Throughout life, there are many defining moments; those people and events that change us, shaping us into who we are today. But at the time, we often don’t realize the impact these things have on our personal development.
By getting into the habit of reflection, we can raise our self-awareness. We can look at those people and experiences in a way that helps us learn and grow. Reflective journaling is an effective technique to become more conscious of our thoughts, emotions and behavior.
What is reflective journaling?
Reflective journaling is a therapeutic technique that allows us to be introspective and become aware of our feelings towards events that happened in our lives.
Matt Grammer, CEO and Founder of the Kentucky Counseling Center explains why it’s a powerful self-improvement tool:
- Reflective journaling can help us distinguish what happened and what we feel towards what happened
- Reflective journaling can allow us to reminisce and find another perspective that can make the memory feel better
- Reflective journaling can help us learn more about our impulse response whenever we experience an emotion
Why reflective journaling is important
So, which is reflective journaling so important to your self-care practice and life overall? Here are a few reasons.
1. Can clarify strengths and weaknesses
Reflective journaling can help you tap into your potential.
“It can jump-start goals-setting, personal growth, and accelerate our motivation,” says psychotherapist Deborah Krevalin. “Reflective journaling helps us to know ourselves in a deeply intimate way that encourages optimism and self-insight.”
2. Allows you to heal and move forward
Writing down how you feel about the past is the first step to changing your perception.
“For example, when you process the death of a loved one through reflective journaling, you get to reminisce on the happy and sad moments,” says Grammer. “We get to remember that they are no longer with us, but we get to remember the happy moments with them. Sometimes, we think the past defines us, and worse, it's an unchangeable reality. What reflective journaling does is give us a different view of what has happened."
3. Helps process unresolved issues
When we don’t effectively process our emotions, they can negatively affect our growth.
“This type of expressive writing helps an individual gain greater insight and allows for processing, and often resolution, of difficult or unresolved issues,” says Dr. Michelle Pearce, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Maryland. “It is a deep dive into not just the ‘what,’ (as in what happened), but primarily into the ‘why, how, and so what’ of what happened.”
Pearce explains that it’s not a just a report on the facts of what happened; it’s also a deep dive into one’s feelings about those facts.
4. Helps you rewrite your life narrative
We don’t consciously realize it, but our brain is constantly telling stories to make sense of life experiences and what’s happening around us.
“The joy of reflective journaling is that it creates a safe space to recap choices, to generate pros and cons, and to build out next steps based on your own history,” says Randi Levin, career and life coach. “It is dynamic because it reconnects you to your story while allowing for future changes based on your own narrative.”
When is the best time for reflective journaling? It can be done consistently, or it can be introduced as needed at a life cycle intersection, or during a potential job change or shift to gain clarity and introspection, Levin explains.
For example, if you want to change jobs, you may create a reflective journal as your guide to your present job. She recommends adding wins and fails, creating lists of expertise and skill-sets, and a wish list of what you want and don’t want in your next role.
Reflective writing will help you look back on your life and move forward with confidence and clarity.
Have you tried reflective journaling? Let us know in the comments. And while you're at it, make sure to subscribe to Silk + Sonder today.