Four Ways to Start (and Keep!) a Mindfulness Journal

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It's a funny thing about journaling — you start out hoping it will enhance your life, improve your mindfulness, or at the very least allow you to keep a record of your world today. But somewhere along the way, life, the world, tons of STUFF can get in the way. This time, set yourself up for journaling success by keeping the following advice top of mind.

1. Make it pleasurable

• Invest in a journal you love. Yes, paper is so very analog and SO old-school, but when journaling for more mindfulness, it's truly best to skip the screen. Big, open pages invite more of a freeflowing aspect to writing. You can even find journals with questions or inspirational quotes that can prompt thoughts or help you focus.

• Choose a pen with a comfortable grip and feel. Of course you can write with the littlest nub of a pencil or a big, fat crayon, but rollerballs and gel ink pens have a continuous, smooth flow of ink that many journaling aficionados find to be ideal and conducive to plentiful writing.

• Carve out a space — if possible, one that's dedicated solely to writing. Think cozy and calm: a comfy chair, good lighting, candles or an aromatherapy diffuser.

2. Dedicate a specific time to writing

• Journal first thing in the morning to incorporate dreams from the night before, or write just before bed to reflect on the day. If lunch is the only time you have a few minutes to yourself or when you won't feel rushed or be interrupted (looking at you, working parents!) then go for it.

• Stick to the same time every day to reinforce the habit.

• Commit to a certain length of time. To start, try just 10 minutes a day, and increase from there if you want. If it helps, set a timer so you stick to it.

3. Give it some structure — with flexibility

• Create prompts to keep you focused — for example: "What I did really well today" or "What I'd like to do better." Deeper questions may include "What scares me the most?" or "What does spirituality mean to me?"

• Color outside the lines (literally). Add artwork, doodles, whatever expresses your feelings. Try writing poetry or song lyrics. You can even fiddle around with using your non-dominant hand; studies show it increases creativity.

• Write whatever you feel. It's not your job to be polite or correct so don't edit yourself or make judgments about the words that emerge. No one else ever needs to see your journal. Just keep the flow going.

4. Slip up? Get back on the horse

• If you skip a day or even stop for a period of time there's no need to "make up" for time you missed (unless you remember something momentous). Just flip to a new page and keep going.

• Tweak your routine. If you think you stopped journaling because the lure of sleep or late-night TV became too seductive, start writing first thing in the morning. If office or family interruptions stopped your writing, seek out a quiet park or empty nook at work.

• Ask yourself why you stopped. Whatever stopped you may be worth exploring now that you're restarting. Were you critical of your writing? Did it bring up issues you'd rather avoid? Did your hand start to hurt? (Get that rollerball! Or these hand stretches for knitters to keep your hands limber.)

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Four Ways to Start (and Keep!) a Mindfulness Journal