Visual Journaling as self-care
Updated: Aug 17
Every other day, I journal in the morning before I do anything---visually. I open my sketchbook and take a few minutes to stare at a blank page. Sometimes an image shows up in my mind, and I start drawing. Other times, I let my hand guides me and allow it to move how it wants to move—let my hand grab whichever the art supply it wants to grab.
A former art therapy supervisor of mine, Sangeeta Prasad ATR-BC, introduced visual journaling to me several years ago, and this has become my number one method of self-care. We all have a lot to say. Our emotions have a lot of messages for us if we can sit with them long enough and listen. Visual journaling is my way of decoding my own emotions. Sometimes I don’t really know what my emotions mean, but I find out more about them as I look at the images I create.
I use Strathmore’s mixed media visual journal sketchbook (90lb Vellum). It holds watercolor paints and drawing materials equally well. If you like to use watercolor mainly, I’d recommend that you get a sketchbook with 140lb paper or heavier.
If you are new to visual journaling, here are some prompts for you to use:
Check in with your body. What feeling do you notice? Draw the feeling.
Draw your dream from last night.
Self-portrait with your non-dominant hand
Make a collage with magazine pictures.
Write 6-word summary of yesterday. Create an image that goes with it.
Draw a mandala
What event did you have a strong emotional reaction recently? Create an image related to it.
An image of what comforts you
Write down a quote that inspired you. Create an image that goes with it.
The image of yourself as an animal or creature (You may be a different creature at different times in your life, if you repeat this periodically).
The possibility is endless. For me, it helps to write out my observations about the image each time. I ask the image, "What are you trying to tell me?" It is also helpful to title each image after it’s completed. You will be surprised how much a title can inform you. And what’s great is that a visual journal is for you---just for you. There is no pressure to share images with the public, unless you choose to share. It is a place to experiment, and it is a place to explore your true self. I need a place for me to be honest with myself, and visual journaling has become that place for the past several years.
The pandemic has become a long-term situation. Self-care is more important than ever. If you are looking for a new way to care for yourself, how about you give visual journaling a try?