I have a smile on my face as I leaf through my journal, there are so many memories. You see, each week on a Sunday I carve out a little time out to note down what I am thankful for.
As we approach the end of the year, I have nearly 50 pages of these gratitudes to read and feel grateful for a year well spent. I am surprised how many of them I have forgotten, without this memory prompt I wouldn’t realise how much I have to be thankful for.
Do you do anything similar? I know that one of our previous retreaters used an app that captured a minute or image a day and was able to look back at 365 at the end of the year. What a wild ride that must have been!
Reflecting on the past isn’t just to jog our memory, or help us reminisce, it can help us move forward too. We learn what works so that we can do more of it and also what doesn’t, so that we can avoid making the same mistakes.
Journaling is a great tool for Reflecting
Last year for the first time I published a journal and together with those that purchased it we used the themes of the journal to guide us through the year. It really helped with accountability and focus. Even more importantly, journaling kept us connected to our values; the principles at our core that drive our decision making, keeping us on purpose.
It also helped with stress and anxiety management as well. Over the past year, my journal given me a place to share my fears and worries alongside my cherished moments. It has helped me make tough decisions and deal with disappointments.
Studies show that people who journal are mentally and physically healthier than those who don’t. As Mina Murray said: “Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.”
How to get the most out of journaling
To get the most out of journaling, I’d suggest doing it at a similar time each day or every few days so that you get into the habit.
Choose a time when you can be alone and free of distractions so that you can concentrate fully.
Try not to worry about the way your write, the only thing that matters is to get your thoughts down, not how they are written.
Here are my five steps to reviewing your year in your journal:
1. How has 2020 been for you?
When you look back on the past 12 months, how has it been for you? 2020 has brought unprecedented change and most of us have had some tough times.
What have your top three highs been? These could be to do with work, your friends and family, your goals and dreams, your health or your beliefs and spirituality.
2. What have you learned?
As well as thinking about your highs, it’s helpful to think about what didn’t go as planned.
What did you learn from these situations that you can take forward into 2021 to help you avoid making the same mistakes again?
3. What do you need to let go of?
Are you holding onto anything that is not serving you? What do you need to forgive yourself for?
Letting go of anger, sadness or disappointment from the past can be hard. But if you are able to let it go, you’ll find that you can move forwards and really live in the moment and enjoy this chapter of your life.
4. What are you grateful for?
One benefit of the pandemic and the restrictions it has brought it that it has reminded many of us what really matters.
So have a think about what you are grateful for. It could be something small like the green outside spaces where you live or bigger things like your health, having a secure job or your friends and family.
No matter your mood, thinking about what you are grateful for helps to increase your positivity, which in turn helps you to move forward and achieve your goals.
5. What will you do in 2021?
Even if you don’t use goals, it’s useful to think about what you’d like to achieve and where you’d like to be by the end of 2021. Imagine looking back at the end of the year and feeling proud of how far you’ve come.
A final thought:
Journaling can make a real difference in our busy, hectic lives because it’s a space to be alone with your thoughts, to process what has happened in your day and learn from it. It’s a safe place to be entirely honest with yourself, to get to know yourself better and to be more in control of your life and where it’s going. As Jen Williamson said:
“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.”
We’d love it you’d join us in journaling in 2021, do purchase your journal here.