Written by Shannon Cantrell
Two months after I had my first child I was hit with post-partum depression hard. It happened all at once and consumed my life for another two months after. I knew the feelings and thoughts I was having were toxic and I knew I needed to do something to help lift the pain. Before I sought professional help I started a daily exercise of writing down all of those feelings and thoughts I was having regardless of how crazy they were. Doing this helped me relax and create more self-awareness. When I went into my first appointment to see my therapist she read what I had wrote and said I needed to be there!
Now, this article is not about post-partum depression, it’s about writing. It might not have been the most ideal way to start journaling, but it worked. Mindfully journaling my thoughts, feelings, sensations, ideas, and emotions just to name a few, helped me keep gain awareness into who l was and what I was thinking. It helped me create some distance from my thoughts in the same way meditation does. I am now past my post-partum phase, but I still write in my journal every day. I write in a fancy Lord of the Rings style book. You, of course, don’t need this to start, any paper and pen or pencil will do.
Many of us kept a journal or a diary when we were younger. I used to really enjoy writing in my diary until my nosy siblings wanted more than anything to get ahold of it. I would write about how my day was and anything special that happened or secrets crushes I had. My muses today are a little different.
I write in my journal now to still be able to stay aware of my thoughts and feelings whether they come from what I’m currently going through, my imagination, or my memories. I use mindful journaling to have something physical to look back on and see where I’m growing and what I still need to work on. I journal to keep lists of short term and long term goals. I like to check on these as well to see if I’m making progress or not.
Sometimes my journaling to stay mindful may start as a daily mantra. For example, it may start out as “I accept.” I accept right now that I have a roof over my head, a computer to write this article on, a family that loves me, and loyal friends who are always there for me.
I can say that every time I start journaling I ask myself why I am writing today. Is it to find a way to reduce stress? Is it a way to have emotional clarity? Maybe it’s to help motivate and encourage myself. Paying attention to my physical body and posture while writing is important to me as well. Am I slouching in my chair or couch? If I need a snack while writing what am I going to decide to put in my body? Am I holding my breath or do I need to do breathing practices while writing to help keep that awareness?
If made into a habit, mindful journaling is a great tool for self-awareness, reflection, growth, and tracking your progress. I highly recommend getting started.