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 keeping for writing ideas. I was struck by some of my repetitive “story lines.” Frankly I became 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’ve learned from my counseling practice that journaling can go either way. It can be a very therapeutic, mindful experience that strengthens positive neuronal connections, or it can be another opportunity to strengthen neuropathways that are not helpful.
Here are some ideas to foster 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 five 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 stressful response to a given situation.
3. You can also use your journaling to keep track of your mood to start to bring awareness to what behavior patterns are contributing to positive, pleasant states of mind vs. negative states. This is a powerful way to start to shift habits of 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!