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How to Use a Journal for the Purpose of Self-Reflection

A Journal is a powerful tool for self-reflection.  (Image: Lost Albatross/flickr)
A Journal is a powerful tool for self-reflection. (Image: Lost Albatross/flickr)

Self-reflection is a powerful skill to have in life. If you want to develop positively through your learning opportunities, grow as a person, and overcome tribulations in your life, you need to look within and access where you’re at—there’s no getting around it.

A journal is a tool to practice these skills of self-reflection. It gives you a platform to work with your feelings—fears, doubts, weaknesses, and also the positives you recognize.

In your world of mixed-up emotions, journal writing helps to clarify confusion, and empowers you to work toward your goals.

What do I write about? 

  • What have you learned? In academic writing, reflective writing is a way to demonstrate specifically what you have learned. This is a good place to start.
Ahhh, writing in the sun, a great way to spend quality time with your thoughts (Image:kiwanja/flickr)

Ahhh, writing in the sun, a great way to spend quality time with your thoughts. (Image: kiwanja/flickr)

  • How do you feel? By nutting out your feelings, you are actually giving them a voice and means of being cleansed. Afterward, your heart will feel lighter and clearer. You will be closer to understanding yourself, and be able to voice your feelings and needs with others—a step in the right direction.
  • What do you  need to do? Writing about your course of action helps to solidify it, giving it a body. The path you are to take already exists in writing. You can begin to walk your path with confidence and wisdom.
  • Brain storm! Feeling stuck? Short of ideas? Brainstorming can be a valuable process for thinking outside the box. Jot down every idea you can think of that you might like to explore—you will soon narrow down the things that are important to you.
  • Visions. Where do you see yourself in the future? Write down the things that you want to happen—they don’t need to be material things, but virtues or qualities you wish to develop.
  • Who inspires you? Why do they inspire you? Can you pinpoint what attributes they have that you may like to become more aware of in yourself?
Keeping a journal can be a daily practice, you will improve everyday (Image:Ealt Stoneburner/flickr)

Keeping a journal can be a daily practice, you will improve everyday (Image:Walt Stoneburner/flickr)

  • What am I grateful for? Gratitude is a totally positive thought pattern that brings you happiness. I have found that it helps to keep boredom and selfishness at bay.

Turn negatives into positives—a powerful exercise.

The whole idea behind reflective journal keeping is to own your learning experiences and transform yourself. This is a very beneficial exercise to change your thought patterns when they are negative.

When you were feeling down you wrote about your frustrations and ill thinking towards another, but when you re-read it—it’s so negative!  You can change that, and turn it all around.

Take the negative thought and re-write it in a  positive way, but be careful to mind your words and keep it honest. If it sounds made up, you won’t believe your words, and the exercise will be pointless.

Example:

Negative: I really dislike her—she makes me feel so small!

Positive: She is not my good friend, but I can try to respect her. I will work on how to empower myself, as it’s me that is allowing myself to feel small. She cannot influence my feelings. I will work at feeling neutral toward her.

Don’t panic—grab your journal!

Leo Babuata, of Zen Habits, attributes journal writing as the secret to his success. Here are some of his thoughts:

Reasons to keep a journal

  • It gives you perspective, it helps you jump out of emotional response and glimpse at whats at work below the surface.
  • It helps you learn from your mistakes as you actively reflect back on situations.
Journal keeping skills are strengthened the more you do it (Image:matryosha/flickr)

Journal keeping skills are strengthened the more you do it (Image:matryosha/flickr)

  • Gives you great ideas, a time to let your imagination loose.
  • It helps you to help others—as you care for yourself, you can help to support others
  • It makes you happier, as you are being an active leader in your life—there is no better way to be.

You don’t need to share your journal. You are writing it for your sake with a clear purpose. What a wonderful way to spend some time with yourself and take some real steps forward.

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