Sunday 30 April 2017

20 Creative Journaling Prompts for Mums

At the Gentle  Parenting Retreat I ran in February, the lovely mums who attended created beautiful journals to use as parenting or mothering journals. I promised them I would come up with a list of different ways to use their journals to help them reflect on their parenting, to be creative, to provide self-care and find themselves. Well I have finally got round to creating said blog post. I hope these ideas will be helpful not only to the mums who came to my retreat, but anyone else who feels drawn to journaling.

For each activity suggestion I have tried to include reasons why it is useful for mums, and examples of  ways you can make each exercise work for you, as well as tips on creativity and putting the idea into practice.
Where possible I have linked to the original source of the images, just click on the image or the link to take you to the original source.

1. Zentangles,
Mothering can be stressful at times and we all need to take moments to relax and unwind. Zentangles are essentially doodles you create from you imagination and can aid with mindfulness, meditation and relaxation.   As you create your zentangle you can focus on the repeat pattern you are creating, the feel of the pen on the paper and the motion of your hand.
It can be daunting to begin your Zentangle, to make it easier try creating a random pattern by creating an overlapping scribble then filling in each section with a different pattern.  Alternatively you can draw round a object, overlapping the shapes then filling them in.
Your Zentangle can be as simple or complex as you like, you might find it inspiring to look on Pinterest or Google for pattern ideas. You might also like to add colours to your Zentangle to make them even more visually appealing.



2. Identity Star

As mums we often feel a sense of losing something of ourselves.  We put so much into our children we can forget who we are outside of our motherhood journey. By creating an identity star we can take time to focus on our strengths, interests and personality.
Look through magazines and newspapers and choose words which you feel reflect you, anything good about you, this could be things you like about your body or personality, things that you enjoy doing, things you think you're good at, favorite things or hobbies and talents.  You could also print them out or use letter stamps to write the words out.
To make the exercise a little more creative and visually appealing you could create an artful background before sticking your words down.  Take a look at some ideas from number 4 and number 15.


3. Writing is a great way to use your journal. It's great to take some time to write, it can be cathartic, as well as giving you opportunities for self discovery. It can be daunting to begin if you aren't used to journaling, so here are a few links to lists of journal prompts to get you started.

Journaling prompts for self discovery:

Journal questions for memory keeping:

More prompts for self discovery:

Journal prompts to help you know and accept yourself:

Journal prompts for self love:

Journal prompts for when life gets overwhelming:

If you feel so inclined you might like to illustrate your written pages or create visually appealing backgrounds.


4. Visual journaling prompts:
 Being creative is good for your health, it helps relieve stress, it increases and renews brain function and it can improve your mood, these are all really important for mums who can feel stressed and overwhelmed at times. You might like to develop your creative skills by creating a some very visual journal pages, here are some ideas for the process of creating a visually appealing page in your journal:

5. 100 things that make you happy:
Like focusing on gratitude, focusing on things that make you happy can help you to appreciate all the good things in your life.  It can be difficult to think about all  the things that are good when we become overwhelmed with the basic day to day necessities of everyday life.  This idea can bring you back to your centre.  You can make this age really visually appealing by using some of the ideas for creative background in numbers 4 and 15.

6. Past and Future Hands, art therapy exercise:

Motherhood is a time of transformation, this exercise can help you make sense of your past (pre child) verses present (mother) self.  Motherhood redefines who we are and what we hope for our future. Begin by drawing round your hands, then fill each one with words and images that reflect your past and present/future self.   You could use colouring pencil, felt tips or watercolour paints. 

7. Altered book art/ found poetry:

This is a really fun and creative journaling idea.  It can be helpful for expressing yourself, being creative and as relaxation.  Begin with a page from an old book that you don't mind destroying. Go through the text and select and highlight words or phrases (by masking out words surrounding them) which speak to you.  You might like to pick words and phrases at random and see what poem you come up with, or you may decide to be more mindful about it and choose words and phrases that work as a whole and speak to you particularly to form a poem (it doesn't have to rhyme). 
You could use ink, paint, felt tips or colouring pencils.  You could also collage around your words or even do illustrations. 



