Mindful Journaling: A Beginner’s Guide

Christoffer Kaltenbrunner
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Here’s how to do mindful journaling:

  1. Set an intention.
  2. Write whatever comes to your mind.
  3. Reflect on what you have written.

Mindful journaling is a mindfulness practice that can be used for processing emotions and thoughts. It can help you to be more mindful of what’s happening in your life right now.

Your journal is a place free from judgment where you can ask and answer questions like “what am I struggling with?”, “what are my priorities?” and “what worries me?”. When writing from your heart, you get to know yourself.

This is the definitive guide to mindful journaling for beginners. It covers the benefits of journaling, how to use a mindfulness journal, as well as tips for mindful writing.

  1. What Is Mindful Journaling?
  2. Benefits of Mindful Journaling
  3. How to Start Journaling
    3.1. Set an intention
    3.2. Write from your heart
    3.3. Reflect on what you have written
  4. Tips for Mindful Writing
  5. Closing Thoughts

What is Mindful Journaling?

Mindful journaling is the act of processing thoughts and emotions through intentional writing. It’s about getting your thoughts out of your head and put on paper.

Every writing session begins with an intention followed by free-form uninterrupted writing, where you write what comes to your mind. It ends with a few minutes of reflection on what you have written.

A mindfulness journal can be used to get perspective to your thoughts by realizing that thoughts are not facts and decide on what thoughts to act upon. Your journal is a safe place to express yourself freely to better understand your values, goals, fears, and deepest thoughts.

It can also be part of a micro mindfulness practice.

Benefits of Mindful Journaling

In a 2006 study, researchers at Western Michigan University examined the benefits of journaling.1

Nearly 100 students were assigned to three groups: the journaling group, the drawing group, and the control group.

Students in the journaling group were asked to spend 15 minutes writing about a stressful event, students in the drawing group to draw about a stressful event, and students in the control group to write about their plans for the day. All three groups completed two of these sessions in one week.

The students who journaled saw a more significant reduction of depression and anxiety symptoms than the other two groups. Worth noting is that only 61 percent of the students in the journaling group was comfortable writing about their feelings.

Additionally, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling helps with managing anxiety and stress, reflecting about and prioritize problems and fears, and is an opportunity for positive self-talk.

How to Start Journaling

Mindfulness journaling should be enjoyable and easy. Therefore, I suggest that you write by hand. Writing by hand is slower than using a computer, which helps you slow down and focus. Also, a notebook doesn’t distract you from the writing experience as a computer can do.

Step 1: Set an intention

First, sit in stillness and tune into yourself.

To begin, take some deep breaths to calm down and set an intention for the writing session.

Here are examples of intentions:

  • Acceptance
  • Find balance
  • Stay calm and focused
  • Open your heart
  • Love

Let the intention come to you naturally. Some days, intentions come easily, others not. Just be mindful of it. If you don’t get any intentions, that is your intention.

Step 2: Write from your heart

The next step is to write freely from your heart. Allow yourself to write about your feelings, things that hurt you, your biggest fears, your biggest loves, what makes you happy, and other things that are important for you.

Write for yourself. This is your journal–nobody is going to read it. It’s a safe place free from judgment. You can write whatever you want.

Step 3: Reflect on what you have written

The last step is to spend a few moments reflecting on what you have written. What makes you feel a certain way? What scares you? What makes you happy?

This is the part where you get to know yourself better. It may not be pleasant, but it’s the part where you can develop as a human being. It’s about getting to know yourself better and letting go of feelings that hurt you.

Tips for Mindful Writing

Here are four simple tips for getting the most out of your mindful journaling practice.

1. Start small

It’s essential to set realistic goals that you can commit to.

In the beginning, write for 10 minutes every day. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day, but never miss two days in a row. Over time, you can increase the writing time if you want to.

Good times for journal writing is in the morning and the evening.

2. It’s OK to mess up

If you’re a perfectionist like me, chances are you’re afraid to mess up.

However, it’s OK to mess up. Allow yourself to just write naturally, without judging. Remember, you’re writing for yourself, not somebody else.

3. Meditate before to calm down

Before you start writing, close your eyes and meditate for a few minutes to calm down and center yourself. This way, your intention will come more easily.

4. Writing prompts are useful for inspiration and variety

Writing prompts are excellent for bringing variation to journaling and making it more enjoyable.

Examples of writing prompts are statements like:

  • I’m grateful for …
  • My intention for today is …

Or questions like:

  • What makes you happy?
  • What worries you?
  • What are your values?
  • What are your fears?

Closing Thoughts

Although mindful journaling has many benefits, it’s just one aspect of a mindful lifestyle.

To get the maximum benefits, make sure you also get enough rest, meditate, and bring mindfulness into your daily life.

Occasionally, I share journaling prompts in my newsletter. If you want to quiet your mind and live better, you should give it a try.

  1. K.M. Chan, K. Horneffer, Emotional expression and psychological symptoms: A comparison of writing and drawing, The Arts in Psychotherapy, Volume 33, Issue 1, 2006, Pages 26-36, ISSN 0197-4556. DOI: 10.1016/j.aip.2005.06.001

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