I absolutely love writing my thoughts on paper. Occasionally it can get a bit out of control with paper everywhere and notebooks everywhere. But mostly it is reasonably under control! Journaling has really kept my mental health positive and I’ve learned to commit my thoughts to paper whenever a problem or issue arises.
How I write
I don’t use any particular reflection journal prompts. I start from where the problem is and start on my journey from there. The events of this past year, in fact the past couple of years since Covid, have really challenged me and my personal growth has blossomed as I’ve navigated some very challenging times.
And you may have been through something similar: Those experiences which you are grateful to have gone through because of the personal growth you’ve experienced, but which you would never ever want to have to go through again.
You may have heard of Julia Cameron’s morning pages which she writes about in The Artist’s Way. The idea is that you sit and write 3 pages of foolscap/A4 each morning. You just commit to writing out your thoughts each day. It’s like stream of consciousness writing.
The only information you keep from those three pages is if you have thoughts about work or a project or something you’re working on. Aside from that you don’t reread you work. You just pick up the next day and write three more pages.
I do my own version of this which is 500 words on…. I sit down in the morning and write 500 words on. I just get all the thoughts I’ve got on that particular subject out on paper. I do allow myself to reread what I’ve written, although funnily enough I mostly don’t reread them, certainly not more than once.
The process itself seems to be enough. The commitment to writing it down, to engaging your mind and seeing the words form on the paper. I’ve written about how and why the process of journaling is so good for you in What happens when we write?
Being able to reflect on our life experiences is a vital part of us learning to understand ourselves. And when you understand yourself you are better able to make decisions about your life and what you want from it.
So in this blog post I have put together some prompts to help you on your reflective journaling path. Of course you can use the morning pages or 500 words if you already have topics about which you want to write. But otherwise, read on!
The present moment
How are you feeling in the present moment? What is going on around you? How do you want to live this present moment? What is perfect about this present moment?
What is the best compliment you can pay yourself
What can you say to yourself that is a compliment? Try and dig a bit deeper than the surface level ‘I’ve got nice eyes’ kind of thought. Take some time. What do you really like about yourself?
Sometimes what we like is buried quite deep because we don’t think it’s valued. Valued by others or by society. So we don’t tend to value it either. Take some time with this one. Journal about your feelings as you think.
End of the year / new year
Beginnings and endings are great for self-reflection journal prompts. What was good about last year? What was not so good? What would you like to do differently this year?
Your teenage self
What would your teenage self say to you today?
If you are a teenager, what do you hope to say to yourself when you are 40?
What is your favorite book? Then, don’t write why it’s your favourite book, write about what this book has taught you.
What new things would you like to do next year, or next month or next day? What is missing from your life that you want to start doing?
You can journal around specific themes that are relevant to you. Maybe around your hobbies or your work if work is something that you love. So your themes could be: being outside; walking the dogs; making a skirt, cooking a favourite meal. Write about how these activities make you feel, what you think when you are undertaking them.
A difficult situation
Although not pleasant, difficult situations are a great trigger to an introspective journal prompt. We can see what actions we took and then, take some time to reflect on why we took the action we did and why we felt the emotions that we felt.
Why do you dislike what you do? What does it make you think? What have you learned about yourself?
You can write whatever you want about being on a desert island, but some reflective journal prompts could be:
What would you miss about your current life if you were on a desert island;
What would you not miss about your current life if you were on a desert island;
What would you do on your desert island that you are not able to do now?;
If you had the gift of time because you were marooned on a desert island, what would you do?;
What would you plan to do when you got off the island?
What are your personal values? If you don’t know what they are, do a search on the internet to find out other peoples’ values. When you find values that resonate with you, journal about why they mean something to you.
What is happening to you now? What is going on in your life? Write it out as one sentence and then reflect back on what you are learning, what you are experiencing.
A to-do list
Your to-do list can be a powerful tool for self reflection because it tells you about your life and what you think about it. Why not give this a go in your next journaling session? You write out as much of your to-do list as you can.
Then, take each to-do in turn and write about what you think about it. There is no right or wrong answer in any form of journaling, but especially with your to-do list. You may realise that you resent running errands for the family, or hate food shopping, or need some time away from your to-do list.
Whatever it is, being able to reflect and identify your feelings is good for your emotional wellbeing asyou are accessing your authentic self.
I think this is a bit like 500 words. You choose what to write about and just start. Then, when you have written for a certain length of time, or a certain number of words, you stop. Then you reread what you have read and reflect back on it.
I don’t tend to remember my dreams but some people have very vivid dreams. Accessing your inner world in this way can be a really effective tool for self reflection.
What is on your bucket list? And, more importantly, why is it on your bucket list? Knowing why you want to do something is a great way to understand who you are. So spend some time understanding why your list has those items on it.
What is your favourite quote, or favourite quotes? And why? What does that quote make you feel, what do you think when you say that quote?
As you can see from the list above, asking yourself ‘Why?’ can be the best way to understand yourself better. Using the blank page of a journal, knowing that it is a safe space for you to be honest and practicing unconditional love by not judging or criticising your thoughts, but just allowing them is one of the most powerful ways you can learn to be you.
Try and make a regular journaling habit part of your life’s routine. Your future self will thank you for it.
If you like this blog post you may also like:
18 goal journal plan ideas to create a life plan you love
New year journal prompts
9 easy quick start tips to create a journal for self improvement