Journaling is one of the most popular forms of self-help and meditative practices. More recently, future self journaling has become a popular form of journaling. However, some may be conflicted as to how to start future self journaling or better yet why to start future self journaling.
Future self journaling is exactly what it sounds like: journaling to your future self. It involves conversating with your future self as you would with a close friend or similar confidant. Future self journaling can be practiced by writing letters to your future self or making a list of future goals.
If you’ve never practiced future self journaling before there’s no need to worry. You’ll be surprised just how many things you can manifest simply by writing to yourself in the future tense. Hoping to land your dream career in the next three years? Write to yourself and a list of all the things you need to work on in order to meet that goal.
It’s a practice sure to boost your spirits, positivity, and outlook on life!
The Absolute Basics of Future Self Journaling
If you’re familiar with casual journaling, writing in a journal/diary on topics such as present-day life, love, etc., future self journaling is no different from that except, instead of writing presently or in a past tone, it involves writing about the future and more specifically, to your future self.
Whether you journal on a daily basis or not, contemplating about the future is something everyone does. It’s almost humanly impossible to never have your mind drift into the future. So, while your mind frequently stumbles over thoughts of where you’ll end up in life, you can put them to good use by incorporating them into your future self journaling.
Chances are, at one point or another, you’ve written open letters to your future self without even knowing it. Ever written down a list of goals for yourself to work towards and perhaps accomplish in the future? Consider yourself a future self journaler, you wrote to your future self without even knowing it!
“If you want to challenge yourself to try something new, you might want to give ‘future self journaling’ a shot. Future self journaling is essentially just writing letter to your future self.”
Source: Jane Harkness of Peaceful Dumpling
Writing isn’t the only way to future self journal either. Future self journaling can be done by recording video and audio messages directed to your future self. Furthermore, the method you choose to use for future self journaling is one of personal preference; there is no right or wrong here as long as the topic concerns your future self.
The Psychology Behind Journaling
Future self journaling is just another form of journaling in general terms, but what do both practices have in common, and more importantly, what do they do for the mind? Sure, journaling can be an emotional outlet for many, but the psychology behind it is quite interesting.
Let’s further explore the benefits of future self journaling and what the experts think about it as well. For starters, consider what experts from not only the leading psychology organization in the U.S. but one of the biggest in the world, The American Psychological Association have to say about it.
The APA has conducted thousands of research projects since it was first founded in July of 1982, and even today, it continues to be the guiding voice in the professional and scientific realm of psychology.
In September of 2001, the APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology published research findings from an experiment in which 71 college undergrads each participated in three separate 20-minute writing exercises for two weeks. The purpose of the experiment was to study the effects of expressive writing on stress in college students.
The main experts behind this study: Kitty Klein, Ph.D., James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D., and Adriel Boals, Ph.D., concluded the evidence as this:
“The findings are exciting for a number of reasons, say psychologists. In a practical sense, the results suggest that the simple act of writing about stressful events can have a positive impact on academic performance—although for how long remains unknown.”
Source: American Psychological Association
To tie future self journaling into this study, it’s been proven that journaling on a consistent basis can reduce stress and improve one’s outlook on life and current negative situations. There are currently no specific studies on future self journaling, however, it’s no secret that doing so can encourage positive thoughts.
The Benefits of Future Self Journaling
There are so many benefits to future self journaling on a consistent basis. With all the common stressors of life such as work, school, and relationships, it’s no surprise that humans aren’t the greatest when it comes to thinking about the future in a positive light. When it concerns the individual self outside of all that’s occurring externally, this is true.
When it comes to predicting future emotions, that part of focusing on the individual self can be difficult. For instance, say you’ve just broken up a fairly solid relationship. Romantic-wise, one of the very first things that come to mind is the negative prediction that you’ll never find love again or that “the one” doesn’t exist for you.
Of course, don’t feel the need to suppress this natural emotional reaction, but also, don’t allow it to have a significant effect on how you feel about the future and more importantly, your future self. In a situation like this, it’s important to remind yourself that the current moment is only temporary and therefore should not define your future.
Bad feelings and emotions are completely natural!
“Future self journaling is especially useful for transitional times in life (which is when I generally turn to this practice). It’s for those moments when you’re standing at a crossroads, and you wish that someone could just step in and reassure you that you’re making the right choice.”
Source: Jane Harkness of Peaceful Dumpling
Any type of change in life occurs during what is called a transitional phase. Future self journaling can be a great way to chronicle the before and after of any transitional phase of life, big or small. For instance, one could write a letter to their future self right before a major change occurs and then reflect on those exact words once the time has passed.
Once the transition has occurred, you can return to the letter you wrote and reflect on how you felt when you wrote it versus how you feel now. Consider whether things have changed for the good or the bad. Doing so can allow you to have an appreciation for the future and most importantly, all of the positives that may come with it.
