Schedule the appointment! Do your homework now! Study for the test!” These are the various thoughts I say in my head every moment of the school day. Before, I would barely take the time to pause for a few minutes to simply do nothing by closing my eyes and sitting still. The daily feeling of stress made me feel that my mind was unable to sit in peace for even a few minutes. The various errands that piled up only added more noise in my brain. It seemed like I could never mute my brain. Even before I went to sleep, it was hard for my mind to feel calm. Unsatisfied with the mental chatter, I decided to write in a mindfulness journal. Having written in the mindfulness journal for 3 months, I have learned some important lessons from practicing mindfulness.
Before going over what I learned from writing in the mindfulness journal, I need to explain how a mindfulness journal works. In the journal, the author has a short introduction about mindfulness and advice for getting the most out of the journal. The author wrote most of the entries but a few are free writing ones. A couple of the entries repeat but they are spaced out throughout the journal. For instance, one of the most common entry was about writing all the things you are grateful for. Other entries require doing a body scan meditation or deep breathing. Unlike a diary, the mindfulness journal involves recording down any senses you are experiencing in the present moment as you write instead of ruminating about the past.
While I wrote in the mindfulness journal, I started to appreciate the little things in life that I used to take for granted. For instance, one of the journal entries asked me to write about a daily habit I do. I wrote about what it felt like to be in the shower. While showering, I became attentive to the warm water that touched my skin. From this experience, I became thankful that I had access to hot water. Hot water is a privilege that not everyone has around the world. For me, the thoughts I had were a total surprise. I didn’t expect mindfulness would contribute to feelings of gratitude. Another beneficial entry was writing about what I was grateful for by listing them out. When I first did this entry, I noticed that I had no good reason to complain about my life. I lived in a good environment, attended a good school, and had supportive parents and other influential figures. To be honest, it is easier to complain about what we don’t have than to appreciate what we currently have. After doing a few more entries, my outlook towards my life changed a bit. Although I can’t change the conditions of my life, changing my attitude can have a significant impact.
Another consequence of the mindfulness journal was that journaling allowed me to calm my mind before I slept. On the weekdays, I tend to feel quite restless because I think of upcoming tests and assignments, so I end up tossing around in my bed. A particular journal entry that helped me was doing a simple meditation practice that told me to “stop, breathe, and be.” After taking a deep breath, I started to write down what I saw, heard, and touched before I slept. In the beginning, it was kind of boring because all I wrote about was what my room looked like and the sounds of a few cars passing by my house. However, this practice allowed me to become sleepy within a few minutes.
Finally, one of the most insightful lessons I learned from the mindfulness journal was regarding happiness. Over time, I learned that the main reason for my unhappiness stemmed from not being mindful. To some extent, happiness requires external conditions but in the end, to be happy requires putting in the effort to be mindful. An entry that caught my attention was the following: when was the last time you were mindful? Explain your experience. For me, the last time I was mindful was when I saw the sunset from start to end on a mountain. After the sunset experience, I did not take the time to see the sunset even when I saw one outside my bedroom window almost every day. This realization made me feel sad because I missed out on appreciating the present moment, so the day felt empty. By using all my senses to observe the simple yet beautiful parts of the present, the mindfulness journal has made me value mindfulness even more than before. I have learned that if I try hard enough to look at my surroundings from a different perspective, I can notice the happiness that laid in front of me, whether it is the red leaves on the tree, or the fluffy clouds amid the blue sky. By doing so, I am more grateful. If interested, you can purchase Catherine Price’s Mindfulness: a Journal using this link: https://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Journal-Catherine-Price/dp/1101905328