The winter stinks. There, I said it. If you feel the way I do, getting through the next couple of months might seem like it’s going to be painful, but I’m here to share a mindfulness practice I’ve adopted that has totally transformed the way I survive during these dark, chilly months: journaling.
This is probably not the first time you’ve heard this. Self-help authors are always recommending that we journal, right? I must admit that I never took it very seriously until I learned that in Ayurveda (the Indian sister science of yoga) the winter months are actually regarded as a time for inner reflection. While the hustle and bustle of the holidays are overtaking our lives, nature sort of demands that we slow down during this time. According to Ayurveda, we need to establish practices that honor this required moment of pause, as they can do wonders to lift the heaviness that comes along with this time of year — and my own journaling practice has shown me that.
Not to mention, even modern science is starting to understand the true benefits of journaling. A study published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology concluded that expressive writing “reduces intrusive and avoidant thoughts about negative events and improves working memory. These improvements, researchers believe, may, in turn, free up our cognitive resources for other mental activities, including our ability to cope more effectively with stress,” according to the APA website!
Many people say they don’t journal because they don’t know what to write about or where to start. If this sounds like you, here are a few ideas you might find helpful, especially if you’re battling those winter blues.
Write what you feel — the good and the bad.
It can be as simple as that. Recount the events of your day — think about what you felt and thought about. Be honest with yourself (after all, no one has to read this!) and allow your emotions to be fully expressed. Use whatever language, grammar, and punctuation you want — correctness isn’t a priority here. Admit all the negative without trying to paint a pretty picture. My only recommendation is to try to bring to mind what any “negative” experience might be trying to teach or show you. This can be transformative in so many ways.
Write a letter.
This one can get a bit emotional, but personally, I’ve noticed how much it helps me and my relationships. If there’s someone you’re upset at, write them a letter (that you’re not going to send). Express all your feelings about why they’ve upset you and how they made you feel. Similarly, you can also choose to write a letter of gratitude to someone who’s done something for you. Even if you’re not expressing positive feelings, the release of saying what you have to say will feel like a weight off your shoulders.
Write a gratitude list.
During a time when we’re feeling a bit lower than usual, it can be hard to focus our minds on what is going well in our lives. Taking out even just five minutes at the end or beginning of my day to express gratitude is something I often gravitate toward when everything seems “wrong” and I want to shift my perspective. And when you think about it, there is always something to be thankful for, even if it’s just the roof over your head, isn’t there?
Creating a space to express yourself without judgement is one of the greatest acts of self-care you can undertake, especially during this season. Taking out just a few minutes at the end of the day to reflect on all the it has brought, and maybe even the year as a whole, is a valuable tool that can totally shift the way you feel.
We’re wishing you a balanced and peaceful season to come.