8. Gratitude mandala

Gratitude is really good for you, it improves physical and psychological  health, reduces aggression and increases empathy, helps you sleep better, improves self-esteem, and increases mental strength.  (

Creating a gratitude mandala not only gives you the benefits of gratitude,but also the benefits of creativity and mindfulness. In Buddhism and Hinduism a mandala is a circular figure representing the universe. In Jungian psychology a mandala as a symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer's search for completeness and self-unity.  You might like to meditate on these ideas and what they mean to you as you create your gratitude mandala. 
You could use pen to create your mandala or felt tip, and create it as a spiral or a sun shape. 

9. Wax resist:

The process of using a white wax crayon, then painting over it with watercolours is both creative and expressive but also can be very meaningful.  You might like to simply create images and patterns which you paint over to reveal for the simple joy and pleasure for it.  Alternatively  you can use it to create a meaningful narrative.  For example try writing with the wax crayon, expressing things about yourself that have been buried or hidden by the overwhelm of motherhood, the process of painting over the wax with beautiful, vibrant colours reveals and brings those qualities back to life.   

10. Visualisation collages:

Vision boards are really great tools for goal setting and helping us to focus on what we want in life. As mums we often forget that setting our own personal goals is important for maintaining a sense of self and for self care. You can create mini vision boards on any theme in your journal.  Maybe it would be a vision board for the year ahead, or what about a vision board for your birthday or a holiday, or how you would like your relationship to be or your home ed life etc.  Whatever it is a vision board can help you to clarify your ideas and help you to focus daily on what you want to achieve.
You could collect images from magazines, or print images online, you might like to ad words or your own illustrations to your vision board.  You might decide to do your vision board on  a separate piece of paper then stick it into your journal, or do it directly into the journal itself. 


11. Journal your affirmations:

I talk a lot about why positive affirmations are useful in my (super cheap) e-workshop.  Why not create a very visually appealing art piece around your chosen word or phrase.  You could use paint or collage on or around your word or phrase, add paint, print into it, add texture, the possibilities are endless, try using some of the ideas in number 4 to help you. 



12. Identity finger prints:

Like with the Identity Star, the identity fingerprint brings you back to your centre, reminding you of who you are, what your purpose is.  It uplifts you as it reminds you of all your skills and talents and positives about yourself, as well us helping you remember that there is more to you than the mothering aspect, you have many layers and they're all important. 
Take a look at your fingerprints, study them for a while, marvelling in their uniqueness.  then begin writing in a swirling pattern that mirrors the pattern on your own hand. 
You could use different colours, or keep it monochrome, you might even like to create a background for this piece like the ideas in number 15.

13. Self portrait collage,
Self portraits are a really great way to begin thinking about the question "who am I".  By studying your face in a mirror and thinking about your own self you begin to re-discover a sense of self, an awareness of your place in the world.  Creating a drawn self portrait can feel daunting, especially if you haven't used your drawing skills for a long time.  You needn't feel you can't do this exercise though as you can use photographs and collage to create your portrait.  Take a look at the images below for inspiration.  You can include writing and small images to add more meaning to your piece. 


14. Word of the year collage/art:

Like with positive affirmations and vision boards you can use you world of the year as inspiration for a journaling page.  Check out my super cheap e-workshop for why affirmations are important and how to use them HERE

A word of the year helps you set a tone for the year ahead, using visual aids via collage or drawing helps you focus on your intention and keep it in the front of your mind. This is especially important for mums who so often put their own goals and targets on the back burner while they focus on their children.  As honorable as this seems it can actually have a negative effect on your family because if you don't take time to focus on your own needs it is difficult to meet the emotional needs of our little ones. 

15. Creative backgrounds:

Whatever you use your journal for you can always make a page more visually appealing.  Making it look attractive to you is great because it means you will want to look at it again and again. 

