I cannot think of a better way to improve mindfulness e.g., learning to live each moment with presence, attentiveness, self-awareness, and heart-centered compassion for self and others – than through the regular practice of writing expressively from one’s heart and mind, in a journal. I am not merely referring to what used to be called, “diary writing,” but rather progressive, cutting-edge writing techniques for self-growth and creative expression.
Through evidence based research, our understanding of personal writing and mindfulness and their effects on mental and physical well-being have expanded dramatically. Prominent research by Dr. James Pennebaker at the University of Texas on therapeutic writing, and Dr. Richard Davidson’s on meditation and attention at the University of Wisconsin have broken ground for a huge wave of follow-up research about these, and related research topics.
So, how can a journal be used to improve mindfulness? Initial ideas or concepts that come to mind are the enhancement of clarity and creativity through writing. If we live our lives as though we’re in a “haze,” and are mentally fuzzy about our personal values, needs, and wants; if we are out of touch with our innate, inbred creative capacities – well, to me that’s not very mindful. Creative applications of journaling allow us to sift through the excess stimuli streaming at us from things like information and technology overload, excessive work and family responsibilities, as well as unrealistic social and cultural expectations, among other influences. Such chronic overload contributes to the collective, growing feelings and symptoms of distractedness, angst, anxiety, depression, and general mental fog or “brain lock.”
One Basic Technique
There are numerous journal techniques to help move through or beyond these problems (the extent of which cannot be elucidated upon in this article). However, a great example of one basic technique or practice to improve mindfulness through journaling is stream of consciousness writing combined with a simple mindful check-in.
Stream of consciousness writing has been used for a long time to improve well-being. In fact, the legendary psychologist Sigmund Freud had his clients either write or talk in a stream without censoring or filtering thoughts in order to bypass their “inner critic,” the self-critical voice that often hinders positive personal development. Writing in this way allows access to a hidden reservoir of wisdom, knowledge, and creativity beyond the conscious part of the mind, called the subconscious. More recently, author Julia Cameron popularized the practice with her “morning pages” journaling technique.
A mindful check-in is simply moving one’s attention inwardly, listening contemplatively to what’s going on inside including thoughts, feelings, bodily perceptions, and emotions – tuning in to the movements of the spirit. At any moment during the day, one can open a journal, turn the attention inward for a few moments or a few minutes, and write in stream of consciousness fashion about what he or she is experiencing by asking the simple question: “What am I feeling right now?”
Journaling pioneer Lucia Cappacione claims that the mere use of this single practice can be life-changing. Practicing regularly can increase mindfulness, self-awareness, deepen one’s sense of mental and emotional clarity, and generally improve one’s sense of self, and self-efficacy.
Paul B. Schlosberg M.A. is a coach of mindful living practices, and has been practicing mindfulness and meditation for over twenty-five years. He can be found at http://www.mindbodysoulnow.com. As mental health counselor and coach, Paul helps people transform their lives, and heal both mental and physical stress-related conditions. Paul is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Northcentral University.
Paul is teaching his “Mindful Journaling For Well Being and Life Enhancement” class in May in Braintree. For more details, you can contact Paul by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 781-626-6072
Title: Mindful Journaling For Well-being and Life Enhancement
Awaken creative expression and mindfulness through the use of journal writing for wellness and personal growth.
We will combine meditation and mindfulness with writing practices, and explore varied journaling techniques based on the successful Journal to The Self (JTTS) workshop including, Captured Moments, Clustering, Dialogue, Guided Imagery, Inner Wisdom, Springboards, 5-Minute Sprint, among others.
The benefits of mindful journaling are extensive, for example:
• Find and develop your own creative voice
• Learn to release tension, frustration, anger, and other strong emotions
• Learn to tap into the vast storehouse of knowledge and wisdom stored in your subconscious mind
• Become more present and centered in your life, and less judgmental toward self and others
• Keep a record for the future of how your life unfolds
• Experiment with creative writing
• Outwit dreaded writer's block and increase overall writing skills
• Clarify personal goals
• Write spontaneously and with joy
• Learn to regard your journal as a trusted, valued friend
Need help conquering writer's block? Our Overcome Page Fright in 7 Days self-paced journaling course can help.