A Letter from Your 80-Year-Old Self: A Journaling Exercise

brown paper envelope on table
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In the age of e-mail, texting and social media, a well-crafted, thoughtfully composed letter is rare and beautiful thing.  When we use letter writing as a journaling technique, we are not limited to simply writing letters to other people in the traditional sense.  We can write letters from ourself to ourself from a variety of perspectives:

  1.  A letter from a feeling or emotion that you would like to explore further to your self.  Perhaps you’ve been angry or frustrated lately and you aren’t sure what’s behind it.  You can write a letter from frustration to you, letting your frustration have an opportunity to speak to you, uninterrupted, on the page.
  2. A letter from your younger self to your present day self.  This is a great thing to do if you are feeling like you’re out of touch with what’s fun and joyful in your life.  What did your younger self love to do?  What did s/he want to be when s/he grew up?  Let him or her have a voice and remind you of who you were before you starting caring about what other people thought of you.
  3. Write a letter from your authentic self to your present day self.  Let s/he tell you what his or her dreams and desires are.  Let them show you just how brilliant the essence of you really is.
  4. Write a letter from your older self to your present day self.  Let s/he share the wisdom of their life experience with you.

For today’s exercise, we will write a letter from our 80-year-old self to our present day self.  Take out your journal and a pen.  Sit comfortably and close your eyes.  Let your breathing become slow and steady.  In your mind’s eye, picture your ideal vision of the 80-year-old you.  You are vibrant, healthy and radiant.  Really get a clear image of what you look like.  What are you wearing?  What does your hair look like?  How do you move?  Where are you?  Who are with?  Really flush out all the details.  Now imagine that 80-year-old self sitting down with paper and pen and from a place of deep kindness and compassion, writing you a letter.  S/he has so much wisdom and life experience to share with you, and s/he only has your best interests in mind.  When you are ready, open your eyes and begin writing your letter.  Take as much time as you need, at least 20 or 30 minutes.

Once you have finished, read through your letter, underlining any passages that feel particularly resonant and meaningful.  Thank this future version of you for everything that s/he has shared.

Thoughts for further journaling:

  1.  When we did this in class, everyone had a difficult time finding a mental image of their vibrant 80-year-old self.  I thought this was interesting and perhaps a commentary on the fact that we need more vibrant 80-year-olds here in Omaha, Nebraska as role models for us!  Maybe take a few moments to write out the description of your ideal older self in exquisite detail.  Even sketch them if you are so inclined.  We need inspiring, healthy visions of ourselves so that we have something to strive towards. As we discovered in this exercise, the mind needs a vision that is so real to us that we will step into it with full confidence that what we see is indeed possible.
  2. Use any of the passages you underlined as prompts for further journaling.
  3. Create a list of action items that may be useful in getting you from here to that radiant older self.  Maybe it has to do with nourishing yourself, self-care, movement, tending to relationships, being willing to let things go….your letter will reveal some gentle suggestions for what might be helpful for you.
  4. Check in with this 80-year-old self again!  Write them a letter this time and have them respond to you.  Or do a dialogue with them for something different.

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