Three Fun Journaling Techniques to Open Your Heart after Brain Injury

Barbara Stahura teaches journaling workshops.

Barbara Stahura teaches journaling workshops.

Three Fun Journaling Techniques to Open Your Heart after Brain Injury

by Barbara Stahura

Almost any bookstore these days stocks lots of books about journaling, all full of many different techniques and exercises. They are helpful when you want to juice up your journaling practice, to dive deeper, to open up more avenues to your truth. I have quite a few on my bookshelf at home and often turn to them when my journaling needs a little more spark. But you don’t need a book to find inspiration or ways to get your journal entries started.

If you have a brain injury or are a family caregiver, you know that your life still contains many elements beyond what those limited descriptions allow. You still want a life that’s as well-rounded as you can make it. So it’s important to also journal about the parts of your life not necessarily connected or related to brain injury or caregiving. The three techniques below are very good for sparking creativity, opening up your heart, and providing a look into your life—not to mention having fun. Preparation takes a little time, but you can have fun assembling the items. You can use these methods alone or in a group.

Postcards and Greeting Cards or Photographs

This takes some preparation because you have to collect a group of cards, but once you have them, you’re all set for quite a while. Many bookstores, convenience stores, and party stores carry postcards and greeting cards that provide lots of inspiration. Look for the less expensive ones. If you use greeting cards, separate the cover from the back and use just the cover. To use them for journaling , spread them out in front of you and choose one. You can close your eyes and pick blindly, or you can take the one that “speaks” to you or inspires or moves you in some way. Then simply begin writing about the card in your journal (remember to date your entry!) How would you describe it? What does the illustration or the text say to you? Does it remind you of something? Does it represent something you would like to do or have?

You can also cut illustrations and photographs from magazines to use for this exercise, or print graphics and photos from the Internet. If you like, you can paste them to light cardboard to make them last longer.

You can also use your personal photos for this method. It can be enlightening and rewarding to write about events and people in your past.

Journal Jar

This is a fun method of choosing a journaling topic. Find a container, such as a jar or bowl. It can be plain or fancy. Some people like to use a simple jar and decorate it to make it more personal. Now you need topics, which you will write or type on small slips of paper to place in your Journal Jar.

You can make up your own topics or take lines from your favorite poems or books or even magazines. One good source is my book, After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, if you want to write about your post-injury life or about caregiving. But you can also use many other prompts and phrases, too. One good online source is You can also find a wealth of topics and words in magazines, blogs, websites, and other written material. Choose words and phrases that catch your attention, or that make you feel good or want to explore.

When you want to journal, simply choose a slip of paper from your Journal Jar and begin writing. If you like, you can sit quietly with your eyes closed for a few minutes as you let the topic sit in your mind and begin to blossom.


For this technique, you need an object to write about. If you’re journaling on your own, look around you and see what catches your eye. If you’re journaling in a group, gather a bunch of small objects. They can be anything that strikes your fancy or is simply within reach. If some of them are out of the ordinary, that makes it more interesting. For instance, in just looking around my office, I could choose a ruler, a sterling silver bookmark, a coaster, a small sand castle, a calculator, three small plastic brains, a smiley face eraser, several quartz crystals, seashells, scissors, a plastic seahorse, a small straw angel, a bird’s nest in a basket, a glass paperweight, and a candle in a teeny coffee cup. Each one of these items reminds me of someone or something and can be used as a springboard to an imaginative journal entry.

Choose the object that most catches your attention and write about it. Why did it catch your attention? Of what or whom does it remind you? What role has it played in your life? How do you use it? Would you like to get rid of it and why? Or what story can you make up about it?

Journaling is whatever you want to make it. Your journal is an expression of you in all your mystery and complexity. Using these techniques can open up a whole new way of looking at the world, and so inspire and uplift you.

Recommended Reading

After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story

By Barbara Stahura

Journaling After Brain Injury

By Barbara Stahura

Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth

By Kathleen Adams, M.A. Grand Central Publishing, 1990.

2 responses to “Three Fun Journaling Techniques to Open Your Heart after Brain Injury”

  1. May I simply just say what a relief to find an
    individual who really knows what they are discussing on the net.
    You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    More people ought to read this and understand this side of the story.

    I was surprised that you aren’t more popular since you certainly possess the gift.

  2. Dawn Herring says:

    I love this approach to journaling with this creative vibe, visual dimension and fun weaved throughout. Sometimes it’s great to step away from where we usually focus to where we find our nurture.

    I have chosen your post, Three Fun Journaling Techniques to Open Your Heart after Brain Injury, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 1/18/13 for all things journaling on Twitter; a link will be posted on the social networks, on my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in my weekly Refresh Journal:

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week was Your Journaling: Take Action!

    Thanks again for these fun and relevant ideas for journaling.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

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