How to Boost Mindfulness with Guided Meditation & Journaling! | by Lynda Monk MSW, RSW, CPCC

As a coach, I love using evidence-based tools and practices to support my clients (and myself) in achieving mindful awareness. I have found that mindfulness leads to greater feelings of well-being, balance, clarity and peace, and two of my favourite mindfulness practices are guided meditation and journal writing.

While these practices are powerful on their own, this article offers an exercise for combining them for increased mindfulness, relaxation and awareness.

First, let's take a closer look at mindfulness.

According to mindfulness teacher Teron Wolf, increased mindfulness can help us reclaim and increase our ability to do the following:

  1. Choose the responses that genuinely help us create the reality we desire.
  2. Experience each moment of our lives more fully.
  3. Increase our capacity for insight and understanding.
  4. Generate a greater sense of meaning and purpose in all that we do.

But the word mindfulness is often overused and misunderstood. Mindfulness is not about slowing down, stopping your thoughts or being in a peaceful state at all times. Rather it's about, as psychologist Beth Jacobs says, "a quality of intent to be aware of what is arising."

Increased mindfulness does not just happen - it needs to be worked at.

And there are many ways to increase mindfulness including the use of two of my favourite tools - meditation and journaling. Both of these practices help us be fully present in the moment by observing, ideally without judgment, our own thoughts, feelings and experiences. In a mindful state we are more attuned to not just our thoughts (mind) but our physical sensations (body) as well.

By increasing our mindful awareness, we become more able to respond purposefully instead of automatically reacting to situations or circumstances in our lives.

Mindful awareness is like sitting in the forest and feeling the presence of the trees all around you, hearing the rustling of leaves in the wind, sensing the breeze on your skin, while being fully grounded in the moment. You feel wrapped in the warm reassurance of your own roots, branches and reach, fully aware of your own inner emotions, thoughts and aliveness. Lynda Monk

Here's a Combined Guided Meditation and Journaling Exercise:

Try this exercise with your coaching clients to increase their mindful awareness and all the benefits that come with it.

The Mindfulness Part

First, help your client become deeply present and mindful.

  • Step 1: Invite your client to become aware of their breathing. Taking a few deep breaths can help both the mind and the body to relax.
  • Step 2: Ask your client to become aware of the physical surface beneath them (for example the chair they are sitting in). Invite them to drop their physical weight a bit more fully onto that surface, allowing themselves to be supported.
  • Step 3: Encourage them to notice being supported. Without judgement, ask them to simply notice what it feels like to be supported by the surface beneath them.
  • Step 4: Provide a guided meditation that helps your client scan their physical body for any areas of stress and tension - and invite them to release and relax in those areas. There are various exercises you can use for this such as progressive muscle relaxation or a body scan guided meditation1 or you can provide/facilitate another form of relaxing guided meditation.
1 Editor's Note: We offer a short "body scan" guided meditation script in this article here (see script number 3. Five Minute Guided Meditation Script for RELAXATION and Body Tension Release)

The Journaling Part

Following the guided meditation, ask your clients to do a timed free writing exercise.

  • Step 5: Ask your clients to write freely, using this journaling prompt: In this moment, I notice I am thinking, feeling or sensing, or… Ask them to write briefly for 3-5 minutes. The instructions are to keep their pen moving and stay aware and connected to their breath. Tell them that "writing begins with the breath, mindfulness begins with the breath".
  • Step 6: Once they finish their timed free writing (that includes noticing thoughts and feelings), give them two follow-up prompts to choose from:
    a. What I notice about what I wrote is…  OR  b. What I feel about what I wrote is…
    And invite them to write their responses for another 2 minutes.
    Note: This step is known as a feedback loop and offers reflection/inquiry on the reflective writing itself. This helps clients yield deeper insights from their journaling.
  • Step 7: Invite clients to take a moment and debrief/discuss what this combined experience of guided meditation and journal writing was like for them. You can ask things like:
    • What was easy? What was difficult, if anything?
    • What did you like/not like?
    • What benefits might they gain from increasing their mindful awareness through guided meditation and journaling?
    • What do they want to remember from this experience?

When to Use This Combined Guided Meditation and Journaling Exercise:

It can be helpful to explain to your client, briefly, why you're introducing these mindfulness tools, guided meditation and journaling, and some of the benefits they can experience from them so your clients can make an informed choice about participating or not with you.

This Combined Guided Meditation and Journaling Exercise can be helpful when your clients want or need to:

  • Increase clarity and focus attention
  • Feel more centered and grounded in the present moment
  • Access greater feelings of calm and balance
  • To reduce stress and increase relaxation in mind and body
  • To reduce areas of physical pain in the body (notice and release)
  • Take intentional time for self-care and self-reflection
  • Increase mindfulness
  • Enhance overall well-being

When not to do an exercise like this:

  • If a person is in the midst of a mental health crisis (not able to focus, overwhelmed, too distressed, etc.)
  • If the person is in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic or extremely emotionally upsetting incident.
  • If a person is not interested in trying it! People should always be in choice with what they are doing.

Wrap-up

Mindful awareness is like sitting in the forest and feeling the presence of the trees all around you, hearing the rustling of leaves in the wind, sensing the breeze on your skin, while being fully grounded in the moment. You feel wrapped in the warm reassurance of your own roots, branches and reach, fully aware of your own inner emotions, thoughts and aliveness.

Your goal is to support your clients into a relaxed, mindful state of being through combining guided meditation and journaling.

The hope is to help individuals engage with deep, non-judgemental, compassionate self-observation. Through such practices we learn to see ourselves anew, to be more fully present in the moment, and to awaken into the greater flow of life.

BONUS: For more tips and best practices on how to integrate journaling into coaching, check out this Lynda's "Write Your Path!" article.pdf recently published in choice Magazine.

Lynda Monk 2017 HeadshotContributing author: Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. She is the author of Life Source Writing: A Reflective Journaling Practice for Self-Discovery, Self-Care, Wellness & Creativity, the co-author of "Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection." Sign up for her newsletter to access your free gift: 7 Servings of Journal Juice filled with inspiration and information to juice up your journaling!

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Image of Happy client journaling by mimagephotography via Shutterstock

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