- What is mindfulness?
- Learning to be still and calm and mindful
- Do you know how mindful you are?
- What drains mindfulness?
- Simple mindfulness exercises
- Developing a mindfulness practice
- Mindfulness prompts and exercises
- Useful prompts for mindful eating
- Other Mindfulness writing prompts
What is mindfulness?
What exactly is mindfulness? It’s a word that is used so frequently these days as if it is the answer to all our woes.
One definition of mindfulness is:
…A state of being completely aware in the present moment, without allowing any distraction by or reaction to ones thoughts.
You could also say that mindfulness is being fully present in the moment. As well as being fully present in the moment it is the practice of being aware of our surroundings, thoughts and feelings without being caught up in them. And mindfulness journal prompts are simply ways of accessing that mindfulness on demand.
Learning to be still and calm and mindful
The ability to observe our thoughts and feelings without being emotionally caught up in them is certainly an antidote to our fast-paced modern lives with the accompanying bombardment of problems, issues and frustrations that pile on us daily. Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the presence of God is a wonderful book to read
With all the distractions that go on in our lives, especially from all that bombards us via social media and the online world even before the distractions of family, work and life in general it’s no wonder that the idea of mindfulness seems so attractive!
Here are some other posts you might like to read on similar themes:
Do you know how mindful you are?
There is a simple test produced by the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences that can give you a quick indication of your mindfulness levels.
What drains mindfulness?
I was really interested to learn that many of the brain activities that I enjoy deplete my mindfulness bucket. Spending too much time planning, problem solving and daydreaming (all of which I love) or thinking negative or random thoughts (which I don’t love but do) all put a strain on the brain and take us away from a mindful state.
Being kind to your mind, body, soul
So, if some activities, like problem solving and planning deplete our ability to remain mindful, what activities can we do that will fill the bucket and help us enjoy our life better?
Simple mindfulness exercises
There are some really simple but really beneficial exercise that you can start today to help bring your focus back to the here and now and eliminate the stress and strains of tasks which are distracting. In this way you can practically apply mindfulness in your life in a way that makes an impact to our every day
Simple mindfulness exercises
Focus on your breathing. You can do this whenver you want but especially if you are stressed or anxious. Just focus on yourself breathing, in and out, in and out.
Live in the moment for two minutes
For two minutes practice living in the moment. Observe everything around you. Don’t let your thoughts run away from you or ahead of you. Just stay in the moment for two minutes.
It’s very hard to be mindful if your brain is full of self critical thoughts.
Instead of rushing, pay attention to what you are doing. Don’t let your mind run ahead, what what you are doing, observe it and enjoy the moment.
These ideas are very simple, and of course you know that it’s the implementation of them, not just reading about them that will make a difference in your daily life.
A great way to implement these exercise is to take these, plus a few more and create a mindfulness journal with mindful journal prompts. You can use your journal as part of your daily journaling practice, or you can turn to it when you need some simple prompts to calm your thought processes and bring stability to your body.
Developing a mindfulness practice
One of the benefits of journaling is how it brings your attention to the present moment. So the act of journal writing itself is an excellent way to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness prompts and exercises
Taking the exercises suggested above you can use these to create mindful journaling prompts for yourself in your your journal
Sit in front of your journal, pen placed on the journal, your hands in your lap, on your knees or wherever else feels comfortable. Just breathe. You can close your eyes or keep them open. If thoughts come to mind gently dismiss them. If they persist you can write them down. Then bring your mind back to your breathing. Do this for two minutes.
Now you are ready to continue your journaling journey. You can do all of the following exercises or just take one or two and mix it up each time you journal.
Accepting yourself is, I think, surprisingly uncommon. We are so critical of ourselves, with the scripts running in our head informing us of how we have missed the mark, failed to do things we said we would, missed opportunities, failed in general, failed in life.
Learning to accept yourself is a massive boost for your mental health. The critical undercurrent of negative brain chatter is perhaps the biggest challenge to the practice of mindfulness so let’s address that with your journaling.
Accepting yourself is about acknowledging that the entirety of our selves is ok. If you think about it, when we don’t accept ourselves it’s because we think we should be different to how we are: thinner, richer, happier, fitter, better, funnier, blonder, louder, whatever other -er you can think of.
So accepting yourself accepts everything you are right now. Everything you think is good and everything you think is bad, to put it simplistically.
Good and bad are ok
So this exercise, ‘Good and bad is ok’ lists out both kinds of personality traits that you have: good and bad. And as you can see from the title, both are ok. In your journal, on one side of the page list out all the traits about yourself that you find acceptable or ok.
And on the other side of the page list out all your character traits that you don’t think are ok. The ones you want to hide.
Now, look at both those lists, and underneath write,
“I am both of those lists, and that is ok.”
For added emphasis you can even go through each item on the list and either say it out loud, or to yourself, or write it in your journal,
“I am ……….. [whatever the word or phrase you have written], and that is ok.”
At the end of the exercise journal about how you feel. Try and do this exercise on a regular basis. It’s so simple, but it is so good. Even typing it out now I can feel the benefit of it in my own life.
