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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good For Your Mental Health

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5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good For Your Mental Health

Did you know that a mood journal can improve your mental health?

There are days when you’re so happy that you feel like you can take over the world, while there are some days when you feel like the world around you is caving in.

It’s natural to shift moods now and then. Give yourself permission to feel every emotion. It’s okay to not be okay. You know that, right?

It’s important to know that every mood you feel influences the way you act.[1]

You may not be able to dictate how you feel at every given moment. However, you can take an extra step to know what each emotion means to you and how you can assess yourself while in that state of mood.

Why It’s Important to Track Your Mood

Have you ever noticed how you make bad decisions when you’re angry? Or how you can’t think straight when you feel downright sad?

It’s not surprising that the way we think, or the decisions we make sometimes heavily rely on our mood.[2] This is why we need to keep track of it.

One of the best ways to do this is to write down your mood in a journal. Writing things down will help you understand and manage yourself better. You’ll be able to recognize what triggers your moods and find out how you can take actions that best serve your highest self.

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A mood journal is a great way to identify personal factors that affect your mood daily.

Writing in my mood journal is a core part of my morning ritual. It gives me time to reflect on how certain people, places, or decisions that I make throughout my day impact my mood.

Not only does writing in my journal build self-awareness, but it also helps me figure out how I can avoid triggers from happening altogether.

5 Reasons Why a Mood Journal Is Good for Your Mental Health

Tracking your mood is a helpful way to improve your mental health. If you don’t control your emotions, your emotions will end up controlling you and that is a recipe for disaster.

Here are the top 5 reasons why I believe you should start mood journaling.

1. It Helps You Determine a Course of Action

When you’re aware of how you’re feeling, you can better understand what you need.

Think about the last time you found yourself spiraling emotionally. Did you feel like you could make a decision at that moment? Probably not.

When you are overwhelmed, you feel paralyzed to take action.

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A mood journal will help you take notice of your day-to-day emotions so you can figure out the best ways that you can respond to them.[3]

2. It Helps You Express Your Emotions

If you are someone who is prone to overthinking and worrying about everything, it’s imperative that you express your emotions through writing.

A mood journal is a safe container where you are given the space to feel without judgment. It’s a process that is both therapeutic and empowering. You don’t have to worry about how someone may receive your words because you’re having a dialogue with yourself.

Trust me when I say that you don’t have to carry around the weight of your feelings for one day longer. You deserve a break, so give yourself the gift of self-expression through journaling.

3. It Will Support Your Healing Process

Anytime that I’ve gone through a serious trauma in my life, journaling has been a core piece of my healing process. Anytime that I’ve tried to push down or ignore difficult emotions related to my past, I only felt worse.

Mood journaling allows you to sort through the difficult events that have occurred in your life so that you can start making sense of them.

More importantly, this therapeutic process allows you to come to a deeper understanding of yourself, which is a core piece of the healing process.

A study conducted by the University of Auckland found out that people who wrote emotionally about past stressful events had their wounds heal faster than people who wrote about their factual day to day activities[4]

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Healing is your birthright. If you have been struggling to make sense of the trauma you’ve endured, I encourage you to start writing your way towards better mental and emotional health.

4. It Helps Reveal What Your Triggers Are

We all have emotional triggers. It’s a part of being human. Someone will say something that triggers an emotional reaction that throws you off your game.

Emotional triggers are people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations that provoke an intense and excessive emotional reaction within us.[5]

When you don’t do the work to figure out the root of these triggers, your emotions will get the best of you.

Use a mood journal to write down moments when you feel triggered. Take note of how you felt and what your reaction was. As you write, you will start to bring awareness to your triggers and start noticing patterns between how you feel and behave.

5. It Helps You Find the Silver Lining

When negative emotions get the better of you, you can’t help but flounder in negativity. In this state, it can become near impossible to be positive. This is where the mood journal comes to play.

The more that you write, the more that you feel in control of your emotional state and the less stressed you feel. Negativity feeds off of stress.

Journaling presents an opportunity for emotional catharsis, which thereby helps your brain regulate emotions[6] In turn, when you encounter adversities in life, you will be more inclined to find the silver lining.

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When you start to witness the changes that occur as a result of the inner work you’re doing, you will feel more empowered knowing the impact you have had on your own mood. These are the silver lining moments that you want to pull upon when you’re having down days.

How to Write a Mood Journal

You can purchase free mood journal templates online. However, I think personalizing your prompts according to your preferences will help you connect to your inner self more.

I started mine by making up a table with three columns. The first column is dedicated to the emotion I feel. The second column is for the probable reasons that I think affect my mood.

The last column is for the actions I make because of how I felt.[7]

When you become aware of a shift in your mood, write down what the change is in your journal. At the same time, observe how you feel in your body when you’re writing.

Also, make note of what you were doing when this mood shift occurred and who you were with. Equally as important is to reflect upon what was going on with your internal world. Name the emotion or thought that was going through your head.

Conclusion

Tracking your mood through a journal will help you organize your thoughts better and give you more understanding as to why and how you feel certain emotions. I hope a mood journal will help you as much as it does for me.

More on the Benefits of Journaling

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Ashley Elizabeth

Resilience Mastery Coach and Motivational Speaker

How Successful Women Shake Up and Redefine the Workplace 4 Signs You Have a Victim Mentality (And How to Break out of It) How to Overcome Fear and Find Success (The Ultimate Guide) What Motivates You to Succeed in Life and Keep Moving Forward? 5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good For Your Mental Health

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Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

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From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

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3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

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6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

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