How to Properly Start a Self-Reflection Journal: Step-by-Step

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Journaling is an excellent way to hit the pause button on a fast-paced life and slow down. Add in the element of self-reflection and you’ll take a deep dive into how balanced your life is, learn more about yourself, and be encouraged to grow and change. 

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Self-reflection journaling is ideal for anyone looking to get into journaling on a deeper level. Assisted by prompts, you’ll be encouraged to analyze how you approach life, why you think about things the way you do, and how to become a better person. Ready to get into it? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this practice.

What Is a Self-Reflection Journal?

A self-reflection journal is a journal that is geared toward helping you understand more about the inner workings of yourself. Questions dig deep into how you think, why you act and respond the way you do, and how in-balance your life is. When your life is out of balance, self-reflection journal prompts often reveal the areas where imbalance occurs. 

By journaling through self-reflection prompts, you can navigate through experiences, feelings, mindsets, and emotions. Sometimes you’ll become aware of things in your life you didn’t know about yourself. Other times, you’ll affirm things you already knew, and it’ll build your confidence and self-esteem. 

Self-reflection journaling can do many things including:

  • Challenge you
  • Grow you
  • Help you change
  • Show you what needs changing

The prompts that guide you through self-reflection journaling are different from any other type of journaling since the point of the self-reflection isn’t to describe your day or list things you’re thankful for like you would in a gratitude journal. Though there may be elements of describing a day or writing about things you’re grateful for, self-reflection is for the primary purpose of learning more about yourself.

Steps for Starting a Self-Reflection Journal

Thinking about starting a self-reflection journal? Here are the steps we recommend taking.

Step 1: Set aside a time for journaling

If you’re starting a new habit, then you’ll want to set aside time each day in order to get your reflection journaling in. If you try to fit it into your regular schedule without designating a specified time in your day, you're much less likely to consistently keep this new habit.

The time of day you plan for your journaling is entirely up to you and your schedule. You might decide to journal in the morning before everyone gets out of bed, in the evening before you go to sleep for the night, or in the middle of the day during a lunch break. Whenever you plan to do your journaling, simply ensure that you will be able to block off the amount of time you need to complete a journal entry.

Step 2: Set up your space

Along with planning a specific time to journal, you should figure out a space that lends itself to journaling each day. This might be a comfy couch or overstuffed chair near a window, a seat at your kitchen island, sitting up in bed, or even sitting in your car. Designating a space to do your journaling will help you remain consistent with completing this new habit each day.

Step 3: Gather your supplies

The supplies you’ll want to have on hand vary depending on the type of journaler you are. At a minimum, you'll want a pen or pencil, and your journal. You might also want to have colored pencils or calligraphy markers on hand, stickers, washi tape, and other elements to decorate each page with.

Step 4: Choose a journal

There are many self-reflection journals available both online and in stores. Choosing the type of journal you want to use is up to your personal preference. There are plain journals that are lying, unlined journals that allow you to draw and doodle, journals with self-reflection questions, religious journals that pair questions with scripture, journals you can color, and more.

There is no wrong way to choose a journal. Simply choose one that appeals to the type of journaling you want to do. Before shopping, determine whether you want a writing-only journal or a journal that allows you to express your creative side. If you choose a blank journal, just keep in mind that you'll need to find and insert your own self-reflection prompts.

Step 5: Start journaling

You might find that completing your first journal entry was a challenge. Or it could be an easy and enjoyable activity. If you find it a challenge to examine yourself by answering the journal prompts, try not to get discouraged. Like any new habit, this one might take a week or two to get used to. 

Once you start regularly journaling, you're sure to find that the insights you discover are well worth the time and effort it takes to get into this new habit.

Step 6: Periodically review your answers

Self-reflection journaling is all about growth. It can be beneficial to go back later on and review what you've written. by reading old journal entries, you'll see the ways you've grown, changed, matured, and learned how to take better care of yourself in this crazy, fast-paced world. You'll also be able to celebrate achievements and milestones along the way.

How to Format a Self-Reflection Journal

There are many ways to format a self-reflection journal, and it all depends on the way you like to journal. In general, you’ll want to place the date and journal prompt at the top of the page. Beyond that, the rest is up to you. 

