Journaling to increase your self-awareness 

The benefits of journaling

There is a growing body of research that supports the benefits of journaling. Here are some examples:

Stress reduction: Expressive writing, including journaling, can help reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. (Baumeister, et al., 2014)

Improved well-being: Engaging in daily journaling reported increased well-being and improved emotional regulation. (Burton, et al., 2016)

Increased mindfulness: mindful journaling increased mindfulness, self-compassion, and emotional regulation. (Parks-Sheiner, et al., 2017)

Improved memory: Writing about your thoughts and experiences can help improve memory recall and reduce intrusive thoughts. (Seitz-Brown et al, 2018)

Better problem-solving skills: Journaling can help improve problem-solving skills and increase creative thinking. (Seitz-Brown etal, 2018)

Overall, research suggests that journaling can have a range of positive effects on mental health and well-being, including reduced stress, improved emotional regulation, increased mindfulness, and better memory and problem-solving skills.

Making time for reflection

Reflection can be undertaken in various ways, such as journaling or in conversation, it involves going through your thoughts, behaviours and feelings, to learn about when you have met or exceeded your expectations of yourself, and when you have failed them, and when you could improve. 

Self-reflection can improve your understanding of the way you make decisions, how you learn, your strengths and weaknesses, and your attitudes, opinions, and beliefs about yourself. 

Journaling practices

1. Daily


Just three things 

Write down three things that went well, or you enjoyed, or that you achieved each day. 

After five days look back at the things you’ve highlighted. 

Do they have anything in common? Does anything surprise you? Is there anything you could put in place so that you get to do more of the things you’re pleased with, or enjoy? 

Just three things (alternative) 

What surprised you today? What challenged you? How did you react/feel? 

On the fifth day look back at the things you’ve highlighted. Do they have anything in common? Does anything surprise you? Is there anything you could put in place so that you get to do more of the things you’re pleased with, or enjoy? 

2. Weekly

How is the balance?

During the past week how have comfortable you felt in your research role/wider life/overall?

How much have you stretched beyond your comfort zone? 

Place an arrow on the diagram below at the position you feel most appropriately indicates where you’ve been working this week. 

Where would you ideally like to be with respect to working in/beyond your comfort zone?

Reflect on:

What do you notice about this?

How far apart are the points you’ve drawn?

How could you change something so that next week the points would be closer together? 

How is the balance of your work and career development? 

During the past week how have you felt in your career development?

Are you in the comfort zone, challenging yourself, or overwhelmed? 

Place an arrow on the diagram below at the position you feel most appropriately indicates where you’ve been working this week.

Where would you ideally like to be with respect to working in/beyond your comfort zone?

Reflect Journaling Comfort Zone

Reflect on:

What comments would you like to make about this?

How far apart are the points you’ve drawn?

How could you change something so that next week the points would be closer together?

3. Monthly

  1. What were the most significant events or experiences of the past month? What did you learn from them?
  2. What were your biggest accomplishments over the past month? How did they make you feel?
  3. What were your biggest challenges over the past month? How did you overcome them, and what did you learn in the process?
  4. What are you most grateful for in your life right now? Why?
  5. What goals or aspirations do you have for the upcoming month? How will you work towards them?
  6. What are some things that have been causing you stress or anxiety lately? How can you address these challenges and reduce their impact on your life?
  7. What have you been doing to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally? What changes could you make to improve your self-care routine?
  8. What are some new things you have learned or discovered over the past month? How have they expanded your knowledge or perspective?
  9. Who are the people in your life that you are most grateful for? How can you show your appreciation for them?
  10. What is one thing you can do in the upcoming month to step out of your comfort zone and try something new or challenging?

Reflection resources

Suggested tasks

Login or register to add these tasks to your personal development plan.

If you’d like to see some prompts from papers we found when looking for reflective journaling practice: 

Alt, D and Raichel, N. 2020. Reflective journaling and metacognitive awareness: insights from a longitudinal study in higher education. Reflective Practice, 21, 145-158. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14623943.2020.1716708 

Hensley, L.C and Munn, K .J. 2020. The power of writing about procrastination: journaling as a tool for change. Journal of Further and Higher Education. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0309877X.2019.1702154 

Quinn, K, 2019. Something Is Going to Happen Here The Use of Mandala Art in Enhancing Reflective Practice. Advances in Nursing Science, 42, E1-E19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30807291/ 

Spowart, L and Turner, R. 2020. The alien world of reflective practice: A non-fictional ‘tale’ of academics’ experiences of applying for Senior Fellowship. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 1-10. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14703297.2020.1800503 

References

Krieger, K., Altenstein, D., Baettig, I., Doerig, N., & Holtforth, M. G. (2018). Self-disclosure and expressive writing in adults: Effects on stress, affect, and symptoms. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 74(6), 891-903.

Burton, C. M., & King, L. A. (2016). The health benefits of writing about positive experiences: The role of broadened cognition. Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(4), 371-382.

Parks-Sheiner, A., Giallo, R., & Coates, D. (2017). Mindful parenting reduces stress, parenting stress and child behaviour problems in parents of pre-schoolers. Mindfulness, 8(3), 665-677.

Baumeister, R. F., Masicampo, E. J., & Vohs, K. D. (2014). Writing about traumatic experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 25(8), 1604-1612.

Seitz-Brown, C. J., Neppl, T. K., & Schuler, K. L. (2018). Journaling enhances adult learning and retention of biology concepts: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(9), 1392-1408.

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