Mindful Journaling ‘How to’ Guide
Keeping a journal can be one of the most powerful tools as it helps us chart our progress. With meditation, it can be really hard to know if it’s making a difference, or if we’re becoming more skilled at it as it’s such a subjective experience, so I encourage all of my clients to keep a journal to begin the process of becoming more reflective.
Journaling is as unique as the person writing it… there is not ‘wrong’ way to do it, so they key is to find out how best to use it for your needs. With this in mind, I’ve put together some thoughts and reflections from my own practice of journaling in a bid to help you get into a practice that feels useful. So let’s get started…
So what is a journal?
Sounds obvious but lets be really clear from the outset… a journal can be anything that you can write/draw/collate thoughts on. I’m a paper and pen kinda gal, but equally there are lots of journaling apps that you can down load. If you’re like me and prefer the old fashioned way, there are two choices… you can go all out and treat yourself to a lovely notepad and some swishy pens, or you can dig out a notepad from the junk drawer and grab the closest working biro. It really doesn’t matter… it’s all about what works for you.
I enjoy the ritual of journaling, so I choose to have a notepad that feels nice to write in and I use different coloured pens to record my thoughts. You can also use stickers, magazine cut out’s, add photos… whatever you feel called to really. I’ve always been more comfortable with written language as a way of processing my thoughts, but I’ve worked with many clients who prefer to draw or sketch their thoughts so again, whatever comes naturally to you is ok.
Remember, a journal is just for your eyes so remove any pressure you may feel to have your spelling correct, or write in complete sentences – it’s your private reflections so give yourself permission to be true to yourself, however messy that may feel!
I tend to journal before bed. My brain is at its busiest at this time of day, and I use the space to do a bit of a brain dump of my day and work through whatever needs my attention. Previously when I was juggling a full time job, and my counselling practice as well as general life, I found it helpful to sit for 10mins in the morning with my journal and use it as a way of focusing for the day ahead. If you’re totally new to this practice I’d suggest trying both and get a feel for what feels most helpful. Remember you can switch it up if you want, or do both… the most important consideration is when can you commit the time to doing it.
I’ve included this video that I found quite helpful- it’s only 10mins long and definitely worth a watch
I’ll outline my journaling ritual below to give a picture of what my practice looks like…
- Have a quiet space for reflection… I prefer to journal in bed, so I’ll take a cuppa up to bed with me and open the window to let some air circulate.
- I like to have some relaxing music on. I’ve found gentle music with no words works best for me – if there are lyrics, I tend to get caught into them and tune out of my own head. Once I’m settled, I’ll close my eyes and take 3-4 deep relaxing breaths to centre myself and set the intention of wanting to be reflective in my journaling, and learn from this day.
- I tend to set a timer for 30 mins and write until that goes. Often I’m done before then, but I can get lost in my own mind for aaages so I’ve learned it’s best for me to limit my time or I could easily be there two hours later!
- Put it away… once I’m done its important to put your journal away somewhere safe. For me there’s a respect for my thoughts wrapped up in that, but it also helps me to sleep easier if I know it’s safely away where it should be and not just dumped at the side of the bed.
Points for reflection
If you’re journaling in a truly mindful way, then you would do it totally unscripted simply becoming aware of any thoughts or feeling that come to mind, and noticing them without judgement…
If that fills you with fear/dread then it can be useful to have some points to consider such as:
- What’s gone well and what have you learned today?
- What are you grateful for?
- What’s been the dominant feeling that’s been around for you today and why
You can also use it as a space for managing your productivity, considering what you have achieved in that day and what needs carried forward.
As I said at the outset, there is no wrong way to do it!