You might choose to:

  • Record a written entry only 
  • Draw a doodle along with your written entry
  • Paint a picture
  • Add stickers and decorative elements
  • Add a follow-up prompt for future-self journaling 

Most self-reflection journals are already formatted unless you purchase a blank journal. If you want the most freedom to be creative and incorporate your own format, then you’ll want to go with a blank journal or a bullet journal.

Self-Reflection Journal Entry Prompt Examples

If you’re starting a self-reflection journal and using a blank notebook or bullet journal, you’ll need to choose your own prompts. Here are several you can use to get started journaling.

  • What makes you feel alive?
  • Are you spending enough time with loved ones? If not, what needs to change so you can?
  • What is one thing you can do to challenge yourself and grow this year?
  • What makes you feel acknowledged and appreciated?
  • What makes you smile each day?
  • Do you take time to care for yourself by doing something that makes you feel happy? If not, what can you do to start incorporating that into your daily routine?
  • What would you like your life to look like 10 years from now?

Self-Reflection Journal Entry Examples

Ready to get into the art of self-reflection? Here are a few examples to provide you with insight and inspiration.

Entry #1

Date: 2/1/22

Prompt: What makes you feel alive?

I feel the most alive when I’m skiing the slopes with the sun shining above me, blue sky surrounding me, and pine trees zipping by as I tackle the double black diamond routes. There’s nothing that thrills me more than the challenge, the speed, the cold, and the excitement of going from the top of the world to the bottom of the mountain and then doing it all over again.

Entry #2

Date: 2/2/22

Prompt: If you were financially independent, what would you do with your time?

If I was financially independent, I would spend a lot of time looking into organizations, causes, and charities that I could help fund. I would spend much more time with my family and enjoy living in the moment more. I would spend time thoughtfully enjoying the little things like taking walks, soaking in the morning sunshine, and inhaling the aroma of my daily cup of coffee. 

Entry #3

Date: 2/3/22

Prompt: What makes you feel acknowledged and appreciated?

I feel appreciated for my hard work when my boss stops by my office and compliments me on a job well done with a client. I feel appreciated when my husband thanks me for a delicious dinner. I always feel appreciated when someone tells me my hard work is recognized and valued.

I feel acknowledged when someone validates what I’m feeling or going through. Like when a friend listens to how much I’ve got going on and then says that there’s a lot on my plate. Or when my husband doesn’t say anything at all but wraps me in his arms when I tell him I’ve had a frustrating day. 

Where Can You Buy a Self-Reflection Journal?

Self-reflection journals are quite popular, so you can purchase them online and in stores.

Amazon

Amazon has a good selection of self-reflection journals, including:

  • Blank journals
  • Bullet journals
  • Color-in journals
  • Daily journals
  • Weekly journals
  • 3-month long journals
  • Yearly journals

Most sellers allow you to utilize the “look inside” feature and preview the first 10 or so pages of each journal. This helps you get an idea of the style, layout, and flavor of each journal before committing to purchase it.

Etsy 

Etsy is perfect for purchasing reflection journals if you want specific customizations or personalization features such as having your name stamped on the front of the journal. Etsy sellers offer unique journals, including:

  • Personalized journals
  • Customized journals 
  • Leather-bound journals
  • Hand-stitched journals
  • Hand-made paper journals

The Playful Psychologist

The Playful Psychologist is an online website run by Emily Hanlon, a clinical psychologist from Australia. She provides a ton of free resources aimed at helping her readers improve their mental health. One such resource is a free self-reflection journal available to download as a PDF. 

The journal contains eight prompts, one for a week, to get you started. This is a great resource if you want to try out self-reflection journaling without committing to purchasing a journal.

Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, etc

Stores like Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls all have a selection of books and journals. These are good places to look at several journals at the same time, especially if you're unsure of which style you prefer. 

You can also get a thorough look at each journal before you buy one. Thumb through several different options, browse the pages, and read the prompts before deciding if the journal provides you with the questions and creative outlet you want.

Journaling for Self-Discovery

Self-reflection journals are all about discovering and affirming things about yourself. You might be surprised by what you discover. You’ll set goals you have yet to reach, think up challenges you want to try, and learn how and why you view the world the way you do. Once you start journaling and get into the habit, you might just find that you never want to stop.

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