There are only a handful of practices I have consistently harnessed for my mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing for years and years. Keeping a reflective journal is one of them.
As one of the most simple and accessible forms of self-therapy, reflective journaling doesn’t have to be complex or wordy. You can gain benefits from writing just a paragraph or even a sentence, making the art of reflective journaling beneficial for the time-poor and for those who want to commit to a simple form of ongoing inner work.
Below, I’ll share some reflective journal prompts as well as some examples to help get you started. But first, let’s start with some basics:
Table of contents
What is Reflective Journaling?
Reflective journaling is a form of introspective journaling that enables you to gain access to deeply held feelings, thoughts, dreams, and desires through the simple practice of reflection and contemplation.
The overall purpose of reflective journaling is to increase your level of self-awareness and self-understanding, which can lead to sparks of insight about what you truly want and need in life.
In a sense, we can think about keeping a reflective journal as a form of self-therapy as it’s like having a therapeutic conversation with yourself that can lead to big emotional breakthroughs, healing insights, and deep shifts in perception.
12 Extraordinary Benefits of Reflective Journaling
Some of these benefits include the following:
- Increases self-awareness and self-understanding
- Soothes stress and relaxes the nervous system
- Improves your decision making skills and increases inner clarity
- Helps you to have a big-picture perspective of your life
- Strengthens your connection to your deeper voice of intuition
- Promotes emotional regulation
- Provides a healthy outlet for exploring and working through painful traumas
- Enables you to practice an ongoing form of inner work
- Bolsters your self-growth and development
- Increases your creativity and powers of self-expression
- Empowers you to develop more self-love and kindness
- Supports you through paradigm shifting experiences like having a child, getting married or divorced, moving countries, and inward shifts such as the spiritual awakening process, existential crisis, midlife crisis, and so on
So … What is the Difference Between Normal Journaling and Reflective Journaling?
Normal journaling, the kind that we’re used to thinking about, tends to focus on expressing ideas, thoughts, and experiences soon after they’ve occurred.
Reflective journaling, on the other hand, involves thinking a little more deeply about your feelings, experiences, and life circumstances, what they mean to you, and how they impact your inner world.
While normal journaling touches on the surface of your life (the whats, whens, and wheres), reflective journaling plunges beneath the metaphorical waves and is deeply introspective (exploring the hows and whys).
Normal journaling simply documents thoughts and feelings, while reflective journaling examines the underlying processes and causes behind our thoughts and feelings.
Reflective Journal Examples
As you’ve just learned, reflective journaling examines the hows and whys of our life experience, and explores what’s underneath our inner perceptions.
So what does reflective journaling actually look and sound like in practice?
Here are some short reflective journaling examples which I hope can show you how simple reflective journaling can be:
I bumped into an old friend again today, but it felt so awkward and I was uncomfortable the whole time. I just wanted to leave as soon as possible. I’m not sure why that was? Perhaps I feel like I don’t deserve to be treated in a good way – that would tie into my shadow work exploration that I did last week.
It’s Christmas time again, and although I’m thankful for a lot, I can’t shake a feeling of loneliness around this time of year. I love my family but in some ways I feel isolated by this celebration and it feels kind of fake, like something I can’t get behind fully. I wonder why that is? I think one of the main reasons for that is feeling burned out by work. Christmas just adds one more thing on my plate that exhausts me. I’ve got to change something here.
I was scrolling through social media earlier today and I’ve got to tell you that I just feel like crap afterward. I don’t know why I keep wasting hours of my life on places like Instagram and Tiktok. I think it might be because I can’t deal with my boredom or I want to find some sense of direction with my life. But I know this habit isn’t healthy for me. Maybe I can replace that soul sucking void of meaninglessness with doing some more hikes in nature and actually life experience (social media free!).
My mood has been up and down today and I think that might be because I didn’t process the argument I had last night – I need to get painting ASAP to release these feelings!
As you can see, keeping a reflective journal isn’t about just narrating the days events, but it examines the hows and whys of our inner experience so that we can heal and grow as people.
Also, don’t feel the need to writing a long page either if you don’t feel like it or don’t have enough time, even just a sentence (as the last example showed) can be enough!
15 Reflective Journal Prompts for Self-Healing and Emotional Wellness
Reflective journaling can be structured or unstructured meaning that you can write whatever you feel and reflect on it, or you can use a structured approach and answer a prompt (such as the ones below).
I’d also encourage you to do a little experimenting. So if you’re used to unstructured journaling, try structured journaling, and vice versa. You never know what eye-opening insights might burst into your awareness!
Here are fifteen reflective journaling prompts for self-healing and emotional wellness:
1. How are your weaknesses also strengths? And how are your strengths also weaknesses?
2. What painful emotion did you experience today and what is it trying to tell you about your deeper needs?
3. What are five of your core values that are non-negotiable? Define them and then think about how you can use these values as a compass to make wise life decisions.
4. Reflect on what you were grateful for today that you usually take for granted. How can practicing gratitude help you to live a more joyful life?
5. Explore a recent challenge you faced and the deeper lesson you learned from it.
6. How did your shadow self (i.e., your dark side) emerge unexpectedly today or in the past week? What triggered it and why?
7. Contemplate three things you would like to let go of, whether internally or externally. Why?
8. Reflect on how your inner child has appeared in your life in the past week. What does s/he want from you?
9. What qualities are the people in your life mirroring back to you right now – both “good” and “bad”? Which qualities do you have trouble accepting that you might be disowning within yourself as well?
10. If you could say or do one thing as an act of mindful self-compassion, what would that be?
11. What negative thought patterns have you been experiencing lately? Where did they come from and why have they been appearing?
12. If you could define this past month or year with one word, what would it be, and why?
13. Which season reflects your inner world right now: summer, autumn, winter or spring? Reflect on what season of inner growth you’re in and what life lessons you’re learning as a result.
14. If you could create a safe space inside of yourself, what would it look and feel like? Who or what would occupy this space?
15. What does the voice of your intuition sound or feel like? How can you know when your intuition is active versus your thinking mind?
Go ahead and choose any number of the above self reflective journal prompts – or create your own and share them below in the comments!
I am so grateful for learning about journaling at a young age and for continuing to use it up until the present day. Keeping a reflective journal has helped me to move through anxiety, depression, stuckness, confusion, grief, and so many more difficult life circumstances. I truly hope it can be a comforting and healing resource for you as well.
If you’d like to explore other facets of journaling, I highly recommend checking out any of the following guides that I’ve written which offer many more journaling prompts and other helpful pieces of advice:
- How to Begin a Spiritual Journal (Start Here!)
- 100+ Journaling Ideas For Deep Mental & Spiritual Healing
- How to Journal: 19 Beginner Tips For Modern Mystics
- 18 Benefits of Journaling (+ Tips For “Bad” Writers!)
For more structured and purpose-driven journaling, you might like to see the following highly rated journals I’ve crafted around specific inner work topics:
What are your favorite reflective journal prompts that have sparked some amazing insights? I’d love to hear in the comments!