How to start a reflective journaling practice: our simple tips

Tools By Camille Pellicer

Fri, May 22, 20

We’ve all heard about the perks of keeping a diary. But what if writing could help you live the life you want?

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

Oscar Wilde was right. A diary recalls one’s sensation from the past, present, and future, so it follows that it would always be a sensational read. Wilde humours his audience by hinting that his life was always more interesting than any character from a novel, and considering his biography and fantastic work of art, he was probably right.

We are not all future Oscar Wildes and we may not have the ambition to write an impressive body of work in theatre, poetry and literature, but I’ll take a risk in suggesting that we may all share the ambition to grow and improve as human beings in our lifetime.

This is where the art of self-reflection comes in. Writing a self-reflective journal is about being an active witness of your own experience.

By taking a closer look at yourself, you can find clarity on who you were, who you are and who you wish to become.

We all encounter countless teachers in our life. Our first teachers are our parents, then our primary school teachers, our friends, our first boyfriends or girlfriends and the list goes on. But ultimately, the main teacher who remains with us our entire life is ourselves. By developing the habit of reflecting on and learning through our own experience, we become simultaneously the teacher and the student to our own self. With time and practice we can become our most reliable teacher. Once we learn to trust our instinct, we can reflect and analyse our experience and dare to share our dreams with ourselves and the world.

Put simply, a reflective practice is the habit of thinking and reflecting on what you do and who you are, and journaling can be an effective approach. There is no right or wrong way to write a journal, but below are some simple tips to help you get started:

1. Make it a habit

Whether it is everyday or every week, the regularity of your practice will help you create a safe space for your mind which can help you learn to trust yourself.

2. Don’t worry, just write

Try writing without an agenda, structure, or plan. Practice automatic writing, just letting whatever’s on your mind flow onto the page. Though you may have no idea what you’re writing, your subconscious will absorb the content and you may find that later on you come to a new realisation about yourself or something in your life. Let the process be intuitive: if you want to write the same sentence 10 times, do it; if you want to doodle for 10 minutes, do it. Trust your mind to take you where you need to go.

3. Write to someone else

Write as if you are addressing your inner child, your future self, or perhaps your best friend or a stranger. This can help make it easier to share information about your feelings and your deepest thoughts.

4. Ask questions

Want to know an answer on a decision you should make or whether something would be good for you to do? Write the question down, then leave it for a day or a week. When you return to it, try to answer with the first thing that comes to your mind.

5. Focus on the details

We are often told not to focus too much on details, but journaling is an amazing opportunity to do exactly that. Write to explore your experience in depth and insist on anything that caught your attention. Start with the five senses: what did you see, feel, smell, taste or hear?

6. Read and reflect

Avoid reading your words as you write them: choose a separate time to read your entries. At the end of your journaling session, or once a month, take the time to read what you wrote without judgment and note the evolution of your thoughts and emotions.