4 reasons to try Mindful Writing
For years, ever since the emergence of smart phones, my entire life, from my calendar and to do list to my journal, has been planned and recorded electronically. This year, however, in order to reduce my phone usage, I decided to rebel against the digital-first methodology, and switch over to paper.
Using pen and paper again (for almost the first time in a non-academic sense) was somewhat revolutionary for me. Not to mention incredibly calming. As a designer, I draw a lot, but always under time constraints and whilst I've always enjoyed doodling, I had never considered it a mindful activity. Finally, I understand the recent popularity of Mindful Colouring Books.
Here are four of my favourite things about mindful writing:
1. Slow it down
These days it seems the whole world is constantly in a race to get to the next thing. Obviously old school pen an paper is nothing new, but compared to my previous often aggressively typed digital rants, I have found the slower movements of handwriting to be somewhat therapeutic. Now even moments of mental tantrum-ing can be turned around by finding a quiet moment to sit down with a pen and paper.
2. An alternative method of meditating
As a yoga lover, I've tried my hand at a range of meditative practises, from silence and breath focuses to chanting and dancing. The benefits of a mindful or meditative practise are well reported. But if you're someone like me, who finds it difficult to sit still for more than a few seconds, incorporating some of the most well known practises into a daily routine can be a real challenge. Somehow though, give me any pen and paper and I'm like a child with a fidget spinner. Sitting down and writing out my thoughts or plans, not only feels productive but gives me a great excuse to take a moment out of my day to cultivate mindfulness. Practises of noticing your thoughts, focusing on particular actions are great ways to practise mindfulness and writing out particular thoughts or feelings that arise and giving your focus to the movement of the ink are excellent methods of achieving this.
3. Developing awareness and mindfulness
If you've even visited a mental health professional, you may be familiar with the practise of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). The basic principle in CBT is recognising and evaluating particular thoughts and feelings in order to be able to change unhelpful patterns of thinking and feeling. Some people tend towards a methodical approach to this kind of analysis, and if that sounds like you, writing or journaling your thoughts and feelings might be a great way to try recognising your own habits. From my own experience, writing out and seeing a statement on the page like "I hate this" gives me time to make a decision about how I actually feel about an issue, and what I can do about it, rather than rushing to a hasty conclusion.
4. Let it out and let it go!
Honestly, just like toddlers in supermarkets, tantrums and rants are just not the same when no one is listening. Unfortunately, tantruming in public is no more acceptable now than it when it was back when we were three years old. Sometimes you do need to let it out and let it go. But quietly. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way calls this "stream of consciousness writing," where anything and everything that comes to mind goes onto the page. This method, when applied to negative thoughts and feelings is a great a way to let it out and let it go. And luckily a hand written rant is quieter and much more private method of expressing your feelings in a heated moment. (I can't tell you how many arguments and Facebook rants this has saved me from!)
Starting a daily journaling practise gave me a wonderful excuse to pop down to the local Officeworks (or I highly recommend Muji for delightfully simple and affordable stationary!) and a new way to practise being mindful. If nothing else, this is the first "meditative" practise I have been able to stick to regularly, so if you have had trouble meditating in the past, I can't recommend this enough!