Mindful Journaling For More Awareness
There’s a misconception that the ‘best’ way to develop mindful awareness is in sitting meditation. But mindful journaling can also be a powerful tool for growth, especially for those times when meditation doesn’t feel like an accessible practice.
‘Mindfulness’ means awareness – and that’s what characterises reflective journaling: it builds not only awareness, but also self-compassion. In my own practice, I value my journaling space just as much as my time spent in meditation.
I first came to the practice of mindful journaling during a particularly challenging period in my own life (I was navigating infertility and loss at the time). Although I’d journaled since my late teens, it took on a more mindful quality when I suddenly needed to bring much more awareness and kindness to what I was experiencing.
These days, I still keep a journal on hand for when I find myself in a reflective mood, whether it’s to capture an insight about how I respond to difficulty, or to savour moments of happiness and wellbeing.
This month I’m sharing three ways to experiment with mindful journaling. If writing’s not your thing, you could create a space for quiet contemplation, or even draw or paint if that’s your preferred medium.
1. Let it flow
In your private journal, you can make a space to allow whatever you’re experiencing to arise, without censorship or judgement. Just writing down whatever you’re noticing about thoughts, feelings or body sensations can help to increase mindful awareness.
There’s nothing to get right or wrong, so it doesn’t matter if there’s no particular structure to your writing. Don’t forget the good stuff too – if you’re feeling happy and well, writing can help to anchor these feelings, and take them in so you that you begin to experience them more readily.
2. Start with a prompt
You can use a theme or a question as a starting point. Gratitude journaling is a well-known example of this, asking yourself ‘what am I grateful for?’, and committing it to paper to strengthen the habit of finding this appreciative quality in daily life.
As your mindfulness practice deepens, you may find that your own personalised questions start to arise, which you can take into the space of your journal to explore.
3. Write a letter to yourself
It’s often helpful to remember that we are made up of lots of different parts: it helps us to avoid over-identifying with difficult emotions. In your journal, you can access the wise and supportive part of you (the one you’d offer to a friend who is having a difficult day), and write a letter to yourself from this perspective.
This can be a powerful self-kindness practice in itself. You may find using phrases such as ‘it’s understandable that…’, or ‘it’s ok that you find this hard’ are helpful.
For a bit more on the practice of ‘Taking In The Good’, read this piece from the pioneer of this approach, Rick Hanson
The tools I share in my coaching sessions can include a journaling method designed to promote self-compassion.