5 Key Methods of Reflective Journaling

There isn’t a blueprint when it comes to journaling but there are a few methods that can be suggested in order to spark your critical thinking skills and allow for deeper thoughts to flow from your pen onto paper. Reflective journaling helps develop creativity, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking skills. It’s vital to stop and reflect both personally and professionally. Based on a recent article by marketing strategist, Anthony Miyazaki, he outlines the 5 key elements of reflective journaling and states both critical thinking and reflective journaling can be used to “help in learning about experiences and worldviews, their degree of intersection of processes and purposes make them ideal for combining into one whole.” 

  1. Reporting

In elementary school, we often jotted down the events that may have taken place within the last day, week, or month. Honestly, this is the primary method we were taught and many of us continue to do so until this day. While reporting isn’t necessarily a negative thing as it allows for the documentation of history to be used as a reference, it can be a surface level way of journaling. Reporting is a way to assess, evaluate, and factual report an event or series of events. However, if you’re looking to dive into your thoughts and explore your ideas, this method may not be the best way to go. 

2. Expression of Impact/Emotion

Expressing emotions is both therapeutic and necessary for many. It’s okay to reflect on a specific incident or experience and express the way it made you feel as this has been proven to be a healthy way of coping with life events as it reduces stress and aids in clarifying your thoughts and feelings. Documenting your emotions helps keep a record of any past experiences and can explain why specific decisions were made at particular point in time. 

3. Questioning

Asking yourself open-ended questions is a great way to spark the critical thinking process as to why or how certain things occur. Q&A style journaling helps stimulate the critical thinking process. These open-ended questions often lead to self-discovery through writing. 

4. Interpretation

Communication is constant in our culture and as the receivers of information, our interpretation matters. In order for us to understand world views, values, concepts and more we often feel a need to dissect or decode the information we receive. This journaling style can also include the interpretation of events or experience that have occurred which helps us ultimately reach a level of understanding and clarity. 

5. Insights Leading to Decision-making

Reflective journaling can help navigate making difficult decisions, and helps you get to the bottom of the conflict you may be facing. Michael Mauboussin explains this method best, “The idea is whenever you are making a consequential decision, write down what you decided, why you decided as you did, what you expect to happen, and if you’re so inclined, how you feel mentally and physically.” A decision journal helps you collect accurate and honest feedback on what you were thinking at the time you made the decision and also helps you clarify what you want as it encourages you to consider they why and how, not just the what. 

Reflective journaling is extremely beneficial as it is healthy for the mind and body. It allows us to track our most inner thoughts, feelings, and goals and helps us answer questions only we ourselves can answer.