How to start your mindful journaling practiceHow to start your mindful journaling practice

Mindful journaling is a transformational and harmonious practice. It builds self-awareness and supports overall well-being by helping us process thoughts and feelings with more objectivity and presence. But how does it work, and where do we start?

The term mindfulness is everywhere, but its exact meaning can be elusive. At its core, to be mindful means to be present and aware. Rather than being caught up in thoughts about what was said in a conversation two weeks ago or how nervous we are about tomorrow’s presentation, a mindful person is present to experience it all, engage in the world, participate fully, and notice the thoughts without allowing them to distract or take over.

Author and meditation teacher, Joseph Goldstein, summarizes it nicely when he says, "Every time we become aware of a thought, as opposed to being lost in a thought, we experience that opening of the mind."

As many of us have experienced, simply being mindful is not as easy as it sounds. Our minds wander or we get distracted, and mindfulness can seem out of reach. This is where journaling comes in.

Journaling is an excellent way to improve mindfulness and create a habit of presence that we can carry forward beyond the page. It’s an economically savvy way to promote overall well-being, reduce anxiety, and support deeper self-awareness, while also helping us to build our ability to remain present.

Journaling is used in therapy and coaching sessions for good reason. It's a powerful tool to help pull us into the moment, address distracting thoughts, and release burdensome emotions. Research has even shown that the simple act of keeping a journal may reduce anxiety.

With all these benefits, it’s a wonder we’re not all keeping mindful journals daily. But the fact is, life is full of distractions, and it can be easy to forget to invest in ourselves. To begin to create a mindful journaling habit, let’s begin with a couple tips for overcoming common barriers so you can get started.

Scheduling time

It can be easy to tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time to write every day, so let’s start small. Think about your average day and what time you could realistically devote even five or ten minutes to mindful journaling. For many of us this is right before we go to bed or first thing in the morning.

💡 Tip: Set an alarm at the same time each day to remind yourself to journal.

Finding motivation

While you may have great intentions, sometimes it’s easy to get distracted from your goal of a regular journaling practice. To address this, and to have more fun with it, you can invite a friend to join you on your challenge or join a community like Aura, where you can find accountability partners and coaches to support you.

💡 Tip: Gift a friend a mindfulness journal to make it easier for them to join you!

Try different forms of journaling

Mindful journaling sounds wonderful, but where to begin? There are different forms of journaling that you might want to experiment with, including expressive, insight, and listing journals. You can use one or a combination of these when starting to journal.

Expressive writing means exploring deep-seated emotions, which can be an extremely powerful mindfulness practice. You can also begin with a gratitude journal or a list of things that went well in your day.

If you don’t consider yourself a writer, beginning with a list is an excellent way to journal. You can capture your feelings, sensations, and thoughts in short phrases or even single words. As you get started, you can experiment with these three different versions of mindful journaling and see what resonates for you.

Ultimately, capturing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations on the page in ways that are most accessible to you will best support you in creating a habit of mindful journaling. The key is to capture these present observations without judgment.

Putting how you feel into words may help you release deeply held negative beliefs and give less power to strong emotions.

To capture what we are thinking on the page invites us to slow down, assess, and safely explore how we feel. If the concept of mindfulness has always seemed out of reach, try one of the prompts below. Maybe even try them all. They might lead you to a new perspective, more harmony, and better overall health and well-being.

Expressive Journal Prompts

The prompts below are helpful for freely exploring your emotions, so that you can more deeply connect to how you're feeling.

- Think about the emotion that was dominant for you today. What images or sensations does that emotion evoke?

- Write about what brings you comfort and why.

- Notice how your body is feeling right now and write about everything, from the room's temperature to the aches and pains to the feelings of ease and softness.

- What would an older, wiser version of yourself tell you about your life?

- Do a worry dump. Let it all out, from minor concerns to heavy worries. Let the page carry it all.

Insight Journal Prompts

Try answering one of the questions below to uncover insight about how you're feeling about your day, the ways in which you make decisions, and events you want to commit to memory.

- Think about your day from start to finish. What scene stands out to you most and why?

- What decisions did I make today that I’m proud of?

- What are the three things you most remember about this day?

- Reflect on conversations you had today. What went unsaid?

- Write about a person or multiple people who have positively impacted your life.

Listing Journal Prompts

If starting a mindful journaling practice feels intimidating because of how much writing you'll need to do, then start by creating a bulleted list to answer any of the questions below.

- List all the good things that happened today. When you think you’re done, see if you can list one more.

- Make a gratitude list of at least 10 things, people, or experiences you are thankful for.

- Make a list of 3 things you saw, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted today. See where this prompt takes you.

- Make a list of the important things that were said today, either by you or others.

- List all the dominant sensations in your body—what are they telling you?

💡Tip: Set a five or ten-minute timer and see how many words you can get on the page.

While building a mindful journaling practice might seem overwhelming, remember to start small and reward yourself for what you do. After adopting this practice, many practitioners have reported being more focused and positive, better handling negative thoughts and emotions, and enjoying the process.  

The beauty of mindful writing is that it’s practical for busy people and doesn’t require a lot of time. You can do it anywhere, with as little or as much time as you’d like, and there is no great cost for the immeasurable benefits that come with increasing awareness and presence. You can start today. All you need is a few minutes and something to write on.

Let’s take this journey together. Join me here every Monday for more inspiration!

If you’re looking for more guidance and community support, join me at
Aura, the most holistic meditation app on the market, for 30 days free.

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June 10, 2024
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