Why You Should Try Future Self Journaling
Aside from several of the benefits briefly mentioned above, many are curios to wonder why they should try future self journaling. It’s completely natural to feel skeptical about the idea at first, especially if you’re not too keen on exploring your emotions on a deeper level.
The only way to move past this common obstacle is simply to start and over time you won’t even think twice before writing! To give you some perspective on the beneficial reasons of why you should future self journal, here is a list:
Keep track of your goals and how you can better reach them—making it a habit to keep a future self journal will help you to keep track of your goals and even better, how you can best reach them. Face it, many people have goals in life, but aren’t sure how to reach them, especially if the current state of life makes reaching goals seem almost impossible. By telling your future self that you will indeed have this goal and reach it, you’re already halfway there to reaching that goal.
Allow your writing to help shape your life—although you have no idea of exactly how your future will play out, using a future self journal can at least give you some idea of how the future may play out later on in life. By writing to your future self about your goals and how you can possibly pursue them, you are positively shaping your life in more ways than one.
Become more reasonable in making decisions—making irrational decisions is just one of the many unavoidable ways of living life and undeniably, a human life. Future self journaling won’t stop you from making unreasonable decisions, but it can at least help you make reasonable decisions. Having respect for your future self can encourage you to have respect for your current self and therefore, consider decisions that might hinder you from reaching your goals, etc.
Better predict positive emotions—if you remember the notion that humans are really bad when it comes to predicting positive emotions, you’ll be surprised to discover that one of the many reasons to the future self journal is you guessed, to better predict positive emotions! A better word for this would be none other than optimism, which is having a positive outlook or feeling towards something. By encouraging your future self to feel positive, having positive predictions towards the future can come easier.
Create positive aspirations—passion is the driving force of life. If you’re not passionate about anything in life, it can make enjoying life rather difficult. Even the smallest of interests can count as passions such as taking long walks in the park or knitting. Future self journaling is just one of the many ways that can propel you to create positive aspirations. Identifying a passion worth creating something meaningful of your life can give you something to aspire for in the future.
How To Future Self Journal
As mentioned before, future self journaling isn’t all that different from regular journaling, aside from the perspective it’s written from. There are so many ways to future self journal and here’s a hint, not all of them involve actual writing. In fact, future self journaling can be customized to fit all needs and preferences.
If writing is your niche, go for it. If not, try a video or audio recording. Or better yet, you can utilize all three methods interchangeably. The most important part of the process is to start and once you do that, you’ve already tackled the biggest obstacle. Starting is the hardest part for many because let’s face it, thinking about the future is scary.
Even in a positive light, thinking about the future can send many people into panic mode. This is once again due to the notion that humans aren’t the greatest at positively thinking about the future. It’s a fact that when people are asked to think about their future, they automatically consider the worst-case scenario before the best.
This is considered forecasting and not for weather purposes, but rather for future emotional purposes. Considering the worst-case scenario in many ways is a coping mechanism to prepare oneself in the case that things go worse than expected. It’s to the effect of, “If I think that something bad will happen, maybe something good will happen instead.”
The purpose of future self journaling is not to predict all the bad that could possibly happen, but rather all the good that could happen and how thinking about the future in a positive light can improve your perspective on life. The best part about all of this is that you gain it simply by conversating with your future self!
To start future self journaling, all you need is an open mind, an idea of your future self, and one or more of the following:
- A pen or similar writing utensil
- A journal, notebook, or paper
- A computer or laptop to record your writing, video message, or audio
- For video messages and audio, you can also use a recorder, camera, or a cell phone
If you have more than one journal, consider designating one specific journal your “future self journal” so that you don’t end up confused when you go back and read your entries. Also, do the same thing if you’re using writing software to record your future self journaling. Designate a separate text file strictly for your future self journaling entries.
There is no concrete process for future self journaling, but it is nice to at least have an outline or a set of steps to follow when you’re first starting. After all, this is a guide so here’s one of the many simple ways to get started at future self journaling:
- Have a new journal, notebook, or sheet of paper handy to record your future self journaling. If you’re future self journaling digitally, create a new text file or locate an area where you can store your video messages, audio recordings, and documents.
- You could also utilize other fun ways of future self journaling such as writing emails to yourself and scheduling them for delivery at a later date. You could also write letters to your future self for each birthday and read them when each special day comes. Another idea is to write letters designated to be read 5, 10, 15, and even 20 years into the future if you think you can wait that long!
- Start off on a light note, before writing about more serious topics. This should be a fun activity, so try not to overthink it or take yourself too seriously. Make it a point to mention something funny that happened recently that you may want to remember in the future.
- When you do feel brave enough to tackle the harder topics such as the things currently bothering you, mistakes you’ve made, bad things that have happened recently, etc., try to reflect before finally writing. Think of what you would tell your future self or vice versa. How would you handle the current situation? What is your purpose for future self journaling?