You could try:
Collaging with newspaper, 
Splattering paint with an old tooth brush,
Water colour wash,
Dribbling paint down the page,
Rolling paint on with an ink roller,
Printing with bubble wrap,
Spray painting over different objects i.e. chicken wire, masking tape,
Potato printing a repeat pattern,
Glue down bunched tissue paper,
Collage with vintage maps or music sheet,
Applying paint with a sponge,
Applying acrylic paint with a scraper or pallet knife,
Collage textured wallpaper,

And of course you can combine these techniques and elemntsfor example spreading acrylic paint with a pallet knife over textured wallpaper, or applying potato prints over a watercolour wash.




16. Observational drawing of a natural object:

Creating an observational drawing is a brilliant way to engage the brain in a creative activity without having to worry too much about having ideas, it also has all the health benefits mentioned above. Spending time doing an observational drawing can also be an opportunity for mindfulness and meditation. By trying to apply your focus on the motions of your hand, focusing all your attention the detail of the object in hand and looking carefully at all the shadow and tone can can experience a sense of relaxation and can appreciate being in the moment. 
Choose an object that appeals to you, this could be anything from a shell to a flower, choose something that has a degree of detail so you have something to get your teeth into. Try not to judge yourself on your drawing abilities, this drawing is just for you and no one else, you don't have to show it to anyone. 


17. Using photos:

You might like to use photographs in your journal.  You can use photos that have captured a special moment, photos of your family or yourself or just photos that you feel are beautiful.  This is a great way of documenting life, which seems to pass so quickly when you have young children.  We often don't get a chance to print off our photos and put them into albums, so this is a great way to use photos in a creative and visually appealing way.  You could try collaging with them, or even look into using ephemera such as tickets and leaflets as well.  You could look at getting some scrap booking bits to add more interest to your collage. 

18. Self portrait weaving:  
I thought this was a really lovely idea you could include in your journal and a great way to use textile.  As we have already discussed there are great benefits in creating self portraits as a way of considered the self.
To create this self portrait you need to make yourself a weaving card. HERE  are some simple instructions on how to do this.  You then need to print out a photo of yourself and cut it into horizontal strips. As well as strips of decorative paper and yarn, you could use other ephemera such as old book pages, maps, tickets, receipts, leaflets, birthday cards, etc.  Simple weave your gathered items in and out of the wool on your weaving card.  When it's finished, remove it from the card and secure it into your journal.
The process of weaving mirrors the way we weave our lives, we make them what they are, and as we are creating our lives we are weaving stories and experiences throughout it to create a rich tapestry of feelings and experiences.

19.   Drawing with your eyes closed:
Drawing with your eyes closed is a great way to remove yourself from the self judgement you may experience with observational drawing, and takes away any feeling of being "good" at drawing. It is a also a wonderfully meditative way to draw.  By eliminating one of the senses you are able to focus more intently on your remaining senses of touch and hearing; feeling the sensation of the paper or pen on the page and the sound as it moves invisibly across the surface of the paper. This can be a chance to relax  from the frenzy of life as a mother and give you a chance for self care. 
The results of your blind drawing can be really fascinating and freeing.  After you have finished the drawing you might like to embellish it with colour to make a more intentional piece. You could have an object in front of you which you may look at before you begin drawing.  Or draw from your imagination. 


20. Continuous line drawing.
On first appearance these seem very similar to the blind drawings. Thought the process of quite different. With a continuous line drawing you keep your pen or pencil to the paper throughout the entire process of drawing what you can see.  This can help free you from self imposed constraints that you may normally experience when doing an observation drawing such as being tentative or hesitant with your mark making or sketching around the object try and achieve a likeness.  It also removes the need for shade and tone. The process can have really fascinating results which again you can embellish with colour if you wish.

Well there you have it, 20 ways you can use your parenting journal.  I hope you will show me the results of your experiences and I can share them on this blog.