Sam Radford

November 3, 2021

Prompts to get me to begin noticing

Kat Cuthbert wrote a blog post recently about her rediscovery of journalling. I was grateful for her insights on the value of ‘journal prompts’. These are questions that can help trigger meaningful self-reflection.

Before sharing her ‘journal prompts for uncertain times’ though, I want to share a couple of paragraphs from her post:

Free-writing felt too much to start with, so I wrote myself a series of journal prompts to act as a catalyst. I needed something to bounce off, and I also needed something to literally prompt me to notice how I was feeling besides “anxious AF”. I have always been really bad at understanding how I’m feeling; I can usually gather whether it’s positive, negative or neutral, but find giving it a name beyond that is almost impossible. 

I began with a series of prompts to get me to begin noticing, with the hope of later understanding how I felt, where I felt it and when I last felt the same way. Physical sensation is often easier to identify, and giving it the context of when I last felt something similar meant I could not only start relating the feeling to events, but also understand that it would eventually pass (even if on multiple occasions my answers were “I feel anxious, it’s in my chest and I last felt this yesterday” for several days running). The prompts gave me a more concrete thing to do when emotion felt overwhelming - a quick way to hopefully calm and soothe but, failing that, to record and begin to process. They gave me a structure through which to see things and an easy way to begin building a habit.

That sentence, ‘I began with a series of prompts to get me to begin noticing,’ struck a chord. I know I’m not alone in not taking the time to notice what is actually going on with me; what I am truly feeling. I stay busy, rarely giving myself the time and space to recognise the thoughts and feelings sitting deeper within. 

Kat’s blog post was a helpful nudge to get better at noticing. And her questions – or prompts – are helpful:

  1. How am I feeling right now?
  2. Where can I feel this in my body?
  3. When did I last feel this way?
  4. How did I deal with this feeling last time I felt it?
  5. What is this feeling trying to tell me?
  6. What can I do for myself today that will help me to feel more grounded?

Thinking about how I am feeling in terms of my body is a helpful new framework for me. I’m a very ‘heady’ person. I consider my feelings solely in the realm of thoughts. But as we all know, body and mind connect intricately. I want to get better at recognising the impact of my feelings on my body.

–Sam

Got some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you – do hit reply or drop me a note.

@samradford | samradford.com