Life is a journey of struggles and wins, emotional highs and lows, triggers and activators. Each day, the outside world collides with our inner being to stir up a mix of thoughts and emotions that shape our experience.
The complexity of it all creates a spectrum. Some days, we’re riding high. Other days, we find ourselves overwhelmed and struggling to make sense of it all.
Our ability to create a steady keel in the constant ebbing and flowing of our lives can make a big difference. The more we can guide ourselves back to a calm centre, the more we can support and nourish our mental and emotional wellbeing. The more we can reconnect with that place of inner knowing, the more we can use our personal power to move through whatever life presents.
Mindfulness is a practice that can help us….
What is mindfulness?
Here’s how Mindful.org defines mindfulness:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Kabat-Zinn says, “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
In this way, mindfulness opens a gateway to the present moment.
Embracing the power of NOW.
I made some big decisions in my late 20s that changed the direction of my life entirely.
A relationship ended, I quit my successful corporate career because it didn’t make me happy, and decided to retrain as a complementary therapist – because all I knew was that I wanted to help people (and that kind of work seemed like a good place to start!)
I’d ‘thrown’ away everything that gave me roots. I felt the urge to match the ungrounded energy I felt inside with an external experience.
So I booked a flight to India and travelled solo for six weeks.
It was 2003 – before social media and even iPods (a big chunk of my rucksack was taken over by CDs and my CD walkman!)
Exploring India was one of the most incredible experiences of my life – and also one of the hardest. I struggled to be by myself, but I needed the spiritual lesson. I needed to cultivate the courage to know I was OK.
The book, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle was a huge comfort for me.
When my mind would fret about the things I had released, I’d bring myself back to the now. When I found myself worrying about whether the complementary training was the right path for me, I took myself back to the present.
As Eckhart Tolle says, “The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.”
I practised the art of being present. I breathed. I sat. I found stillness.
I guided myself to focus on the details that surrounded me.
I leaned into the culture, the aromas, the sounds, and the sights of this incredible country to remind me who I was. I relished the adventures, the edges I found, the getting far out of my comfort zone.
And I found that when you bring your awareness to what’s actually happening in the now, you can:
- Navigate fears about the future
- Process regrets about the past
- Feel more centred, relaxed, and rejuvenated
I journaled too… a LOT!
Journaling played a powerful role in my journey too.
When the emotions got too much or my thoughts began to run away in a destructive way, I’d journal. I’d sit and write – about anything and everything. (It’s a practice I’ve continued to this day).
Journaling is such a powerful way to work through triggers and reclaim yourself when you’re lost in confusion, chaos, or an emotion that feels too much.
Writing has a way of tethering you to the present moment – which is why journaling is such a potent mindfulness tool.
But that’s not all…
Most people can’t write as fast as their brains can think. In turn, writing slows everything down. Writing creates a big enough gap for a new perspective to sink in.
It’s easy to get carried away on the wave of an overwhelming thought. Those hamster wheels of repetition can stir things up to the point where you can lose yourself (I’ve been there!)
Writing it out changes the energy because you have to crystalise what you’re experiencing into language.
What’s more, as you slow down, you catch things you’d otherwise miss. In this way, writing brings visibility and awareness to what’s invisible and under the surface.
There’s something about externalising your thoughts and feelings that takes the edge out of the sting. There’s power in acknowledging – in a tangible way – what’s meandering inside your inner being.
As you write, your journal becomes a mirror that reflects you back at YOU.
You get to be the witness of those thoughts and feelings – as well as the one experiencing them. You get to be the one who asks the questions as well as the one who speaks.
You get to be the non-judgemental friend to yourself who has the capacity to hold it all. (And sure, the inner critic will no doubt show up too, but you’ll be able to see her arrive in your writing and expression. Then you can challenge her.)
Journaling turns a monologue into a two-way conversation (with yourself) – and inside of that changed dynamic is a chance to process what’s shown up on your internal landscape.
You get to:
- Acknowledge thoughts and feelings – vulnerably and authentically.
- Explore your mental geography and bring curiosity to the table.
- Make the shift from reaction to response.
- Challenge the debilitating thoughts and unhelpful narratives.
- Call upon new perspectives and guide yourself to see the same situation from a different angle (it’s crazy how fast something can change).
