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The Multifaceted Benefits of Keeping a Mindfulness Journal

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.

Catharsis

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.

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Gratitude

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.

Decision-making

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.

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Rewiring

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.

Keeping Track

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.

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Assigning Meaning

“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/Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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