Journaling: A Mindfulness Practice (Part 1)

Many people might describe the past year as an emotional roller-coaster whilst being constantly bombarded by information from all directions.

That’s not all bad. Dealing with mental and emotional overload is part of being human. Even robots don’t have perfect control sometimes.

The problem, however, is that staying in that space for a prolonged period of time is exhausting.

How can we pause and reset so that we stay focused, productive and be our best selves during our waking hours?


Mindfulness is described as a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. There are many ways to achieve this state through practices like yoga and deep breathing. Another mindfulness practice which we’ve found effective is journaling.

Journaling is disguised as a productivity system designed to help you organize Your What while you remain mindful of Your Why. The goal of journaling is to help you live intentionally, a life that is both meaningful and productive. Intentional living requires a more deliberate approach to how we live our lives. It means slowing down, digging deep, and being mindful of your actions. In short, journaling is a mindfulness method to help you navigate overwhelm.

Sounds simple and straightforward, right? So, where do you begin?

Well first, you need to determine what you would use a journal for. Just like nature’s changing seasons, our lives also go through periods of change. The journal then becomes a tool that we use according to our needs of a particular period. There are four main ways of journaling:

1) Tracking habits

Do you want to master your morning routine? Get in shape? Write a book? Floss your teeth? Make sure your kids know you love them?

We all have intentions of starting something, but when it comes to execution, we tend to fall by the wayside. Hence, we recommend you start your journaling journey with tracking habits. Because journaling is the bridge between intention and execution.

Sustaining a habit requires a lot of effort. Journaling is a great way to visually track your habits. When you see progress tangibly on paper, especially if it’s beautifully designed, you are motivated to continue that behavior or action. Also, you’ll be able to identify patterns and adjust accordingly. When a habit sticks, it becomes a no-brainer. You don’t have to use your effort, will and energy to overcome yourself.

Journaling - morning tracker
Journaling - night routine tracker

Bullet Journal or BuJo is a particular journaling method that works well for tracking habits.Bullet journaling uses symbols, drawings and short words or phrases to categorize and capture tasks, events, notes etc. It’s easy to start a BuJo. First, get yourself some grid paper and coloured pens. There are many great examples of habit trackers you can check out like in Pinterest to get inspired.

Do you express yourself in stickman figures? Can’t design to save your life? No worries. Perfection is not the goal. Remember, the purpose of this journaling method is to make your habits stick.

2) Setting goals

What are the areas of your life that are important to you? Is it health - physical, mental, emotional, financial; relationships - Creator, family, friends, society, or work? What is your vision for your future, and what are your strategies to get there? What are your intentions for today?

As you become adept at tracking your habits, you’ll learn to set the right goals for yourself. Goals that are SMART, compassionate and exciting.

Translate those goals into a monthly and/or a daily list.

Journaling - lifebook goalsJournaling - books to read

Because here’s the thing: If you want to achieve a goal, you absolutely need to write it down.

Goals written down have 60% higher chance to be achieved. Goals reviewed weekly and monthly with an accountability partner or group have a 80% higher chance to be achieved.

However, in a survey in 2020, only 3% of people write their goals down. 13% had goals, not written down, and 84% no specific goals at all.

BE THAT 3%! If you write your goals down, you are more likely to succeed.

Also, writing (and doodling) by hand keeps your brain in shape. You tend to have a better memory because it activates a different, and more parts of your brain than typing.

Writing things down doesn’t just help you remember. It also makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff. And your goals absolutely qualify as truly important stuff.

< Click here to Part 2 of Journaling: A Mindfulness Practice >


Written by: Cheryl Cheah
Full-time working mother of four young children
Active Toastmaster of MIM Toastmasters Club of Kuala Lumpur