Mindfulness is the practice of rooting yourself in the present moment, without judging the thoughts that pass through your mind.
Most people associate mindfulness with meditation, however, we don’t have to meditate to be mindful. With the right approach, we can transform many of our daily activities into mindful acts. Writing mindfully is one such activity, as are mindful eating, mindful walking, and mindful nature-viewing.
Mindful writing practice over time creates opportunities for introspection. We get to know ourselves better and change ourselves to become our best versions.
Helpful Tips To Start A Mindful Writing Habit
In a hectic world like ours, mindful writing may gift us with a sense of unwinding to our bodies and serenity to our minds. Begin your mindful writing practice using the following helpful tips.
Take the first steps with these tried and tested methods.
1. Start Writing About The Present Moments
Take a seat at your desk and chair with a pen and a notepad. Try to avoid using your laptop or mobile for this, as they are teeming with interrupting notifications and distracting ideas.
A pen and paper block you from mindlessly scrolling on your phone or opening a background tab on your computer. Physically writing keeps you rooted in the present moment.
Leave your phone switched off or in another room. Keep your laptop shut. If you can’t find a paper or a pen and have to use your computer, open a writing app instead of your tabbed browser.
Before you start, sit upright, close your eyes, and take 5-6 slow and deep breaths. It will help clear your mind of worries and calm your mind via your vagus nerve.
Start writing about your sensations. Write about the sounds you are hearing, the sort of temperature you are feeling, and the smells that surround you.
You might feel your mind wandering off from time to time. Do not worry; it’s natural. Take 1-2 deep breaths to ground yourself back in the present, and re-focus on writing.
For superior results, keep breathing slowly and deeply in between your sentences throughout your writing session.
2. Create A Regular Habit of Mindful Writing
Habits take up a large portion of our day. According to one study that looked at the diaries of students and community members, up to 45 percent of the activities and tasks we do during the day are habitual (Quinn, J.M., & Wood, W. (2005).
But once set, a habit becomes so second nature that quitting or changing it becomes difficult.
However, creating a new habit is hard. Making behavior change stick is an enormous challenge. Still, once you’ve integrated mindful writing into your daily routine, you may feel a sense of emptiness if you miss it for a day.
A habit is a sequence of tasks that we learn to perform unconsciously, automatically, in response to certain cues or triggers in our environment. So notice, habits need a cue that triggers our memory to start and complete the same routine.
The easiest way to start is to make your new writing routine piggyback on an existing habit. It’s a tried-and-tested strategy that uses the old habit as a cue to help reduce the intention-action gap in the new routine. It’s also known as habit stacking. (There’s a fine book on this by S. J. Scott, Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness).
In this, you stack your new routine on top of an old habit. This overrides the desire and propensity to break the new habit since it’s chained to an old, established habit.
For example, you might make yourself write for 3 minutes before you have your morning coffee. The idea can work like this: get your coffee ready and set the mug on your desk. Then let it sit until you have finished writing for three minutes.
Once done, pick up your coffee mug and start sipping. Of course, you may go on to another mindfulness practice with it – eating mindfully.
3. Explore New Topics And Styles of Writing
Initially, you may have difficulty finding words to write. For such moments, when you keep staring at a blank paper, here are helpful prompts:
- Highlights of your day (yesterday or today).
- Things you and your friend do together
- How you solved a tough problem.
- Your dos and don’ts for the week.
- Some thoughts that made you smile.
- How you blocked a challenging, unpleasant habit.
- Urges you resisted and felt happy about.
- Events that made you feel productive.
- Actions that made you feel loved.
- Things that brought out your creativity.
- Beautiful sounds that you heard.
- Meaning and purpose of your life.
- Your best/worst meal of the day/week.
- Some calculated risks you took.
- Your idea of a perfect holiday.
- Advice to your younger self.
- Things that melted your heart.
- New habits that you want to build.
- Create a personal slogan or mantra.
There is another way to go about mindful writing. Try different ways of writing while exploring novel topics.
For example, you may write about how your neighbor’s pet dog thinks about you. You might explore writing a two-way dialog between you and a more successful version of yourself.
You may also try Freewriting, a technique developed by Peter Elbow in 1973. In this, you continuously write for a fixed amount of time, ignoring spelling, grammar, and other rules of proper writing.
You may attempt Stream of Consciousness writing (watch the video to learn more).
4. Create Imaginary Stories Out of Real People
Frankly, most of the writing we do daily is writing emails. Moreover, today, much of it comes with incredibly clever auto-suggestions on how to finish our sentences.
So, it may be difficult to write your narratives in detail, especially if you’re not in the habit of writing outside your work.
Mindful writing can help you stay in the present moment while also expanding your awareness of the universe. The greatest example of this form of journal writing is the transcendent book by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.
For this, go to an unfamiliar spot, like a park bench in a unique part of the city or a seat at a popular tea shop, and observe what people are doing around you. Look at their expressions and micro-expressions.
Then make up imaginary stories, creating characters out of the surrounding people. Give them unique voices. Write about their dreams and fantasies, their work problems, their relationships.
Write about a time in the future when they might meet you and hear your stories about them. The possibilities are endless.
As a beginner, start your mindful writing practice with no big aims, especially if you do not write outside your professional sphere.
The best strategy is to not wait for inspiration while sitting in silence. If no words come to your mind, write about the pen or the pencil in your hand, the paper you’re writing on, or the desk below that paper. You’ll soon find the flow appear.
There are people who do not have their breakfast unless they have written 1000 words in the morning. You may try writing 100 words.
Try writing mindfully for 100 days and feel the difference. Of course, you will be a better writer. You will also become more peaceful in life. You will feel your emotions more fully. Your humdrum life will come alive with new experiences.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
• Our story: Happiness Project
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