You probably write a lot: Texts. Emails. Shopping and to-do lists. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts. Meanwhile, your inner self is in the background, just waiting to be noticed.
We’re often checking in with others, but rarely checking with ourselves. Most of the time our words are all about others, the future, planning, and organizing.
Imagine taking a few minutes a day to focus on one thing and one thing only: You. Not your schedule, or posting on social media about what you’re making for dinner, but simply what’s going on in your own head. It’s called journaling, and it’s been helping people understand themselves for centuries.
Journaling is a powerful way to cultivate mindfulness. The very act of writing places you fully in the present moment. It forces you to focus inward and put aside all the multi-tasking, similar to meditation. In fact, some people consider journaling a form of meditation. Rather than reacting to the thoughts and feelings whirling inside of your head, you are simply recording and examining what’s going on there.
A growing body of scientific literature has shown that journaling offers the following benefits:
It Helps Heal Trauma
Strengthens The Immune System
Improves Future Resilience
Want to reap the benefits of journaling? Here’s how:
Find The Right Tools –
While it’s possible to journal on your computer or mobile device, research suggests that putting pen to paper may be more effective. Look for a notebook and pen that speak to you. Set up a journaling “nook” with things like candles or fresh flowers, to engage your senses.
Start Small But Steady –
Begin with writing for 15 to 20 minutes per session, but try to write for four consecutive days. Even if you’re at a loss for words, keep at it until your time is up. You can even repeat what you’ve already written. It doesn’t matter because you’re the only one who will see it and it’s all part of the process.
Write About Anything and Everything You Want –
You can write about something that’s bothering you, or something very personal. Again, you’re only writing for yourself, so don’t hold anything back. Be as open and honest as possible. If you feel stuck, try picking a theme for the day, week, or month. And don’t sweat the details. Don’t feel constrained by grammar or punctuation. If you find yourself struggling to write about something because it’s too upsetting, then stop. Instead, start by focusing on situations or events that you feel you can handle.
Journal First Thing In The Morning, Or Right Before Bed –
Journaling before bed is quite helpful if you don’t want to take your worries to bed with you. Take a few minutes and write about your concerns. This has been known to improve sleep. Or, it may be preferable to write in the morning. Starting the day with a few minutes of journaling can help clear the clutter out of your head so you can start the day with a fresh perspective.
Additionally, if you’d like to enhance the mindfulness payoff, you can always meditate before journaling. This can help with organizing your thoughts and providing more clarity and focus before you start writing.
As promised, here is a list of mindful journal prompts to help you reconnect with yourself:
Which emotion would you like to be most present in your life today? What can you do to achieve that?
Without pausing, make a list of all the big and small things you’re grateful for. Is there something that you’re grateful to have today that you didn’t have five years ago?
Savoring Your Favorite Things
What’s your favorite food, drink, season, or smell? Write down the memories it brings up for you.
List the three biggest things that trigger your anxiety. What are some things you can tell yourself in anxious moments to help stay calm?
Coping With and Letting Go Of Anger
Which memories trigger anger for you? What do you wish you could tell the person you’re angry at about how they hurt you? Who or what do you need to forgive? What would need to happen for you to do that?
Goals & Dreams
Is there something you always wanted to do that you haven’t gotten around to yet? What is stopping you? Write down steps you can take today to work towards reaching that goal.
Of all of your accomplishments in life, which one are you most proud of? Which accomplishment of the past year are you most proud of? Why?
Your Ideal Day
What would you do if you had one day without any obligations except to do your favorite things? Who would you spend the day with and why? Where would you go?
Rediscovering Your Inner Child
As a kid, what activities gave you the most pleasure? What did you love about them? Is there something you can do today to recapture some of that joy?
I hope you’ll put that pen to paper and begin to experience the benefits of journaling for yourself!
Wishing you moments of peaceful reflection,