- Once you’ve identified a few things mentioned above, think of how you can explain to your future self why you feel the way you do as well as why you’ve decided to write this letter.
- The rest is solely up to you, as far as what you want to write. Also, remember to record the date on each of your future self letters and the date it should be read when appropriate. Be sure to also stay consistent on how often you write. You don’t have to write every day, try to aim for at least two to three letters a month.
Writing When Times Get Rough
Making an effort to write on a consistent basis is part of the commitment to future self journal, but it’s even more important to make an effort when times get rough. It’s naturally easier to manifest positive thoughts when everything in life is going the way you want it to but doing so isn’t easy when things don’t go as planned.
The real test for managing your stress and working on improving your outlook on the future is putting into action what you’ve been practicing when the current state of life is difficult due to change, a new transitional phase, a broken-off relationship, and more hard situations.
It’s easy to fall victim to hard times in life, but this is all the more reason to make an effort and write to your future self. Encountering a new phase of life? Explain to your future self how you’re feeling as you encounter this new phase. Do you feel sad, happy, neutral? What do you hope will happen once you get through it?
Furthermore, you can think of questions for your future self to ask about what’s going on currently. This can allow you to reflect on how your perspective has changed since you first wrote the letter. For example, say you were recently let go from a job you’ve had for several years and you’re starting a new job that’s not as enjoyable, to say the least.
In your next letter, you can prompt your future self to question whether or not you’re satisfied with your new job several weeks, months, and even years after first starting. How did you feel after starting your new job? Do you feel better or worse compared to how you felt as you wrote the letter?
This is where future self journaling can help you shape your life. By reminding you of where you were before and where you are now, future self journaling is helpful in encouraging you to positively think about where you could be in the future. In providing you with that insight, it allows you to work towards a better outlook.
Create The Future You Want By Journaling
Jotting down positive thoughts does not guarantee that everything that happens in your life will be positive, but it can to a certain extent, make life more bearable. It’s important when you begin future self journaling that you don’t get too caught up in the illusion that doing such will magically make all of your dreams and goals come to fruition.
That’s far from the case and damaging to the actual purpose behind future self journaling. It’s not a supernatural force capable of granting you all the good you wish to get out of your life. If that were the case, you would be wearing a Hogwarts cape and receiving every wish granted by your magic wand!
“Future self journaling is a way to hone in on this connectivity. It’s a way to focus on self-development and personal growth. Even though change won’t happen overnight, this is a strong practice that sharpens your mind and your intuition.”
Source: 10 Tips For Starting (And Keeping) A Future Self Journal
You can create the future you want; you can manifest every great thing about it, but you have to work for it and be realistic as well. Bad times will come, you will make mistakes, and life will go on as unexpected because, well . . . that’s life. The point here is that in order to create the future you want; you have to first relish in the bad times, so to speak.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, at least the good change doesn’t, so on your journey as you future self journal, remind yourself of that and most importantly, be gentle and patient with yourself. You can indeed manifest the future you want, but you have to allow yourself to grow.
Overall, future self journaling is great for allowing yourself to think of who you want to become in the future. After reading this guide, hopefully you’re more familiar and comfortable with all the ways that future self journaling can be practiced.
You can write letters to your future self; you can write letters from your future self to your current self; the combinations are endless. This form of reflective journaling is one that is accommodating to everyone, no matter the level of familiarity with journaling.
In addition to this aspect, it is also beneficial in many ways to all people no matter where they are in life or where they wish to end up in life. Whether you choose to write on paper, use a video message, or audio, you can future self journal.
If you find yourself encountering some bumps in the road as you start journaling, consider trying to find the root of the issue so that you can move past it and get the most out of the experience. Is anxiety from past phases of life affecting your journaling?
Try to first channel that anxiety into your writing and consider how it may affect you in the future. Do you hope your future self will be in a better place, mentally, emotionally, etc.? One of the main concepts behind future self journaling is getting to know your present self better in order to become your future self.
This is the opportunity to become a better person and manifest the goals, aspirations, hopes, and dreams that you hold for your future self. Wherever you end up in life, remember that life as a whole is such a blessing.
Make an effort to appreciate the present in order to have an even better appreciation for the future. Despite what you may think, the future is just an arm’s length away. Make your future self proud, be kind to your current self, and let go of your past self.
For more information on the study conducted by the American Psychological Association, visit here:
A New Reason For Keeping A Diary - APA
For more information on the research behind journaling, visit here:
Future Self Journaling: Change Anything About Yourself in 30 Days
For personal testimonies on the benefits of future self journaling, visit here:
Feeling Stuck? How Future Self Journaling Can Transform Your Life
How My Life Changed After 30 Days Of ‘Future-Self’ Journaling
For similar guides on future self journaling, visit here:
Future Self Journaling
How To Get The Most Out Of Future Self Journaling