The Synergistic Effect of Mindfulness and Journaling

No matter your aptitude for writing, there’s scientific proof that you can benefit from getting your thoughts out on paper. We are with ourselves all day, every day, and it is tiring to carry around the weight of mental baggage. The synergistic effect of mindfulness and journaling is profound; being able to step outside of ourselves and look at our thought process is life-changing.

BlogSelf DevelopmentThe Synergistic Effect of Mindfulness and Journaling

No matter your aptitude for writing, there’s scientific proof that you can benefit from getting your thoughts out on paper. We are with ourselves all day, every day, and it is tiring to carry around the weight of mental baggage. The synergistic effect of mindfulness and journaling is profound; being able to step outside of ourselves and look at our thought process is life-changing. Thinking is defined as “the process of using one's mind to consider or reason about something” while mindfulness is defined as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” 

Knowing something logically is not the same as being innately aware of a truth. There are so many hidden pieces of inspiration inside of you, and most of the answers we are searching for in life are locked in our minds. Read on to learn more about how journaling can be the start of an incredible mindfulness practice.

Thorough Self-Examination

Until we truly understand ourselves, it’s impossible to have a clear view of the world around us. It can feel odd to come to terms with the fact that you are a stranger to yourself – but many people experience this existential phenomenon. This very common tendency is prevalent for a number of reasons. We are conditioned to think of others before ourselves, we are constantly inundated with people’s lives online, and we don’t think enough of ourselves. Whatever your personal reason may be, there are simple ways to overcome this uncomfortable sensation. The easiest place to start? Journaling.

Once you begin to write down your thoughts and emotions as they come, you’ll start to see that you are pouring out sentences you didn’t even know were inside of you. The hardest part is just sitting down to start, after that you’ll be on a roll. Don’t be judgemental of yourself and be as honest as you possibly can – this isn’t an assignment, it’s a self-care exercise. Write when you’re grateful, when you’re angry, when you’re confused, when you’re inspired – just make it a habit. Having documentation of your emotions surrounding a particular situation can give you a completely new perspective. You’ll begin to be able to observe yourself and your thought process from more of an objective lens rather than criticizing the thoughts inside your head.

By making journaling a daily practice, you’ll begin creating a comprehensive collection of your innermost emotions. You will have the opportunity to notice patterns and progression as well as be able to see possible solutions. Using your journal as a tool for self-examination can also be helpful in therapy. Bring your latest entries with you to discuss with your therapist and ask them their thoughts. If nothing has been working for you when it comes to mindfulness, taking a good, hard look in the mirror and dedicating time to understanding who you are could be the trick. Think of yourself as a third-party observer once you finish writing. Don’t assign meaning to the entry, don’t judge the writing, and try your best to be kind to yourself – no matter where you’re at that day.

Become Truly Present

Being in the present moment can feel like an impossible task in the digital age; we are always trying to get outside of ourselves, even if it is subconsciously. Ask yourself how often you are ruminating on the past or worrying about the future. Really assess the last time you felt at peace in the present and immersed in an experience. If you struggle with being present, you are most definitely not alone. Our culture tends to focus on staying busy, working faster and harder, and setting goals. These values are not bad in and of themselves, but they can place an unnecessary pressure on us as well as set us up for an anti-climatic outcome. What happens when we work hard and miss out on the beautiful moments in life? What comes after we reach that big goal? Being truly satisfied in the present can alleviate the stress that comes with living in the future or staying stuck in the past.

Mindfulness revolves around being present; sitting with yourself in a non-judgemental way and simply allowing your mind to wander without control. It is nothing less than just being. Many philosophers and gurus think mindfulness is synonymous with “mindlessness” because you are just paying attention to reality without expectation. Journaling can help immensely with your ability to stay focused in the present moment. Stream of consciousness writing is the act of penning thoughts fluidly without any hesitance; it is just transferring your inner dialogue onto paper. Some of it might not make perfect sense – but who cares. This is the purpose and a physical exercise in being present. What is this exact moment feeling like? What is around you? Let it flow out of you as fast as you can without second-guessing it.

The practice may feel silly at first, but you’ll find yourself being extremely satisfied when you’re done. You are so focused on pouring out your thoughts that there is no time to think of anything else, you’re in the moment and chronicling what that is like for you. This tiny habit can have monumental impacts on your daily life. Living in a semi-meditative state is actually achievable, and it starts with being acutely aware of the present. So much is out of our control (even if we tell ourselves otherwise) and being mindful can release the need to micromanage everything and everyone in your life.  You’ll become mindful in a mindless way, and usually the most positive changes happen right under our noses.

