Is Journaling a mindful activity or is it just a way to strengthen bad thought patterns and hang on to bad feelings?
Recently I went through some old journals I’ve been holding on to. I was struck by some of my repetitive “story lines.” Frankly I became very bored very quickly with these old themes. I took this boredom as a good sign. Clearly these old story lines had lost their power over me.
I think journaling can go either way. It can be a very therapeutic, mindful experience, or it can be another opportunity to strengthen neuronal connections that are not helpful.
Here are some ideas for a positive journaling experience:
1. If you keep a journal and it feels like it has a negative bias, or a repetitive story line, try matching every “rant” page with a “gratitude” page (Rick Hanson says we need 5 good thoughts for every one negative thought, but we all have to start somewhere, so try starting with 1:1 ratio.)
2. Keep in mind that it’s not so much about changing the story line as it is about changing your response to the story line. Exploring the positive aspects of a situation – what you’ve learned, how you have grown, who has helped you, can help you moderate a habitual sressful response to a given situation.
3. In recent years I’ve been using journaling to focus on gratitude/what’s going right in my life as opposed to trying to solve problems. Don’t forget to look at the small, everyday things, like “I enjoyed staying in my PJs until noon today,” as well as the bigger things. Try adding three gratitudes a day to your regular journaling routine.
4. You can also use your journaling to keep track of your mood to start to bring awareness to what behaviors/thought patterns are contributing to positive, pleasant states of mind vs. negative states. This is a powerful way to start to shift habits body, mind and communication.
Most importantly, be gentle with yourself while making these shifts, as change, even with journaling, takes time.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!