented candles (lilac!) to the local food scene to the federal government (ew).
Moreover, what type of journal we want to use factors in.
We can create a:
- one-minute snapshot journaling how we feel in and about our body in that moment
- bullet journal tracking pain we felt that day, the severity, and how we managed it
- weekly journal setting goals for our body movement
- art journal doodling the food we ate that week
- writing journal responding to prompts asking us body scanning questions
- reflection journal describing what we see in the mirror every morning
Looking at those choices, we might see something we want to try. Or not. Honestly, there is no wrong way to body journal because there are no wrong ways to journal or to have a body. If you start journaling about your eating goals, then trail off writing about The Bachelor, maybe that’s what you needed in that moment. Nobody is gonna yell at you for going off topic. Plus, maybe there’s a body connection there you haven’t uncovered yet, and the more you journal, the more you’ll find it.
That’s the excitingly scary (or scarily exciting?) part: What we discover from body journaling could blow our damn minds!
Why Body Journaling?
Out of all the relationship advice we get, I suspect the most neglected is the relationship we have with our bodies. In my younger years of reading teen and women’s magazines, I don’t recall any advice column for learning to respect, accept, or love ourselves let alone our bodies.
Yet it’s obvious we need the help. Consider these things we commonly say about our bodies:
- Gross! I hate my [insert your body part(s) of choice or whole body].
- I wish I looked like that person.
- Ugh, I need to lose weight.
- Nope! I could never wear that.
We have a lot of negative thoughts about our bodies. Hell, every morning that we pick outfits and sort through clothes we can’t wear anymore, we’re actually devoting time to negative body thoughts.
Imagine if we ditched those clothes and devoted one minute to asking ourselves why we held on to those for so long. We might find what lurks beneath i.e. what informs our beliefs about our bodies.
That’s precisely why body journaling is the shit.
Your Journal’s Purpose
Cultivating a relationship with our body serves multiple useful purposes, which change as we grow that relationship. We might want to:
- Fulfill curiosity
- Increase pleasure
- Understand hunger
- Cope with pain
- Improve mental health
- Address trauma
- Learn to move
- Determine sleep habits
pastabilities possibilities are endless. In fact, we may have no other purpose than to hear what our bodies are saying.
So, how do we determine our body journaling purpose? I suggest we start with this journal prompt as our first entry: Why do I want to develop a relationship with my body?
No matter the purpose, the unifying why is to learn. Sure, we can learn about our bodies from external perspectives like doctors and unsolicited comments from strangers. However, we are the only ones living inside these meatsacks. That unique insight could unlock anything from what makes us wake up at 3 a.m. every day to why we love M&Ms.
Who Benefits from Body Journaling?
If you have a body, you can benefit!
If you don’t have a body, I’d like to meet you.
How to Body Journal?
The how of body journaling also depends on why you’re doing it and what you want from it. That’s not a cop out. Stick with me.
Already a Journaler?
If you’re already a journaler, you know what works for you. This new form of journaling might work best as an addition to an existing journal or started in a new space.
It also depends upon how in-depth you want to go. If you want a simple daily check-in, tacking it on to an existing journal is easy. However, in-depth work might work better as a fresh start in a new space. I find any excuse to buy a new notebook a good enough reason to journal.
If you’re wanting to experiment with a new journaling tool like an app, this might be the opportunity!
Not a Journaler?
If you’re not already a regular journaler, I highly recommend starting with your established habits.
Have a phone or tablet?
- Use whatever electronic device you’re already using daily to remove obstacles for developing your journaling habit
- Journal in an app you already use like notes rather than downloading a new one
- Anchor your journaling to an existing habit i.e. take your meds, then journal
- Set a reminder for the end of the day in case you forget
Working on paper?
- Journal on paper you’re already writing on daily like a notebook or sticky notes
- Connect your journaling to a daily habit like making coffee
- Anchor that habit by putting paper and a pen next to your coffeemaker or whatever you chose
- Put a sticky note somewhere you look every day, then move it somewhere new every few days, so you don’t start ignoring it
Clueless on How to Start?
Providing guidance for body journaling is exactly what Whole Damn Woman does! We have the prompts!
Start here to get a journal prompt worksheet.
Or start here for a completely different prompt and to subscribe to our newsletter where we have a new prompt every other Monday.
No matter which one you pick, they’re free, downloadable, and printable.
While there are never promises that cultivating a relationship with our bodies will make us love them, we can–if nothing else–learn to respect the vessel we live in. That seems better than ignoring our bodies and hoping for the best, right? At least I hope so.
If I may end with a personal note . . .
I’ve had a contentious relationship with body movement my entire life. I’ve long hated my body because I’m fat, which I was taught was bad. But constantly hating, ignoring, and punishing my body obviously wasn’t working.
During the pandemic, I developed horrible back pain and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I decided to pay attention to my body and note symptoms.
Since then, I’ve learned my body is a useful resource of information. It tells me I’m stressed when I suppress it. It tells me exactly what stage of my menstrual cycle I’m in. And it tells me when I’ve overdone it on physical activity. Certainly, my body and I don’t always agree on what I need, and sometimes, it tells me it needs things that I know it’d be better off without. But the input is helpful regardless.
That’s what listening to our bodies actually means. Fostering that relationship, hearing what our bodies tell us, and sitting with our sensations will teach us more than any doctor can tell us.
Considering how much doctors make, there’s a treasury’s worth right there.