For some time now (months) I have been meditating and journaling every day. I find this combo very useful for keeping myself on track with what I want to achieve and also be more present and balanced during the day.
I started playing around with the idea of meditating several years ago when I read Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan, but it didn’t stick. I tried it several times again in the more recent years and I found it hard to practice every day.
The reason for that was that I didn’t have a reliable trigger for the habit of meditation. The trick was to meditate first thing after waking up. I made sure I always had 10 minutes to do a short meditation before anything else. It’s been 120 days since and I haven’t missed a day.
I soon started noticing some interesting effects.
First of all, by meditating before I do anything else in a day, I set the stage for the day, before I get annoyed by the train delays or the broken coffee machine or whatever the day throws at me. By trying to focus on my breath for 10 minutes I manage to bring my mental state to the same levels every morning and get me ready for whatever comes. It also makes me feel good when I enforce my habit every day, my first task of the day is done. That’s how a productive day starts!
But the morning meditation gives me another important ingredient for starting the day in a good way: thoughts. It is inevitable to not have all kind of thoughts going through my head while trying to follow my breath with my attention. Some days my mind is quieter, but in some days thoughts pass like cars in a busy intersection.
I try to acknowledge everything that goes through my head and remember the ones reoccurring the most while I gently resume following my breathing. During the meditation practice many worries or negative thoughts would pop up sometimes. By acknowledging them and setting them aside their effect is already diminished, but I don’t just completely forget them yet.
A complementary practice to meditation is journaling. I found it very hard to spend more than 30 mins a day for writing in a journal, so I tried to contain it to that time. I started from the 5 minute journal format, but I adjusted it a bit. Here’s what I do:
Soon after my meditation, I fill-in the sections above.
Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not
on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
— Charles Dickens
I start with expressing my gratitude for specific things in my life that I am grateful for. You might feel that there isn’t much to be grateful for, but if you look closer, you’ll soon realise that there is a gazillion of things to be grateful for. There are several studies saying that expressing your gratitude more often will improve your general state of well-being.
Next, I write my purpose, or what I want to achieve in my life on a long term. It shouldn’t be anything advanced and for me I write pretty much the same thing every day. This is an important thing to figure out and many people struggle to answer to this question. Maybe for starters your purpose should be to find your purpose. Writing your purpose at this point is important for the next section.
Considering your purpose and whatever you know it’s coming today, what do you want to achieve today? I list here briefly what individual things are important to achieve or start during this day. This is not a to-do list necessarily, it is more of an exercise of acknowledging your priorities and writing them down.
Finally, before starting my actual day, I end the morning journaling with a few statements related to how I feel, how I think the day will be going and acknowledge some of the thoughts that came up during meditation, this time by writing them shortly. I also remind myself of what behaviors I am prone to do and should avoid and whatever else is relevant for that day. This section is less specific for a reason and its meant to acknowledge whatever I think is lurking around my mind and to state explicitly whatever didn’t fit in the other sections, but it is important to bring to light before I get going.
At the end of the day, I wrap it up with putting down some thoughts about how did the day go, with more focus on what went well, rather than on didn’t go so well. Finally, I write a few lines about what I could’ve done better through the day.
I find both meditation and journaling very good practices to increase self-awareness and to bring out into the open worries or negative thoughts that usually lurk in the back of your mind and affect you during the day without you realizing the cause. I want to be at my best every day, so I can better help, listen or interact with others.