A mindfulness journal is a profound way of getting in touch with oneself and developing an overall healthy mental state.
Journaling can be so many things: It can be a beautiful expression of creativity — a form of art. It can be a way of clearing the mind — getting all the thoughts out of the brain and onto paper can make sorting through them much easier.
Journaling can be a method for recording life events — both the mundane and the extraordinary. In fact, it can help one to notice the beauty in the ordinary.
Ultimately, journaling is a way of becoming more intimate with oneself. The mental health benefits of keeping a mindfulness diary are nothing short of extraordinary.
We’ll get into some of the particular ways in which mindfulness journals improve mental health, but first, let's explore what defines a mindfulness journal.
What is a Mindfulness Journal?
A mindfulness journal is any journaling exercise that brings you into the present moment and gets you into touch with yourself.
One study on the benefits of mindfulness and journaling describes mindfulness as follows:
“Mindfulness in its very general meaning can be defined as a state of paying attention in a non-judgmental way and being aware of the here and now of our experience.”
Therefore, any form of journaling could include mindfulness, since the very act of putting pen to paper brings you to the present moment. However, there are certainly some specific types of journaling that are aimed especially at mindfulness.
Below are three examples of mindfulness journals.
Gratitude Journal: A gratitude journal is a journal in which you list things you’re grateful for every day. For example, you might write three things you are grateful for in the morning and three things before bed. This helps to draw your attention to the positive aspects of life. With practice, it becomes more natural to think of the good in your life instead of the negative, thus helping to develop a more optimistic attitude.
Reappraisal Journal: Reappraisal journaling is a method of writing that focuses on turning negative experiences, situations or feelings into a more positive experience. It helps to shift your perspective to one that makes you feel better. For example, you could journal about what you learned or how you grew from a difficult situation.
Guided Journal: A guided journal, such as the one we offer here at Betterly, is a journal full of prompts and exercises. It is interactive in a way to keep you focused and interested. Every exercise is aimed at bringing you into a state of mindfulness. It may include both gratitude and reappraisal exercises, along with other forms of reflection.
We’ve touched on how a mindfulness diary can improve your wellbeing, but let's dive into 4 specific ways it helps to improve your mental health:
4 Ways Mindfulness Journals Improve Mental Health
1. Balance the emotions and reduce stress
Journaling is a wonderful tool for processing difficult emotions and managing stress. Studies have shown that journaling can help ease anxiety and depression — and even release trauma.
By relaying feelings and thoughts from the mind to a piece of paper, the writer is able to both release pent up feelings and find perspective. It can help you notice negative thinking patterns and behaviours — an important first step in shifting to more healthy and nourishing ways of thinking.
In fact, you can use your mindfulness journal to actively practice positive thinking and self-talk.
For example, if you find yourself upset about something, you can write a few pages ranting and raving to get it off your chest. Once you’ve calmed down a bit, you can transition into a perspective shift by asking yourself certain questions, such as, “What are the positive aspects of this situation?” and “How can I grow from this?”
2. Creativity & Inspiration
Writing triggers inspiration. The more you engage with your mindfulness diary, the more you will begin to notice common things in a more special way. That’s because you are exercising the poet’s brain — even if you aren’t specifically writing poetry.
Julie Cameron, an expert on creative rehab, describes the process of writing as a way of unplugging creative blocks in all areas of life.
The more you unblock and allow writing through, the more creativity and inspiration will flow — in all areas of life. You may find yourself with a paintbrush or guitar in hand!
3. Gain Clarity
Mindfulness journaling is also an excellent method for clearing the mind. When confronted with a particular challenge, or simply dealing with day-to-day stresses, the mind can become a storm of repetitive, obnoxious, and/or troubling thoughts.
Shifting the thought space from the ethereal mind to physical paper can help tremendously in finding peace within that storm of thought forms.
For example, you might use your mindfulness diary as a problem-solving tool when faced with a difficult decision. Often, just the act of writing your thoughts about the matter on paper allows a solution to emerge.
At the very least, you will likely find some calm around the decision so you can choose with more ease.
4. Strengthen Cognitive Abilities
Studies have shown that those who read and write have a slower decline in mental function as they age.
Think of writing as exercise for the mind: writing expressively and mindfully works out the part of the brain that thinks abstractly and creatively.
Bonus: Writing Improves Physical Health Too!
In addition to mental health, numerous studies have indicated that writing can actually improve physical health too. Writing has been shown to improve immune health, arthritis, and asthma.
For the writing to be effective, it must be of an emotional nature — such as reflecting disappointments in life — in order to induce healing.
For example, one study published in Psychosomatic Medicine Journal, did a trial on 49 adults aged 64 to 97. One group was asked to write about daily activities and time management, while the other group was asked to write expressively about upsetting life events. Then, small skin biopsies were taken. The wounds of the group that wrote expressively about upsetting events healed much more quickly than the group who wrote about unemotional topics.
How to Get Started with a Mindfulness Diary
So you want to begin journaling to improve your health and become a more fully expressed version of yourself? Fantastic! But we know that beginning a new routine can be difficult.
That’s why a bit of help and inspiration can be such an incredible asset. At Betterly, we offer a 12-month subscription to a monthly journaling kit. Each kit includes a guided journal with attractive stationary, colourful pens and markers, and other accessories to make journaling fun!
Each journal also includes prompts and exercises formulated in collaboration with an expert life coach. These are aimed at keeping you engaged with your internal landscape in a focused way. They will help you formulate ideas and achieve goals.