The Multifaceted Benefits of Keeping a Mindfulness Journal
We’ve been hearing more and more about the importance of mindfulness from mental health experts and spiritual guides around the world. From Western psychologists to Eastern monks, the benefits of practicing mindfulness have been touted as revolutionary. But when it comes to the specifics, many people still don’t understand mindfulness or how it can be practiced on a daily basis. Thus the introduction of a mindfulness journal is the perfect way to bring this concept down to earth.
Why are so many writers in love with their craft? It turns out, writing is not just useful in certain circles, but for anyone who adopts the habit. Dr. James Pennebaker, a researcher, and author of Writing to Heal, found that writing has a tremendous healing component that most people are unaware of. By writing about traumatic and emotional experiences, humans are better able to organize fragmented memories, accept the past, and release negative thoughts. Thus, keeping a mindfulness journal can serve as a cathartic practice of releasing the emotional baggage of the day.
Another positive outcome of keeping a mindfulness journal is that you can recount the good things instead of taking them for granted. Especially for those with busy and hectic lives, it can be extremely difficult to truly absorb and celebrate the positive aspects of life. We have several positive experiences on a daily basis, yet most of them are forgotten immediately. Researchers have found that writing about what you’re grateful for is linked to better sleep, lower anxiety levels, and even higher satisfaction in romantic relationships.
Poet and activist Kelly Harris once said, “I truly believe we don’t know how we feel until we write it down.” While she probably did not research this topic, her findings have been matched by the researchers at the University of Michigan. They found that writing out various options helped people explore alternatives they otherwise may not have considered. They also found that those who wrote to make their decisions were less biased and more confident that they’d made the right choice. So if you are looking for clarity and assurance, writing about tough decisions can help you draw conclusions.
Perhaps the most impressive benefit of keeping a mindfulness journal is its ability to influence your brain. Studies have found literal differences in the brains of those who meditate and those who don’t. Because writing and other artistic activities can put you in a meditative or “theta” brainwave state, journaling can help rewire your brain. A calmer brain means less reactivity when placed in stressful situations, and an improved ability to make good decisions under pressure. You may not even notice these subtle benefits over time. However, others are likely to notice a calmer, more balanced version of you, as you navigate through your day.
We all have goals. Unfortunately, attaining them is not always what is happening in the real world. Procrastination and a general uncertainty about how to get started keep many people from making progress. Instead of occasionally thinking about your goals as if they are distant pipe dreams, you can keep track of them very closely through journaling. Journaling allows you to make your goals a part of your everyday life, bringing small steps into your reality. After consciously thinking and writing about your goals each day for a year, you may find that you’ve learned, changed, and accomplished many of the tasks that will get you there. Without a journal, working towards goals may remain a muddled and intangible process.
“What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it,” says mentor, Michael Hyatt. Oftentimes, we’re not even aware of why we have certain feelings or experiences throughout the day. You might feel overwhelmed, depressed, or angry as a default response to your environment. It may seem that these recurring feelings arise from small nuisances, like a task at work or a friend making a comment. But recurring feelings always come from a deeper belief, otherwise, you would not experience those small nuisances in such a negative way. Journaling helps you unearth what certain events and situations really mean to you. You may find that these interpretations are extremely subjective and not always accurate, making your negative feelings entirely unnecessary.
Featured photo credit: Fredrik Rubensson/Flickrvia flickr.com
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