Reflection refers to the act of giving something serious thought or consideration. and plays a key role in increasing self-awareness and developing a better understanding of others and the world around us. This is central for developing emotional intelligence – the capacity to be aware of, control, and express emotions and manage relationships in a healthy way. Reflection can also help us develop creative thinking skills, it assists with problem solving and it promotes learning.
Journaling refers to personal record of events, experiences, and reflections kept on a regular basis. Journaling evokes a state of mindfulness and helps writers remain present while keeping perspective. It presents an opportunity for emotional catharsis, releasing and untangling the muddle of thoughts which otherwise plague the mind, and helps the brain regulate emotions. It can also promote a greater sense of confidence and self-identity, and it has several benefits for the treatment of mental health conditions. For a comprehensive list of journaling go to: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/
When we combine Reflection and Journaling, we are left with a self-help tool so powerful that it can help treat the symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression and even trauma; and at the same time it can promote learning, growth and personal change. Reflective Journaling is a tool that can help transform lives.
By allowing ourselves to explore the deepest depths of our conscious (and sometimes even our subconscious) mind through Reflective Journaling, we are given insight into a world we may not have realised existed. When we reconnect with ourselves we reconnect with the truth of who we are. Only then can we begin to acknowledge, heal and release the elements of ourselves that have been locked away and ignored. Only then can we begin to tap into our inner wisdom and get clear on who we are and what we want. And only then can we begin to live our most authentic lives.
Why is self-awareness so important anyway?
They say "ignorance is bliss" and facing certain unattractive aspects of ourselves can feel very uncomfortable, if not painful, which is why so many people try and avoid activities which raise self-awareness like therapy and meditation. The issue is that a lack of self-awareness will almost always result in living a life we don’t want to live and feeling helpless, dissatisfied, empty, resentful, lost; ultimately feeling disconnected from everyone and everything around us. They say "the truth will set you free". Reflective Journaling can help us access and work through our personal truth, which we need to to in order to live a more empowered, fulfilled, blissful life with purpose and meaning .
So if you are new to Reflective Journaling and would like to give it a whirl here are some tips to help get you started: Reflective Journaling Tips for Beginners 1. You can write in a hardback paper journal, create a Word document to type into, or download an app on your phone with special features e.g. Universum on Android devices allows you to rate your day, upload photos and even has a budgeting tab. For journal apps on I-phone see link: https://www.imore.com/best-journaling-apps-iphone-and-ipad#:~:text=Best%20journaling%20apps%20for%20iPhone%20and%20iPad%20in,3%20Moodnotes.%204%20Journey.%205%20Daylio.%20More%20items 2. Set aside time at least once a day to write continuously for at least 5mins – simply allow your thoughts and feelings to flow and capture them on paper. Journaling at regular intervals during the day allows greater processing and insights into the events, your emotions, thoughts and new ideas that to come to you. It also provides a much needed pause if the day is particularly hectic or challenging.
3. You can record events (i.e. what happened during your day), thoughts and feelings, ideas and solutions. You can provide yourself with the nurture you need which may not be available elsewhere - affirmations, encouragement, reassurance, praise. You can challenge yourself when your mental state is not at its best and consider perspectives you would not normally entertain in your automatic thinking. 4. If you are trying to develop new positive habits, you can use your journaling to help you track your progress, and review your strategy if needed to ensure success, instead of getting stuck and giving up. Tracking your progress and wins will also make you more motivated in sticking with your new habits and encourage you to keep going. 5. Journaling before bed allows reflection on the day as a whole, allowing for a wider perspective of your experience. Writing down what you would like to experience the next day has the added bonus of programming the subconscious mind while you sleep. 90% of what we do is affected by the subconscious, so priming our thoughts affects what we think, how we feel and what we do. Set your intentions for the perfect day and observe what happens.
6. You can personalise your journaling and make it fun e.g. use pictures, photos, quotes, create your own code using emojis. 7. Remember your journal is for you and you alone, so ensure it is kept somewhere safe and use a password where possible.
If free writing is too far outside of your comfort zone, you may prefer to use more specific Reflective Journaling prompts to develop self-awareness such as the following:
Self-Awareness Journaling Questions:
1. How have you been feeling lately ? Score your emotional wellbeing out of 10
2. What are some of the repetitive negative patterns you’ve noticed in your life? This could be a situation, trigger, emotion or habit.
3. List some of the emotions you’ve been struggling with in the last week/month? What is the main emotion you have been feeling overwhelmed with?
4. What usually triggers this negative emotion? How specifically does it make you feel?
5. What does this remind you of ; how does it echo the past?
6. What triggers/annoys you most about other people?
7. What do you judge most about yourself?
8. What do you feel you are keeping in/bottling up?
9. What do you feel you need to let go of? This can be a memory, emotion, thinking pattern, habit.
10. Is there anyone you are holding anger or resentment towards?
11. Are you able to understand the other person, why they are the way they are, see where their actions come from? Put yourself into their shoes and consider their perspective.
12. Is there anything you can do to promote more harmony/ less tension in this relationship?
13. What are the most important things to you in life?
14. What brings you joy and contentment?
15. When do you feel the most proud/confident in yourself?
16. Think about the most important people in your life and list what you appreciate about them, including things you may take for granted.
17. What are the things you appreciate the most about yourself?
18. What advice/guidance would your future self give you right now in moving forward?
Reflective Journaling is a skill which helps people develop their muscle for self-awareness and self-mastery. Taking as little as 5 minutes a day to reflect on events, thoughts and feelings can provide an array of benefits, including emotional resilience, self-containment, motivation and confidence. And it costs nothing! The only question to ask yourself is…why not give it a try?