How to Write a Reflective Journal

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Whether you are interested in creating a reflective journal to improve your writing or any other part of your life, the pages you fill can become a participatory element in your daily routine. Each time you sit down to write, you are embarking on a journey where there are no expectations. You can write anything. This in itself can make the journaling process a meditative experience.

Determine which kind of journal you should use. There are small and extra-large journals, thin or thick journals. You can use anything from a plain subject notebook to a fancy leather and gold-leafed journal. You may even wish to emboss your initials on the cover. These are all fine, though many people find it less inhibiting to write in something less fancy. In a similar fashion, where to write has its implications in your reflective journaling too. Choose a place with minimal distractions but also a place where you feel at ease. Some like silence; some like the radio. If you're not sure what works for you, experiment.

Don't be in a hurry to write. Reflective journals are meant to provide feedback, hindsight and even future goals based on an experience you have had. There is no correct way to begin a journal. Just write. Setting aside at least a good 20 minutes is preferable because it can take the mind this long to let loose. Don’t worry if words are misspelled or if it doesn’t look neat; leave editing to other parts of your life. If you aren’t sure what to write at first, simply start writing what you observe around the room and whatever else comes into your head. It may take several minutes to break in to a fluid stream of writing.

Use exercises to get a reflective entry going if you get stuck. Starting with a question can give any entry a direction if you are feeling lost. Even a question as general as “Am I happy today?” can start an entry. Lists also can be a powerful form to engage the brain. Make a list of five things you liked about your recent travels or experiences, for example, and five you don’t--and then start writing about why. If you are starting a journal for a specific reason such as a weight loss journal or a pregnancy journal, start with an update at the beginnings of your entries. State what you think is going well and what is not, and then why and how you feel will usually follow. Reflective journals are meant to be feeling-based; they aren’t scientific logs of your life.

Check for recurring themes. Once you have made several reflective journal entries, it can be interesting to look through them and see if there are any topics that repeatedly come up. This may allow you to examine internal conflicts or realizations you were not aware of. Much of the time, the simple act of writing out your thoughts can be a way to keep up with who you are and what you did or didn’t like in the past--and what you might do differently in the future. Coming to realize these things can mean being more at peace with yourself.


  • It can boost creativity and get words flowing if you take your journaling outside. Try taking your reflective journal on a hike or to the beach. Journaling during different times of the day might work better for individuals. Some write every morning as the sun rises, while others pull out paper and pen while dinner bubbles on the stove.