by Dr. Elliott Kronenfeld

I have this one muscle that took me forever to develop. Working that muscle was uncomfortable. It caused great distress. Over time I started to notice that very subtly the muscle got stronger and stronger until I felt great power in using it. That muscle began to make me feel strong and capable. That muscle was journaling.

I have a very particular way of journaling. While I know that some folks like to journal electronically in a variety of forms, I like to journal in written word. On paper. Writing out my journal makes me slow down. When I write electronically, I race. My brain goes very fast. When I journal, I want to slow down and really consider and process what I am thinking.

I start by having a journal that I love. I can spend enormous amounts of time looking at journals. Sometimes I will buy journals when I don’t need them so that I can have them ready because I can be quite picky when it comes to my tools of the trade. I also think the pen is critical. I use gel pens for journaling because they don’t bleed through the page, but they glide as you write. I use a different color for each entry so that when I flip through my journal, I can see the different entries without having to read them for start/ends. I start each journal entry the same way. I list the date, time, and location of where I am when I write. I usually do not go back and read my entries for a significant amount of time after writing them because I want to get some time away from it. It is usually only in reflection of that time that the true meaning takes place. But, when I do go back, I can quickly remember exactly where I was when I wrote it.

I also keep different journals for different significant topics. I have a journal for my own personal reflections. I have a journal that I keep for each of my children. I started doing that before they were born and journaled all the significant moments of their lives, what parenting them was like, and what I learned from them. They each have a collection of journals about themselves from another person’s perspective – which they both have said is deeply valuable to them. Whenever they question why I did what I did, I tell them to read about it in their journal and then we discuss. I am a huge adventure traveler and I have a specific journal for that – travel changes me, and I want to always capture how the world impresses upon me.

I find that journaling is one of the most meaningful ways to make sense of what is in my mind. It allows me to track my growth. When I go back and read older journals, I can see how much progress I have made. This process allows me to express many thoughts and feelings that I am not ready to give airtime to other people. My journal is mine and only for me. The journal in the picture is my latest journal. It has a labyrinth because I love walking them for mindfulness and a reminder to Be Here Now. This journal was a gift and I treasure it as it meant that my talking about journaling resonated with another person.

So why is journaling so challenging? As I opened, I talked about the muscle that was hard to train. It is hard to slow down. It is hard to be truly self-reflective and conscious. It is hard just to be with ourselves at times. My mantra that helped me to journal more meaningfully is Be Here Now! I sit quietly before I start to journal and repeat that to myself a few times to set my mind on the task ahead of me. Sometimes I just make lists. Sometimes I set a timer for myself and say I can’t stop writing no matter what until the timer goes off. Sometimes I just doodle. There is no right way to journal. Just do it in the way that makes sense to you and unburden your mind!

If you growing in your mindfulness practice or struggling to start one, contact Elliott at or check out his book Couples by Intention: Creating and cultivating relationships that matter! At or on Insta at @drelliottk.

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