How To Set Intentions For The New Year, According To The Authors Of 'The Spirit Almanac'

by Lindsay Kellner & Emma Loewe
Jovo Jovanovic/Stocksy

A personal journal is the ultimate tool for self-exploration, and we believe that ideas aren’t crystallized until they’re immortalized on a page. Granted, as writers by trade we’re biased, but research proves that writing can promote mental clarity, help us more efficiently navigate the world, and even cut down on our doctor visits.

Too often, the stories we tell ourselves aren’t representative of the stories we experience. How many times have you panicked over an upcoming event— thinking up every terrible scenario—only to emerge on the other side unscathed? It’s too easy to let your inner world call the shots without paying the outer one any mind. Journaling can help you break through negative thought patterns by transporting them onto the page, into the physical realm.

What makes pen and paper such a potent combo? Confronting the emotions that are bottled up inside may reduce physiological stress and the physical manifestations that come along with it. Pretty extraordinary for an activity we can do anytime, anywhere, for free.

A Journaling Ritual for Intention

The end of the year signals a moment of release, and journaling can help us let go of the past and move on from limiting beliefs. This ritual calls on the power of the written word to help us craft new stories.


  • A journal
  • A pen
  • A willingness to be totally unfiltered and to write down anything and everything that comes to mind in the moment. Perfectionism has no place here.


1. Grab your journal and find a cozy place to nest.

2. Think back on the last year, and make a list of all the words that come to mind. Write large, and give each word its own line on the page. Don’t filter yourself or deem one thought too dark, too trite, too this, too that. Let your higher self do the talking. You’ll know you’re done when no new words come to mind.

3. Take a few moments to reflect on your list. Then, imagine doing the same exercise in the newness. What words do you want to see on the page? What do you hope to welcome into your life with this new year? With this same sense of limitless expression, write down these words. The imagination has been likened to an inner star, so let it shine some light on your goals and desires. Your musings can be vague or specific, universally desired or personal to you.

4. Looking back on your list, is there one word or phrase that sticks out to you? Again, leave story out of this and allow yourself to just gravitate. Once you’ve landed on a word, cut or tear it out of the journal, letting it become its own little fortune. Place it in a spot where you’ll see it every day— whether it’s on your bedroom mirror, in your wallet, or on your desk at work. Let it be a reminder of your commitment to grow and evolve this season.

Illustrations by Charlotte Edey, courtesy of Penguin Random House
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Keep the momentum of this ritual going by taking some time to write down something— anything!— every day. Recognize your notebook as so much more than a collection of lined pages. It’s an opportunity to diagnose whatever’s ailing you and concoct your own prescription. Every time you sit down to write, conduct a quick scan of your body and mind to see where you are in that moment. Know that whether you’re feeling confused, overwhelmed, stressed, or elated, your journal can be a leveling tool.

1. Stressed out? Draw a line down the center of your page, labeling the column on the left “I feel worry because . . .” and the one on the right “But deep down I know . . .” Record your concerns, and then let your intuition start to diffuse them. Doing this one right before bed can be particularly helpful, as it primes the mind for uncluttered dreams.

2. Antsy? If you haven’t yet immersed yourself in the lusty, multicolored vortex that is bullet journaling, we highly suggest you Google it right now. Bullet journals list menial tasks next to the ones that light us up inside. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, write down all the tasks on your to-do list, then intersperse them with the ideas, people, or events that excite you.

3. Down on yourself? Write down “Today I’m proud of myself for . . .” and let what comes next be a mix of your accomplishments, no matter how small they seem. We love doing this one on Sundays, and it reminds us that even a “lazy” day lounging around helps us conserve energy for the week ahead.

4. Joyous? Immortalize that feeling with a detailed free rite about the circumstances that led to this mood and how it made you feel deep in your bones. Or write yourself a cheer-up letter to read next time you’re feeling down.

Adapted from The Spirit Almanac by arrangement with TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018, Emma Loewe and Lindsay Kellner.