- Process what you’re experiencing in a way that allows you to let go of things that no longer serve or be less held back by the stuff that’s heavy.
As you shine the light on the turmoil inside, you can become increasingly conscious of what’s actually driving you…
And that gives you CHOICE.
It’s why journaling is a powerful way to work with worries about the past and fears about the future. It’s how your journal can create an outlet for anxieties that actually takes you somewhere meaningful and useful.
“Journaling is paying attention to the inside for the purpose of living well from the inside out.” – Lee Wise
Top tips for mindful journaling
Now we’ve explored the power of journaling as a tool for mindfulness, let’s explore how to get the most from your practice.
1. There is no right or wrong way to do it – and here are THREE journaling techniques to explore.
The magic of journaling is that anything goes.
It’s a practice that’s entirely personal and tailored to you.
A stream of consciousness is always a good place to start – especially when you’re practising mindfulness journaling. Simply write what’s present and follow the threads as they unravel.
It won’t be linear.
You’ll jump all over the place!
And as a result, you’ll connect up dots you didn’t know where there. You’ll ask yourself questions you’d never thought of. You’ll uncover hidden secrets that feel so good to express.
So much can happen when you tap into the magic of putting pen to paper.
Another technique that’s powerful is gratitude journaling. Simply write about the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Again, this practice pulls you into a deep awareness of the present moment.
When you ‘lower the bar’ and find gratitude for the smallest of things – such as the hot cup of tea that’s sat on your desk, or the scent of the rose in your garden – you unleash a depth of appreciation for the life you have NOW.
You find the present moment and relish it.
Reflection is also a powerful tool for mindfulness journaling. Look back over an experience to learn. What are the lessons? What different narratives and perspectives are available.
Reflection doesn’t have to be about regret. Instead, it can be a powerful way to grow and evolve yourself by leveraging the power of hindsight.
2. Explore journaling prompts.
Prompts are ideal if you want to journal, but are stumped by the blank page. A good question makes it easy to move through writer’s block because your mind will almost certainly generate an answer.
Here’s a selection of 20 mindfulness prompts to explore in your journal. These prompts focus on sparking gratitude, positivity, and present moment awareness.
- What are five things that are good about my life right now, and why?
- Make a list of at least 25 things that you’re grateful for. Dig deeper. Explain your reasons why.
- What are you most proud of, and why?
- What do you love most about yourself, and why?
- When was the last time you surprised yourself? Write about the experience.
- What did you learn about yourself today and how did you learn it?
- Look around you and describe what’s in your environment through your five senses – touch, taste, smell, sight, and sounds.
- What’s the best thing that happened today, and why?
- Explore the reasons why you’re grateful for your family.
- What are five things you didn’t think you could do at one point in your life, but now you’ve done them?
- What story are you telling yourself about your life right now? Dig deeper. Is this story empowering or disempowering? Dig further. Are there other narratives or perspectives you could choose to adopt that could serve you better?
- If you had to choose the three values that are driving your life right now, what would you say they are and why? Dig deeper. How are these values serving you? Dig further. Are there other guiding values you could adopt that would make it easier to live the life you want?
- Be radically honest. How are you self-sabotaging yourself right now?
- What story about yourself or your life are you reluctant to release at this point in time, and why?
- What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to today? Dig deeper. How can you elevate this ‘thing’ to enrich your enjoyment of it?
- When are you at your best? Dig deeper. What factors contribute to this – and how can you experience them more often?
- I feel most alive when I…
- What positive impact does your presence have on the people around you, and why?
- What can you let go of at this moment? Dig deeper. How did it feel to experience that release?
- What’s the most intentional thing you’ve done in the last 24 hours? Dig deeper. How did this moment of intentionality add to your life?
The art of mindfulness is an experience that you expand into overtime. It’s not a work-until-it’s-done type of goal! Instead, it’s an ever-unfolding experience and invitation to explore your inner landscape through the power of awareness.
Some days will be easier than others to find that calm, quiet, grounded place inside. It depends on what’s happening around you, and how skilled you are at responding to the outside world and your internal geography.
But armed with something as simple as a pen and notepad, you’re always empowered to navigate the present.
Word by word.
Prompt by prompt.
Page by page.
Such is the power of mindfulness journaling when interwoven with the magic and uniqueness of YOU.