“I can tell you’ve been meditating,” my husband said to me. “You’ve been a lot more mindful recently.”
My first reaction was a guilty twinge. I’d been intending to meditate. I’d even cajoled myself into a couple of three-minute sessions, where I’d sat cross-legged and been annoyed at unclear my mind seemed to be.
In other words, I’d done so little meditation, and so poorly, that it couldn’t have had any effect at all.
I hesitated to tell him what I had been doing for the past three weeks.
Not the “Dear Diary” kind of journaling, where you write a letter to your future self about the important things that are happening in your life.
Not the “artistic” kind of journaling, either. I wasn’t writing poems or sketching characters for my stories or jotting down eavesdropped conversations for inspiration later.
Not even the “tracking” kind of journaling, which I’ve done in the past, recording my progress on a project or noting whether or not I stuck with a new habit.
I was doing the laziest, fastest, easiest kind of journaling there is. Brain-dump journaling, where you just write whatever you’re thinking about, in no particular order, without worrying about grammar or making complete sentences or even whether or not your handwriting is good enough to decipher later. I just let all my thoughts and feelings tumble out onto the page however they want.
No effort to focus.
No effort to examine my feelings.
No effort to understand what’s going on in my head.
Just me, rambling until the thoughts start to slow down and I find myself staring at the paper wondering why I’m still sitting there.
Sometimes this means 60 seconds of writing.
Sometimes this means 15 minutes.
Always, when I am done, whether my thoughts were daydream-ish or vent-y, I feel clearer. More focused. As if I’ve just cleared out some of the clutter in my brain.
You’ve probably read at least one article about how journaling helped people get over a traumatic event, or work through depression, or cope with heartbreak. Or how a gratitude journal helps you think positively. Or how keeping track of your progress makes it easier to stick with new habits and work toward goals.
But if you concluded that you have to keep a particular kind of journal, or that the journaling process has to be structured, or that you have to set aside at least 20 minutes every day in order to get clearer mentally and emotionally…
…nope. A couple of minutes of stream-of-consciousness, write-whatever-pops-into-your-head journaling is apparently enough to feel the benefits.
Overwhelmed — can’t focus — too stressed? I invite you to set a timer for three minutes and write down whatever thoughts are buzzing around in your brain.
Pen and paper, laptop or audio recorder are all fine. It’s fine to shred or delete what you’ve written when you’re done–the mental and emotional clarity you’re seeking come from expressing yourself in the moment.