Reflecting on daily experiences

Posted by Karen in Personal Development | Reflections | Wellbeing

The power of daily journaling

Too often, we’re swept along by the demands of each day with little time or inclination to reflect on how the day has gone – what went well and what didn’t, how we felt and why and if we would we have done anything differently given the opportunity again.

When I was training to be a life coach, I was taught how to keep a journal in a particular way– it was part of our course work. The practice has stayed with me and I have filled many A5-note books since.

Now, by ‘journaling’ I don’t’ mean keeping a diary in the conventional sense, i.e. recounting and capturing all the events and experiences of the day or week.

I mean reflecting on your experience of the past 24 hours in a particular way in order to increase awareness of how we experience life, i.e. our thoughts, feelings, how we say things and our behavior in situations.

Journaling helps to shed light on ourselves, helping us to see ourselves more clearly. It’s helps us to get to know ourselves so that we can more often be who we want to be and to become – more patient, kind, confident, organised, calm, thankful, empathetic, a better listener….

When you commit to journaling, it will bring great insight. It continues to be an invaluable personal development tool for me.

Here’s how to get started:

Get yourself a nice A5 notepad and make it yours.
I recommend using pen and paper to ensure a direct connection between your brain, thoughts, feelings and body sensations over using an electronic device that will take you further away from your direct experience.

Set aside 10-15 minutes each day.
(If you’re thinking I don’t have time for this, ask yourself, is that really the case. Indeed, spending 10 -15 minutes every day will become a treasured moment in your day, a quality moment in your own best company.

Set an intention when you will journal for 10-15 minutes every day vs try to journal – when we say to ourselves ‘I’ll try to journal’, it already implies doubt and there’s a good chance that we won’t do it.

For some people it works best to do it at the same time every day. It’s often easier to make it a habit and to integrate it into your day. The most important thing is that you do it every day. And if you don’t do it one day, that’s okay. You can always start again the next day.

I journal first thing in the morning, after my shower and with my morning coffee. I do it at the same time every day.

Now you’re ready to journal:

1. What was the best part of  your day? Write down one thing – a happy, pleasant moment – you experienced that made you smile or that you enjoyed.

2. What didn’t work so well in the past 24 hours? Take care to use neutral language. Bring a curious and friendly attitude towards what was going on for you.

What was happening for you during that time? Ask yourself: ‘What could I do differently next time?’ This is what I call the ‘learning question’. Be encouraging, use language such as ‘Next time I want to…, ‘I would like to…’ or ‘I will…’. vs ‘I should have done…or I must do x, y, z’.

‘Should’ and ‘must’ can have a detrimental impact on how we experience our life, i.e. putting ourselves under undue pressure.

Exploring, bringing interest and curiosity to ourselves, reflecting on what was going on for us in a particular moment enhances our learning mind, helps us to develop as a person. Avoid spiralling down into self-criticism.
3. What has worked well in the last 24 hours? Write down 1-3 things that you feel have worked well, for example, the lunch break you took away from your desk although you felt you were too busy, remembering to breathe and to stay calm when you were in a difficult meeting at work, leaving the pub at the time you wanted to vs staying out late and feeling exhausted the next day, getting up earlier twice during the week to exercise in the morning, walking to work… 

I find it so fascinating and encouraging when I randomly open a notebook to read back, to see where I’ve come from on my personal journey.  Download this summary resource tool on keeping a journal. 

As always, I am curious about how you are getting on. Drop me a line or if you’d like some support, book a free 30-minute coaching taster session in Victoria park, East London, via phone or Skype.


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