I have been journaling for most of my adult life and although my exact process and method have changed over the years, the motivation behind my practice has not. Journaling is a powerful practice and tool for mental health, reflection and problem-solving. 

This is not new. Historical figures such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Mark Twain, and Marie Curie all noted their ideas, insights, and challenges through daily journaling. It is a healthy coping method that anyone can do. 

Dear Diary

Research shows that consistent journaling can help reduce stress, manage anxiety and depression symptoms, improve self-awareness, regulate your emotions, break the pattern of obsessive thinking and even strengthen resilience. There are also physical health benefits such as improved immune defense, lowered blood pressure, improved lung and liver function, better moods, better sleep, and reduced stress-related visits to the doctor. 

Researchers in New Zealand even suggest that journaling can help wounds heal faster. Sound impossible? In the study, 49 healthy adults journaled for 20 minutes, three days in a row. After two weeks, all the subjects in the study had a biopsy on their arm and tracked the healing with photographs for the next 21 days. On the 11th day, 76% of the group that did journaling had fully healed compared to 24% who did not. The professors say the expressive writing helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress which contributed to faster healing of the body. 

Morning Pages

You may have heard of a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that introduced the concept of “morning pages.” Cameron describes the Morning Pages on her website as “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only.” 

To this day, I incorporate some form of expressive writing into my journaling practice. Here is my current daily routine:

  1. I will start with a few things that I am grateful for in that moment. It’s important to open your journaling session in a positive state, and research has shown that practicing gratitude can enhance mental wellness and possibly promote a lasting change in your perspective. 
  2. I move on to whatever is on my mind and that becomes my automatic writing, like Morning Pages. I use this as a dump to defrag my brain. It could be working to creatively solve a work challenge, processing a dream I just woke up from, or something happening in my personal life. There’s never a set topic, so it tends to be far more right brain than left brain. 
  3. I end my journaling session with setting an intention for the day. Remembering that this is a brand new day and highlighting what is most important for me to stay focused on throughout the day. 

Journaling is just a part of my daily morning routine. I also spend time reading, exercising, meditating, and visualizing for at least an hour. 

The Digital Journal

Over the years, I have also changed how I journal. After filling up notebook after notebook with my thoughts, I have moved into the digital age and now use an app. I do that because it is very efficient for me to see the threads and patterns of my thoughts and insights in a way that does not require paging through tomes of hand-written journals. Plus, it helps reduce clutter in my house!

Journaling may sound hokey to some people, but I have found it to be a useful in making sure I have reflective “me” time, before I spend the rest of the day focused on others.  

Apple’s Journal App

There are obviously many different tools you can use to journal, from digital apps that may prompt you with topics, to a simple blank notebook and pen. Even Apple is jumping on the bandwagon with their new journal app

Users can write about events in their lives and include media, from photos, videos, audio recordings, and locations to enhance their memories. Consistent journaling is encouraged by reminder notifications which are customizable. 

It uses AI to provide suggestions on what to write about so you can focus on gratitude, kindness, purpose and more. You control what suggestions appear for you, but they are based on user activity so you may be prompted to write about a new place you visited and snapped a photo or a workout you have completed. 

I like that it is completely personal, so unlike social media, you cannot share your entries. Apple says it is also completely private so that when the iPhone is locked, the Journal entries are encrypted. You can also enable secondary authentication so the Journal app must be opened with your device passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID. 

I have played around with the app a bit, and I think anything that encourages people to stop and reflect is a good thing. I like how the app showed me the workout I did this morning and asked if it left me feeling refreshed. Other prompts included a contact in my phone that I spoke to earlier in the week and it asked what I appreciated about connecting with this person. Another prompt for reflection said, “Describe someone in your life who you really appreciate but forget to thank.” Other prompts focused on photo memories, even songs I have listened to on my phone. There seems to be an endless supply of topics to discuss within the Journal app, which is bound to get people thinking about themselves more. 

Apple Watch’s Mindfulness App

Apple is also getting into the mindfulness game with their new Apple Watch app. I recently evaluated it, and here is a summary of how it works. 

To start a Mindfulness session, select Mindfulness from the app menu. From there, you can choose:

  • State of Mind,
  • Reflect, or 
  • Breathe. 

When I selected Reflect, I was given this prompt: Take a moment to pause. Reflect on one thing you’re grateful for and think about why you appreciate it so much. Carry this sense of gratitude with you. (Yet another example of the power of gratitude reflection.)

Another reflection was to: Picture gentle ocean waves and imagine how they sound rolling in one after the other. 

When you press Begin, the watch displays some calming colorful graphics as you reflect on your prompt for one minute. It measures and records your heart rate, which could be interesting to compare over time and even to times during your day when you are not practicing mindfulness. 

Next, I tried Breathe. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of diaphragmatic breathing, and it’s the first tool I teach my executive coaching clients to calm their emotional response in a triggering situation. With Apple’s version, you simply watch your watch where a graphic slowly expands and deflates based on your breathing. It is simple to follow and an easy reference if you need more guidance to breathing. 

But the section I was most intrigued by was logging your State of Mind. When you click this, you are asked to log how you feel right now: 

  • Very unpleasant
  • Unpleasant
  • Slightly unpleasant
  • Neutral
  • Slightly pleasant
  • Very pleasant

The next step is to answer a question: What best describes this feeling? There is a lengthy list of a choice of words including angry, annoyed, anxious, ashamed, disappointed, discouraged, disgusted, overwhelmed, worried, surprised and many more. 

You are then asked: What is having the biggest impact on you? Those answers range from community, current events, dating, education, family, fitness, friends, health, hobbies, identity, money, partner, self-care, work, etc. 

You then log your answer and are told that logging your state of mind can help you get a better sense of your mental wellbeing. 

The time you spend in any of these sections of the app is recorded as Mindfulness Minutes in the Health app. 

MindMastery was First

So, what do I think of Apple’s new Mindfulness app? It is a step in the right direction as far as bringing awareness to mindfulness, so I am delighted it is out there and available to the masses. But JMA’s MindMastery app has been doing the same thing in a far more advanced way for over twelve years. 

Our app was the first of its kind to facilitate systemic behavioral change by disrupting your habitual patterns to retrain and re-wire your brain. The MindMastery app builds four key areas: self-awareness, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. The free version of the app is available to anyone and targets building self-awareness and mindfulness by recording your moods and thoughts. 

Related: Feelings, Emotions and Moods: How to Say What You are Experiencing

If you have attended our virtual MindMastery workshop or are working with a JMA coach, you will use the “full” (but still free) version of the app as a supplement to one-on-one coaching. This part of the app facilitates firing and wiring new neuropathways and building resilience and is where the change really happens. 

Our app was built with confidentiality first. We do not gather your personal information to share with anyone. We do not benefit financially from the app at all. It is not used for lead generation for our business or an advertising platform, but rather an altruistic app built and delivered to exponentially increase the speed of transformational change in our clients. 

I have seen clients truly transform their thinking by utilizing our app. Are you ready to give it a try to see how it can help you? 

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