At the outset, future self journaling might just seem like writing letters to your future self, but science shows it's more than a 'feel-good hack' if done correctly. Sonia Vadlamani walks us through how starting a future self journal could help you to build the future you envision.

 

Journaling can be an enriching experience, with benefits like stress management, improved focus and enhanced productivity. Studies have also found journaling to be an effective Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) tool for preventing depression. There are many different journaling techniques – such as the ten minute routine or gratitude journal – and each method has been found to allow us to become more aware of our thoughts and actions. Future self journaling is one of the newest forms to gain attention. 


Shortly after I started journaling in 2018, I noticed a shift in how I perceive potentially stressful situations and negative feelings, and how my reactions to these stimuli stem from a place of awareness, rather than from the ‘autopilot’ mode. I began to visualize my future plans and strategized supportive, time-bound goals: develop an attitude of gratitude, up my personal-growth game, build a fitter and stronger me, expand my knowledge about nutrition and well-being, to name a few.


Future self journaling focuses on this positive shift you hope to bring in your life by guiding attention towards your current behavior and thoughts.

 

What exactly is a future self journal?

Journaling is not a modern-era practice by any means – for years people have found it useful to document their feelings, emotions, and dreams. 


Future self journal essentially involves getting in touch with your inner self and manifesting the future you desire. It works with using a positive outlook, which can help you overcome any creative blocks and navigate your life in a more focused direction.

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Take note: future self journaling focuses on positive changes


Let’s take a deeper look at how it can help you attain the future goals you set for yourself for months or years from now.

 

The subconscious vs. conscious mind

A study by the National Science Foundation revealed that our brain can process 12,000 – 70,000 thoughts every day, 80 per cent of which tend to be negative. Robert L Leahy, the renowned researcher behind the emotional schema theory, found in a study that nearly 85 per cent of our worries do not come to realization, and that most of our fears and negative thoughts stem from the patterns of behavior we’ve subconsciously ingrained over several years.


This means that even though we’re not aware of all the thoughts and feelings we experience, our subconscious mind still attaches meaning to these, thus altering how the conscious mind reacts towards future decisions and experiences. Our negative reactions – like cynicism, skepticism, anger, frustration, and other self-sabotaging tendencies – could be stemming from the patterns and habits shaped by the subconscious mind.


RELATED: Learn how to stop overthinking with these 9 tips


The vicious cycle continues, until we decide to become aware of our thoughts and make active modifications to the way our subconscious mind processes various thoughts. Future self journaling can make you more conscious of how you react to the stimuli around you, empowering you with a potent tool – the choice of response. 

 

“Future self journaling can make you more conscious of how you react to the stimuli around you, empowering you with a potent tool – the choice of response.”

 

Deborah Ross, a certified journal therapist, explains that the negativity bias of our subconscious mind can be countered with constant efforts to rewire its connections through expressive journaling. The brain is like plastic, wherein neuroplasticity – or the ability to recreate neural pathways in the brain – occurs through consistent repetition of intentional acts. Therefore, future self journaling needs to be purposefully carried out as a daily task to reinforce newer connections in our brains.

 

Starting a future self journal

The subconscious mind may resist these changes in its patterns that future self journaling encourages. You may find it ridiculous or uncomfortable at first to take a hard look at your subconscious patterns, and to jot down your innermost thoughts. However, each time you fight the resistance and still choose to journal, you’re a step closer to overcoming this mental resistance barrier. 


There’s no set 'right' time to journal but many people find it helpful to approach future self journaling first thing in the morning, when its quieter. Others find it easier to compose their thoughts right before going to bed, as they relive their experiences through the day. You may need to experiment a bit with different timings to find what suits you best.


Here are some further tips to help you gradually build the habit of future self journaling:

 

1. Observe your current behaviors

Knowing what you’d like to change requires considerable introspection – observe the reactions and behaviors that you think are preventing you from attaining your highest potential. List down all the aspects you wish were different about you, and how changing these will have a positive impact on your future.

 

2. Focus on one behavior 

Trying to change all the behaviors you don’t like about yourself could be overwhelming and you may give up fast. It’s wiser to target just one behavior at a time, even if it’s something simple like, “I would like to procrastinate less” or “I would like to change how defensive I get when contradicted”.

 

3. Create affirmations to encourage this change

Affirmations are positive statements that help inspire a change. These also help you to feel confident about your ability to change, especially if you’re targeting a very core pattern. For example, if you’re targeting your tendency to procrastinate, you can make affirmations centered on this, like “I’m capable of avoiding non-supportive actions and distractions” and “I will focus on the task at hand and give it everything I’ve got”.

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Regular future self journaling can rewire our brains shutterstock/Peshkova

 

4. Build strategies and an action plan

While affirmations can keep you motivated, your dreams will become a reality only when you put in the work needed. Creating strategies to support the change you desire and breaking your goals into small, everyday actionable plans with due accountability will put you on the fast-track to achieving your dreams.

 

5. Develop the gratitude attitude

Being grateful for the smallest blessings and documenting the same in your journal can create a lasting impact and accelerate the process.

 

6. Develop a template

Creating a framework for your future self journaling process can help you achieve lasting results in several areas of your life. It’s also helpful in maximizing results, especially if you can dedicate limited time to journaling daily. 

 

“Knowing what you'd like to change requires considerable introspection – observe the behaviors that you think are preventing you from attaining your highest potential and note them in your future self journal.”

 

A simple template is preferable to an overly complicated one which may leave you struggling for adherence. Some future self journaling templates are available online, but you can also customize your own. An ideal template consists of:

  • questions you’d want to ask yourself everyday regarding the behavior you wish to change 
  • affirmations towards the same 
  • actions taken to support this 
  • what you’re grateful for, and 
  • the timeframe you’ve allocated to achieve this goal.

 

Tips for when the words won’t flow

There are times when you may feel stuck or when your mind is resisting change, so you may be tempted to quit future self journaling. Here are some tips that could help you to carry on:

 

1. Ignore the mental chatter 

Recognize the fact that even by acknowledging your subconscious behavior and resolving to change how you react, you’re taking a giant leap ahead towards creating a future you envisioned. 

 

2. Overcome the ‘perfection trap’ 

Some days it’s enough to simply get the job done, instead of not doing anything at all while waiting for inspiration to strike.

 

3. Avoid self-blame 

Sticking to a schedule helps immensely, but refrain from attaching too much meaning to the days you might’ve missed. Instead, try looking at each day as a chance to unleash your unlimited potential.

 

Future self journaling: the takeaway

Future self journaling teaches us that to realize our goals, we need to stay in touch with who we currently are. This can ultimately aid in the expansion of our consciousness and shape us into more accountable, self-aware, and determined individuals.


As with most keystone habits, journaling will be an effective practice if you do it daily and dedicate the same amount of time to it each day, without any shortcuts. •

Main image: shutterstock/Ivan Kruk
 

 

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Written by Sonia Vadlamani

bert.jpgFitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.


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