I love to write. I’ve published two books, and in some ways writing comes naturally to me. But writing does not have to be about a finished product. In fact, writing, or journaling has many personal gifts.
Journaling can become a mindfulness practice with benefits similar to meditation. Writing helps to focus the mind and creates a body-mind connection linking thought to action; in this case, the action is moving our fingers. This slows thoughts down and gives us the upper hand on disturbing, difficult and persistent self-critical stories that often pass through the mind. If we do use writing as a mindfulness practice, and we are faithful to our time and place of writing, we will naturally develop greater self-discipline. Self-discipline in one area of our life will often spill over into other areas as well, with positive results.
We often use journals to keep lists of what we want to accomplish in a day. We can also use writing as a way to clarify and craft a larger vision for our lives. Try focusing on one area of your life at a time, work, leisure, friendship, and write down what your ideal life would look like in these areas. When we record an idea on paper, it is more likely to materialize in the real world than if we leave it swimming around in the mind. As we begin to write down the bigger picture for our lives, we will inevitably spark creative ideas for how we might accomplish our plan. New ideas birth even more ideas and there can be a creative flow that comes from writing that has its own momentum.
We can journal to explore our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the events in our lives. Writing can help us sort out our emotions around a particularly difficult event, often bringing a healing balm to painful past experiences. It may also help to imagine how someone else in our story might perceive the event. Sometimes writing from the other person’s perception can strengthen empathy and reduce stress.
Often we have something to say to someone that is difficult to put into words because of the emotional charge it carries. Writing down what we want to say in our journal first will often garner greater self-confidence and encourage a smooth encounter.
Finally, there are many different reasons to keep a journal. We can keep a journal to express daily gratitude, for emotional release, or for personal planning. Keeping a food journal can be helpful as part of a weight loss program and a workout routine journal can keep us on tract with our exercise goals. When I look over past entries in my journal, I often notice that recent accomplishments were once merely a whispered thought, recorded on an earlier page.