Free Up Space

Have you ever said to yourself, “I just don’t have the mental energy”, not knowing how you’d ever get said energy? We tend to think there isn’t enough time in the day, and similarly not enough space in our brains. It takes a lot of mental and emotional capacity to show up as our best selves and be there for other people as well. Sometimes it can feel like a duty to be a good friend, child, parent, sibling, or coworker; you can barely sort things out for yourself and then are expected to be there for others. This sounds selfish and egotistical, and you’re aware of that, but you still don’t know the solution. You are one of millions of people who experience this same dilemma. It’s hard to be empathetic, compassionate, and loving when you are constantly stressed and overloaded with negativity. 

The only way out of this conundrum is through – and it is imperative that you begin clearing out space in your mind, body, and soul before you can ever truly help another person. Journaling is often used as a “brain dump”, where people purge every piece of heavy information they’re holding onto. None of what you write needs to be life-changing, and it doesn’t even have to make perfect sense, just get it out of yourself and let go of what is no longer serving you. This step is essential in becoming mindful and present – especially when it comes to spending time and energy on other people. 

Envision a situation that is more physical if you’re struggling with this concept. Let’s pretend you have a family member who needs a place to stay for an unspecified amount of time, and they’ve asked if you could host them. Your house is a wreck and you’re beginning to approach hoarder-status. You can barely walk around or sit on the couch without remembering your miles-long to-do list and the countless things you need to throw away. How could you possibly have your loved one come stay? There’s no room for them, there’s barely room for you. This is exactly what you’re doing by journaling as a cathartic purge practice. Get rid of the useless chunks of garbage swirling around in your mind and begin to free up space. You’ll find yourself in a new state of mindfulness that embodies freedom and serenity. 

Find Your Creativity

The thought of being “mindful” might make you imagine a zen monk, sitting and meditating alone without uttering a word. While this is a form of mindfulness, it doesn’t look that way for the majority of us. Part of being mindful is unlocking your truest self at its core and releasing things you’ve kept hidden. These aren’t always traumatic memories, deep secrets, or ugly emotions – sometimes you find new interests and skills you haven’t ever explored before. A lot of our best ideas come from daydreaming or running with a spur-of-the-moment thought, and creative genius is the birth child of this process.

You may be an organized, habitual person who likes to do the same thing every day – and that is perfectly fine. If you prefer to approach mindfulness from a more pragmatic angle, you can try a daily gratitude exercise, meditative prompts, or regular “check-ins” so you know exactly what you’re getting when you sit down to journal. If you like to be more spontaneous, getting creative with your journal is another way to practice mindfulness. Sit and doodle whatever comes to your mind and don’t think about what you’re drawing. This is the exact purpose of traditional mandalas. The free-form drawing practice allows you to focus your attention and reach a meditative state through art. There are tutorials on YouTube that can get you started, but before you know it you’ll develop your own style and approach.

Some people like to express emotion and achieve mindfulness through abstract writing. If your emotion had a color, what would it be? If you could personify your feeling, what would that look like? Grab your supplies and get doodling. This strategy brings you back into the moment and allows you to experience your feelings through a child-like lens. Mindfulness isn’t supposed to be complicated, even though it can feel difficult. Do what feels right to you and don’t ever over-exert yourself. Journaling for mindfulness has no place for perfectionism, and you’ll cancel out any of the positive effects if you get too ahead of yourself. If you’re as authentic as possible in your journaling practice, you’ll be able to create an archive of a precise time in your life – one you’ll be grateful you can look back on one day.

Journaling, Mindfulness, and a Healthier You

The synergistic effect of mindfulness and journaling is something you cannot experience unless you try it for yourself. Sitting and reading an article about it might pique your interest, but it certainly won’t get you zen any time soon. Even when you aren’t feeling like it, try to motivate yourself to work a mindful journal practice into your everyday routine. You can even write about how you absolutely abhor the process in that moment. Just like physical exercise, once you see the effects begin to manifest you will more than likely crave the practice. 

Reaching a mindful, present state will undoubtedly benefit your overall wellbeing and begin to flow into every area of your life. It seems a little backwards that acquiring something so simple is a bit of a challenge, but anything worth having doesn’t come easy. Reframing journaling as a self-healing, exploratory process will open your mind to the practice and give you a more positive perspective. Nothing changes if nothing changes, so why not start today?


Tuesday, February 14, 2023