Since I implemented the practice of mindfulness journaling, I’ve found that I’m more aware of my feelings in the moment and am able to reflect on those feelings to the point of improving my understanding of myself. This has ultimately resulted in a brighter outlook and feelings of gratitude toward my profession and my life because I’m dealing with issues in the moment rather than pushing them aside.
To see what mindfulness journaling is, we need to start with what it is not. Mindfulness journaling is not simply writing about your day—it’s not a diary. While a diary-like journaling practice can be cathartic, it generally does not focus on a specific goal or mindset and, therefore, does not offer the same benefits mindfulness journaling provides.
Mindfulness journaling is a reflective practice that focuses on examining your current feelings and often answers questions like:
- How do I feel right now?
- What is going on in my mind?
- Am I attentive to the present?
With a line of questioning like the one above, mindfulness journaling takes you through a reflective process that leads to an honest observation of your current feelings. Once your thoughts are written down, the second piece of the discipline is to review your thoughts and contemplate them.
How I Implement Mindfulness Journaling
I write in my mindfulness journal at the end of every workday as a “shutdown ritual.” I have a journal at my desk, and I typed up the following reflective questions and attached them at the front of the book:
- What is my current mood, and what circumstances contributed to this mood?
- Am I currently content or discontent? Why?
- What items, if any, were distracting me from giving my best today?
Before I stop work for the day, I answer each question honestly and objectively—the whole process usually takes five to 10 minutes—and then close the journal and leave my workspace.
Mindfulness journaling helps me reflect on my day by directing attention to my overall feelings, accomplishments, and shortcomings. Each month, I spend about 30 to 45 minutes reflecting on my answers from the whole month, which reveals trends in my personal growth and allows me to make intentional changes to my thought process and work routines, if necessary. Essentially, I use mindfulness journaling as a form of self-care.
How Mindfulness Journaling Helps Me
Mindfulness journaling allows me to be attentive to my feelings, which is not the same as being aware of them. While being aware of one’s feelings is good, being mindful of them means being attentive to one’s awareness. This occurs both while journaling and in reflection periods. It is this attentiveness that sets mindfulness journaling apart from the typical diary-style journal.
The practice of mindfulness journaling not only allows me to sort out my feelings from the day but also provides the necessary tools to shut down after work so I can shift my focus from work to my family.
One month, in particular, I consistently wrote that I was in a foul mood, discontent, and frequently distracted. Taking time to attend to my feelings, I realized that I was waking up later than normal and feeling rushed in the mornings, which was contributing to my bad mood. If it weren’t for the practice of mindfulness journaling, I may not have been aware I was feeling this way, and I certainly would not have attended to those feelings.
Practical Mindfulness Journaling With Students
Mindfulness journaling can also be beneficial for your students. Below are some examples of prompts that can be used as a daily exit ticket or an end of the week reflection. Each prompt is designed for students to examine their current feelings, with follow-up questions to help them practice attentiveness:
- Describe your current mood. Is this better or worse than earlier today? What are possible reasons for the change?
- How were you a positive influence today? How did this make you feel? What are possible reasons you feel this way?
- What are your feelings about today’s content? What are possible reasons you feel this way? What are ways to improve these feelings?
I implemented this practice as a weekly activity for six weeks at the end of last school year, and I noticed that my students gradually began accepting more personal responsibility for their actions rather than blaming everything on the pandemic, as some of them had been doing (which is not to say that there isn’t a lot that can be blamed on the pandemic, of course).
Mindfulness journaling helps me attend to my feelings, which permits me to intentionally modify my routine and attitude. This process frees me to give my best to my students, my family, and myself because it provides a way for me to deal with issues rather than suppressing them.
If you haven’t tried mindfulness journaling, I would encourage you to implement it in your daily personal and/or professional routine—it may result in a better understanding of yourself, an improved outlook on life, and greater satisfaction in your work.