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Journaling: A Lifestyle Hack for Increasing Happiness, Decreasing Stress, and Reaching Goals

Updated: May 10

The Benefits and How To's of Journaling

I tell my clients that achieving holistic wellness is 80% lifestyle modification, 20% supplements.

Lifestyle pillars include:

· managing stress

· adequate sleep

· consuming a non-inflammatory diet in appropriate amounts

· hydration

· belonging to a community

· meaningful work

· regular body movement

· and others

When it comes to managing stress, some of my top lifestyle tools I lean on are:

· exercise

· journaling/goal setting/tracking

· meditation and other spiritual practices

· therapy

· saying no (creating boundaries)

· cultivating positive friendships

· resting

· and more

Journaling and Goal Setting

Journaling/goal setting is one of my favorite regular practices for managing stress, working through emotions, setting intentions, and moving the needle forward in the important areas of life.

My Journaling Template

There are a lot of journaling styles and types. Finding what works for you is key to sustaining a regular practice. I have fine-tuned my personal journaling practice which has drastically decreased my stress, increased my joy, and helped me achieved my goals.

I share it in hopes that parts or all of it might help a few people.

Do the work, surrender the results.

Yearly, Quarterly, Monthly

I like to start off the year with a few friends, some bubbly, candles, a new journal, and a little intention setting sesh. We recap all the goals we set for the previous year, the highs, the lows, and then we spend some time visualizing what we want for the upcoming year. It’s one of my favorite nights of the year.

We go through categories of: Spiritual, Health, Relationships, Work, Finance, & Creative and set a few goals for each one.

We end with the top 3 things we would like to set our intentions toward achieving.

I recommend breaking the yearly goals down into quarters (Q1-Jan, Feb, March) and journaling the same categories in each quarter and month, and then spend some time reflecting at the end of the month and quarter.

Reflection is an incredibly powerful practice for nurturing gratitude and motivation. When you’re in the grind, it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come and to give thanks for what you’ve achieved. End of monthly/quarterly reflections always inspire me to keep going.

Reflection also provides data as to what goals you achieved (or didn’t and why) and can guide you to iterate in the upcoming month or quarter.

Word for the Year

I am one of those girls who picks a word for the year. While cliché, I find it helps bring me back to center throughout the year, and reminds me of the primary area I want growth in. It helps me make decisions and pushes me past resistance. At the end of the year, my friends and I have a recap and talk through how we have (or haven’t) held strong in our word. My words over the past few years have been brave, consistent, and produce.

Categories for Goal Setting:

· Spiritual-These are practices that create space for our inner voice to speak, guide us, and ultimately lead us to peace and fulfillment. Spiritual practices also lower cortisol and inflammation in the body.

Examples: Journaling, getting in nature, reading books on spirituality (email me for some of my favorites), meditation (examples: 21 day abundance meditation, Christian Meditations), talking with a therapist, setting social media boundaries, attending a place of worship, listening to a podcast by a spiritual leader, play with an animal or child, sit by water, get a massage, schedule regular rest.

· Health- Health goals are influenced by bio-individuality, stage of life, internal and external factors, subjective symptoms, lab results, and individual desires. The complexity of health can lead to overwhelm when prioritizing goals, which is where a Wellness Coach might help.

Examples: Taking the GI MAP stool test, removing inflammatory foods 20% of the time, cooking from home 5 days/wk, sticking to a sleep schedule, increasing water intake, starting an exercise plan, detoxifying, starting a supplement protocol, etc.

· Relationships- Healthy relationships are vital to wellness. Active participation in community is something each of the centennials in the Blue Zones share. On the flip side, letting go of toxic relationships may be what you need.

Examples: See a therapist, join a club or league, set boundaries, volunteer, etc.

· Work- Meaningful work is also important for wellness. Ikigai is a Japanese term that means “life purpose.” Finding what you were put on earth to do and waking up every day in pursuit of that brings meaning to life.

Examples: Start the business, take a course, work with a career coach, write the first chapter of your novel, apply for the position, etc.

· Finance- Pretty self-explanatory.

Examples: Pick up a side hustle, speak with a financial advisor, take a personal finance course/read a book, pay off debt, minimize food waste, etc.

· Whatever categories are meaningful to you- I sometimes add Create as a category. My best friend adds self-care. You may want to add Parenting, or whatever you want to focus on.

Top 3 Things:

I end each journal session, whether it be for the year, quarter, month, or day with the top 3 things, that I want to accomplish. These are things that I can achieve in that time frame that will move the needle forward.


I start off each morning with a 5-15 spiritual read and free write, and then I briefly journal in the categories of gratitude, visualization, and affirmation, and include a 5-10 min visualization/meditation session. I end with the top 3 things I am prioritizing that day that will move the needle forward. The whole thing can take anywhere from 10-30 min.


When I discovered positive psychology, through my career coach, my life took a huge turn for the best. Psychologists realized that shifting your focus on the positive, rather than dwelling on dwelling on the current state of your anxiety, depression, or the negative aspects of your life, can dramatically improve your happiness. When I started dwelling on being grateful for the good in my life, “more good” started to happen. The key is making it a regular discipline, like exercise. Reflecting on what you are specifically grateful each day grounds you in the present and rewires the brain to positive thinking.


Anything you can imagine, you can create-Oprah.

Visualization is a tool top tier athletes often use for peak performance. We accept the present through gratitude, but we step into the future we are called to through visualization. Starting each day with a 10 min meditation/visualization helps you tune out distractions, overcome obstacles, push you past resistance, and recognize opportunity.


Affirmations are a short “I” declaration stating in the present who you are or wish to be. Affirmations help you push past impostor syndrome and resistance. For example: I produce valuable content, I am the author of a published novel, I am the CEO of a profitable business, I am strong and face adversity with grace.

Top 3 Things:

I end with the top 3 things I will prioritize that day to move the needle forward.


CEO, FNP, Functional Wellness Coach

Wellness with AO

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