Meditative Journaling

I understand at first glance journaling is considered not meditating. But if you break down what meditating is, it's an act of mindfulness that can be centered on an activity. Some times the activity is being still, doing yoga, or writing in a journal.

Meditative Journaling
Photo by Greg Rakozy / Unsplash

What is Meditative Journaling?

Hello Fellow Journalers!🖊️📖

I understand at first glance journaling is considered not meditating. But if you break down what meditating is, it's an act of mindfulness that can be centered on an activity.

Now look at Merriam-Webster's definition of meditation. It seems to point right at meditative journaling:

"Meditation: (1) a discourse intended to express its author's reflections or to guide others in contemplation. (2) the act or process of meditating." -Merriam-Webster

Let's break it down further into the word, meditate:

"Meditate: intransitive verb (1) to engage in contemplation or reflection, (2) to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness; transitive verb (1) to focus one's thoughts on reflect on or ponder over, (2) to plan or project in the mind intend, purpose." -Merriam-Webster

I know, you're bored already. If you wanted the dictionary you would have googled, but gimme a sec.

The active contemplation and reflection that goes with journaling doubles as meditation. How we journal, just like how we meditate, can inform and amplify the session.

There isn't a single way to meditate or do meditative journaling, so I thought it best to reach out to experts on the subject.

"Meditative journaling, sometimes referred to as automatic writing, is the process of writing in a 'flow' state, where you disconnect with the rational, thinking brain and access the creative mind in a highly focused space. It's an extraordinarily beneficial tool when you have a question you need answered, but you're feeling highly emotional and can't get out of your head. It helps you cut through the noise of those looping, wishy-washy thoughts and access what's already inside you: the clear, sometimes quiet voice of your own intuition." -Amanda Lieber, Medium and Intuitive
orange and white abstract painting
Photo by Sai Abhinivesh Burla / Unsplash
"Journaling can be a meditative practice that allows us to release the burden of thoughts on our mind by getting them out on paper. The use of words, doodles, ideas, affirmations, worries, bullets, etc. can be cathartic and helpful in processing thoughts and emotions. Mindful journaling can help us process and understand feelings and events and can deconstruct and untangle what we have going on inside of our minds." - Jillian Amodio, LMSW

How can I incorporate meditation into my journaling?

Getting started with meditative journaling is easier than it seems.

1) Find a quiet space: often we can write anywhere when we dedicate our focus but in this instance, quiet = ideal.

2) Create the space and carve out the time. It's like a date. Beginner's should work up to 5 minutes a session. By delegating a certain part of the day to meditative journaling, this cues your brain to your commitment of trying this intentional practice. If you're an experienced journaler, begin with an amount of time that is not daunting to you.

3) Limit distractions: does your phone ping you every five minutes? Place it on do not disturb mode. Do you have loved ones that tend to interrupt often? Ask for uninterrupted time. Protect this space for your mind to engage worry-free.

4) Choose a journaling technique that fits your meditation goals. Examples of this could be free writing, guided prompts, gratitude journaling, incorporating visualization and/or breathwork, and reflective journal prompts.

5) Lean on support: sometimes a little help goes a long way. Finding books, online resources, or even in-person groups can increase your track record and encourage accountability. Read a great example below.

"I facilitate Mind-Body small groups where one of the tools we use is meditative journaling. This is a great practice because there is actual scientific evidence that shows that journaling can lead to better sleep, lowered anxiety and improved immune function. It's a wonderful method for people who say they can't sit still or quiet their minds like in traditional meditation. It's easy, can be done anywhere and is highly effective." - Patti Woods

What are some benefits of meditative journaling?

Decision fatigue is real. Can you believe that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day? By incorporating an earlier-in-the-day meditative practice, you use a brain that is not tired from decision making and then allow yourself to tackle all 35,000 head on. (1)

Another benefit is self-compassion. A study in 2010 focused on training participants in mindfulness training, with the goal of literally be kinder to yourself. And it worked. (2)

Want more benefits?
How about:
Self-Awareness and Self-Acceptance (3)
Reduced Stress (4)
Better sleep (5)
Enhanced focus (6)
and I can go on...

Let's sign off with a real-life testimonial from Ellie Smith, Yoga Instructor, on how it's been beneficial for her:

"One of the bigger benefits of meditative journaling I’ve found is that it allows me a few moments at the end of each day for self-reflection. I can separate myself from my thoughts and from my emotions and look at both with a fresh perspective. It also allows me to really tune in to my immediate surroundings. I start my journaling practice by paying attention to sounds, smells, sights, and sensations around me and therefore I drop into the present in a way I don’t usually do during the hustle and bustle of daily life."

What a great takeaway.

-A Very Enthusiastic Journaler

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  1. Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J. R., Lyubomirsky, S., & White, K. (2002). Making choices. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1338-1351.3)
  2. Van Dam, N. T., & Levitt, M. J. (2010). Cultivating mindfulness to promote self-compassion: Results from a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57(2), 242.
  3. Zedelius, K. M., & Philippot, P. (2016). Mindful awareness and emotion regulation: Conceptual and empirical overlap. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 844.
  4. Pennebaker, J. W., & Smyth, J. M. (2016). Opening up by writing it down: How expressive writing improves health and well-being. Guilford Press.
  5. Black DS, O’Reilly E, Olmstead R, Bajaj R, Creswell JD, Bradley B, et al. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality: an association and intervention study. Sleep Med. 2015;35(3):451-62. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2014.11.029.
  6. Tang, Y.-Y., & Posner, M. I. (2012). The attention training program (ATP): A flexible and effective approach to cognitive regulation. Neurotherapeutics, 9(4), 395-405.