Live in the moment
It can be so hard to stay in the present moment can’t it? Our minds run on to tomorrow or yesterday or something that is distracting us. In order to counter those effects, try mindful prompts like this one:
Make a journal entry of everything you need to get done today. The best way to do this is to only put down what you need to get done, not everything you would like to get done. Now look at what you need to get done today and write out a sentence or two about them. This will get your mind focussed on today’s tasks. Once you are focused, stay focused and go and do those tasks calmly and, yes, you’ve guessed it, mindfully.
Everyday life can quickly get on top of us, as we have already mentioned. One of the benefits of mindfulness practices is that you can learn quick and easy prompts to get your mind calm and focussed back to the present. One of these prompts is ‘Pay attention’.
The exercise is this:
When you feel yourself out of shape, stressed, anxious or your heart is racing because you have so much to do, bring yourself back to the present moment like this: Take your journal and that nice blank page in front of you 🙂 Pay attention to the present moment. Write down everything about the present moment:
- What can you hear? transport? birds? the oven? the laptop? your pen or pencil?
- look at the romm you are in. Just observe it. See how it just ‘is’. The flowers are in the vase, the cushions are on the sofa, the bottles sit on the work surface, the coat is on the chair. See how everything is ok. Everything is calm. You are part of this scene too. Observe yourself in the room. Then write down something about yourself, like “Woman sitting on a sofa typing on a laptop”. Or “Woman at a desk writing in a journal”.
- Now, in a state of calm write out what is making you stressed. Do you have bank papers to read, a room to tidy, chores to do? Do you have limited time? Whatever it is write it down then observe it in your mind. Picture yourself doing the chore/activity, then visualise yourself having completed the task in peace and calm. Write down how you feel seeing yourself complete that task.
- Then, resume your life. You’ve taken time out, paid attention and now, with your mind grounded back in mindfulness and awareness you can complete the tasks in progress.
Useful prompts for mindful eating
Eating mindfully is very good for your emotional health. I know this for myself, and you may be the same, because I realised a while ago how much I emotionally eat. It was quite a revelation! I’ve written about it elsewhere in these posts, but essentially I was having a stressful time at work and I was eating my emotions. I wouldn’t even anticipate what I was doing.
When I reached out for food it was so fast that it took me a while to realise what was going on! I would be in the kitchen making a cup of coffee and as I was standing there I’d distract myself by reaching into the biscuit tin, or finding the cake, or make a piece of toast that I didn’t even want.
And it wasn’t even like the food satisfied the craving. After ten minutes I’d feel exactly the same as before.
So I do understand that mindful eating is a really powerful tool for mindfulness. Because in that moment when I was emotinally eating, I was not mindful at all. It was like I was in freefall.
I have used various different techniques for helping my emotional eating. The following mindfulness journal prompts are two that you can use regularly in your journal and have worked really well for me.
- How do I feel? What do I need? I think these questions linked together were used by Byron Katie but I’m not entirely sure. Use your journal as the first thing you turn to when you need help. Write down, ‘How do I feel?’ Answer that question. Just use one or two sentences, it doesn’t have to be long. Then write down ‘What do I need?’ And answer that question.
So many times when I have done this exercise for myself I think it’s about food and it really isn’t. Sometimes I feel ‘tired’ and what I need is ‘a nap’. Not ‘a croissant’. Try it for yourself. If necessary write out the questions in your journal beforehand so that they are right there whenever you need them.
This exercise also helps keep you really grounded in the present. When you reach for food, or alchol, cigarettes or drugs for that matter it is to remove you from the present, to escape. Asking yourself how you feel and what you need is a beautiful way to keep you in the present while also contributing to your overall wellbeing.
Other Mindfulness writing prompts
What makes you feel good?
Taking the time to do the activities you like in a conscous way eg reading your favorite books, eating your favorite food and being aware of what you are doing is one of the most effective ways to be mindful. So make a list of what makes you feel good.
When life is racing ahead, take time out to reaffirm your commitment to yourself. Write out your life goals and remind yourself of your big ‘Why’.
Pay attention to how your body feels. This is a great exercise. Go round your body and just write out what comes to mind about it. How your hair feels and looks, how your skin feels, the length of your nails, the shape of your toes. This is a lovely exercise to do, just take as long as you need. It gets you grounded back in yourself.
At the start of the post I mentioned that writing is itself a mindfulness practice. Find something regular to write about for example use a gratitude journal format and write out what you are grateful for each day. Or describe the weather each day. Or describe your baby each day. Choose something small, and stay grounded with the ‘being’ of it.
I hope you found something useful in this blog post. Just take one or two of the exercises and incorporate them in your daily life for a week, or longer. You will be amazed how much better you feel.
If you like this blog post you may also like:
Finally, let me tell you a little bit about Wardrobe Journaling. It is the process I have created that helps you understand yourself better through journaling and through thinking about the clothes you wear and your own unique personality. There are lots of Wardrobe Journaling blog posts available on this site. There is also the entirely unique Wardrobe Journaling course. If you want to take a step further into your own self development and self care this is a great, gentle but powerful course to take.
Have a great day!