Introduction how to journal for self-awareness
I love journals. I always have. I’ve kept a journal since I was 10 years old, and I still have notebooks filled with the musings of my younger self. But as much as I enjoy the act of writing, my journals are not always pleasant to read; in fact, they make me cringe quite often.
My journals are full of angst—angst over boys who didn’t like me back, angst over friends who didn’t appreciate me, angst about myself for being so angsty about everything (you get the idea).
Looking back at these pages now, it’s clear that this ritual was meant more to alleviate anxiety than to genuinely explore my feelings or develop self-awareness around them. But after years of trial and error and experimenting with different approaches to journaling, I’ve come up with a series of techniques that help me do just that: better understand myself through writing.
Let’s take a look at what works for me—and how you can apply these tips to your own life too!
Journaling with self-awareness starts with a prompt.
To kick off your journaling practice, take a look at the prompts below. Pick one that feels interesting and relevant to you. Then, write down your thoughts about it in your journal.
- What are some things I want to get done today?
- What was the last thing I was proud of myself for?
- What am I looking forward to this week?
Write in a variety of places.
Writing in different places really helps you to feel the mood and tone of your writing. Change up your environment, move from one place to another, and you’ll find that this will affect the mood of your writing. For example, writing outside can be very freeing and open whereas writing at a desk may feel more closed in or oppressive.
Writing in different formats can also help you feel how something is being said by changing it up every once in a while. For example, I’ve been known to write a poem on paper and then transcribe it into an email or text message as if someone else was saying it (without actually sending it). This helps me understand the meaning behind the words better than just sitting down with pen and paper from start to finish would have done!
Don’t overthink the format.
A journal is not a notebook. It can be anything, really: a physical book, an app on your phone or computer, or even just something on your computer desktop. There’s no wrong way to do it as long as you’re writing and reflecting.
So what is this kind of writing for? Well for starters, you might use it to keep track of events in your life—birthdays and holidays; where you were born and where you’ve lived; what happened the last time you saw a friend who went away for a few years… whatever feels helpful to write down!
Or maybe it’s more like collecting data points from which to draw conclusions about yourself:
- When did I feel confident?
- What activities make me feel most alive?
- How has my relationship with food changed over time?
- What makes me happiest when things go wrong (and also when they go right)?
You could also use the process of journaling as an opportunity to reflect on what things mean in light of who we are today versus three years ago or even three hours ago; if nothing else this will probably help us remember how quickly time passes us by without our realizing it until one day we look back at all those scribbles that used to seem like so much work but now simply remind us how quickly life goes by while we aren’t looking.
Be vulnerable when you’re journaling for self-awareness.
It’s time to get vulnerable. If this is the first time you’ve ever written in a journal, your main struggle will be deciding what to write about. You may think that it’s best to start with an open-ended question like “How was my day?” and then proceed from there.
But don’t do that!
It’s tempting because it feels safe—but it can also lead to bland writing that doesn’t accomplish much of anything useful for your self-awareness or knowledge of yourself as a person.
Instead, try asking yourself something specific and personal:
- What were your goals today?
- How did they go?
- Did they help you achieve what you wanted? or
- Did they get in the way somehow?
This kind of introspection will help pinpoint areas in which you could improve yourself and the changes that need to be made so that next time around those challenges are less difficult or even nonexistent (or both).
Consider different ways of exploring your experiences when you’re journaling for self-awareness
You can also see what kind of writing works best for you. Some people like to journal with a pen and paper, while others prefer to use a computer or smartphone app.
The physical act of writing may be more relaxing than typing, and the tactile sensation of having something in your hand helps you focus on your thoughts more clearly (and prevents them from escaping before you’ve had a chance to process them).
Another way that journals differ in their structure—some contain prompts with which you fill in the blanks; others leave spaces for free-form writing; still others give questions that prompt self-reflection, but allow you the freedom within those parameters. It’s worth experimenting with different kinds of journals until you find one that feels natural for expressing yourself.
Vary your moods and topics when you’re journaling for self-awareness
You can write about a variety of topics, but consistency is key. If you’re struggling to find inspiration and enthusiasm for your journaling, try writing about different moods or places. For example:
- You could write one entry while feeling excited (manic mode).
- Another entry is when you’re sad or angry (depressive mode).
- And another when you’re calm and peaceful (equilibrium mode).
Take your journal with you everywhere.
Taking your journal with you everywhere is a fantastic way to become more present, aware of your surroundings, notice how you’re feeling and thinking, and get in touch with your body.
I know what you’re thinking: “But I have so many things to do! How can I possibly find the time?” The trick is to make it part of your routine instead of something extra or unexpected.
Try carrying around a small notebook that fits easily into whatever bag or purse you carry around most often (for me right now it’s my backpack). Make sure there’s always something pen-shaped inside that notebook so that if inspiration strikes at an off moment (like when waiting in line at Starbucks) then all you need do is reach into your bag and write down whatever thoughts come through while they’re still fresh.
When you’re journaling for self-awareness; try not to be attached to the outcome.
Making a journal is a form of self-care, but it’s also another way to get lost in the idea that your creativity will be judged.
Even if you don’t put your writing out there for anyone to read, there are still so many ways that you can feel like it should turn out “perfect.” You might feel pressure to write about things that seem important or relevant, or to keep track of all the wonderful moments happening in your life right now so that someday when you look back on them they will seem even more special than they are now (and thus make up for the fact that they weren’t perfect).
Or maybe you’re trying not to write at all because you think if someday someone reads over what was going on inside of me then I’ll look silly and embarrassed!
Don’t worry about any of this! Worrying about how others will interpret what’s going on inside our heads makes us lose sight of our feelings and stops us from being authentic with ourselves—not only in our journals but also in everything else we do throughout the day as well.
By journaling in different ways, and being vulnerable but also kind to yourself, you can develop self-awareness
Journaling can help you to learn more about yourself, by exploring your thoughts and feelings, the world around you, and your relationships with others, and with yourself. It’s a great way to develop self-awareness (which is one of the most important skills for a successful life).
- Explore what makes you feel happy and unhappy. What do you need in order to feel fulfilled? What do other people mean when they say things like ‘I want my life back’ or ‘I want to get off this merry-go-round’? Do they know how best to achieve these things? This is why it’s important to be open-minded when reading blogs/articles on mindfulness – there may be no one right answer for everyone!
- Explore what makes up your personality: Get into a habit of reflecting on how others perceive you because then if anyone ever asks something like ‘How am I supposed to know where I’d like my career path’ – well now they know exactly where their strengths lie! That said, however…don’t let those opinions hold sway over such decisions because ultimately only YOU know what makes YOU happy 🙂
Are you ready to journal for self-awareness?
Wow, what a journey that was. I hope it gave you some insight into how to journal for self-awareness and how the process can benefit your life.
At the end of the day, we often know what’s best for ourselves but just need a little nudge in that direction. Journaling is an excellent tool for nudging yourself in a positive direction. Plus, it gives you plenty of time to practice your penmanship!
Have you recently started to journal? Share with a comment