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3 Tips to Journal for Self-Awareness (and How it Works)


Self-awareness is seen as one of the greatest and most beneficial character traits. People who are self-aware are not only better equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life, but also the mental struggles of others and themselves.

Journaling is one of the best ways to increase self-awareness. This is supported by anecdotes, personal examples, and peer-reviewed studies. But how can you form the habit of maintaining a journal for self-awareness? How do you even begin?

This article covers how you can start a self-awareness journal yourself, with reasons why it's such a good way to become more self-aware.

How to journal for self-awareness?

Gaining self-awareness is inherent to journaling. But there are some specific things you can do while journaling that can further stimulate your self-awareness.

I will cover a couple of tips that you can use when writing in your self-awareness journal.

1. Take time to write down the things that bother you

Self-awareness is defined as follows:

Conscious knowledge of one's own character and feelings.

If you're looking to increase your self-awareness via journaling, you're going to have to write about the bad things that happen to you as well. You cannot be completely self-aware if you're only an expert in the good things that happen to you.

You need to learn how you cope with bad things as well.

The best way to do this is to just write about the things that bother you on a daily basis. For me, this can mean the following:

  • How I'm stressed by certain deadlines at work.
  • That I'm annoyed at certain actions of my family, friends, or girlfriend.
  • Or how the bad weather is making me feel slightly depressed.

Whatever it is that bothers you, you'll be able to get a better understanding of these things when you write about them.

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2. Keep track of your emotions, happiness, energy levels, etc.

Another thing you can do within your journal is to keep a daily log of certain parts of your mental health.

This doesn't have to be sophisticated at all. Whenever you start writing, just write down the date and take some time to rate certain aspects of how you're feeling.

For example, you can rate your:

  • Happiness/mood (how happy am I?)
  • Energy levels (how energetic am I feeling today?)
  • Productivity (how much did I get done today?)
  • Tiredness (how well-rested are you?)

When I first started journaling, I rated my happiness on a scale from 1 to 10 each day. My pages looked quite messy, but that didn't matter, because I only cared about the actual thought process that was going on inside my head.

I wasn't worried about the looks of my journal, as you can see in the image below:

tracking happiness ratings at the start in my journal

Those numbers you see there are my happiness ratings. I made a conscious effort to reflect on my happiness whenever I was writing in my journal. This had a tremendous effect on my self-awareness, and it's something you can include in your own journal as well!

3. Reflect on how you reacted to certain events

One of the keys to self-awareness is to be able to recognize the way you react to certain events and then alter your reactions for a better outcome.

It's simple, you just have to write about certain events, how you reacted to those events, and how you could have reacted in order to reach a better outcome.

This ties back to the first tip of this article. When you write down the things that bothered you, it's a great idea to think about how you should have reacted in order to reach a better outcome. 

Using the same examples as before, here's what I may write down:

  • If I notice that I'm stressed by deadlines at work, I'll write about how they're not my final responsibility. I'm just an employee, and all I can do is work hard and if that's not enough, then I don't carry the full responsibility for it. Does this solve the issue? No, but it does help me deal with the stress and not worry about things that are not within my control anyway.
  • If certain actions of others annoyed me, I will write about how everyone is probably fighting their own battle, and that almost everybody has good intentions. Instead of staying angry, it's probably better to just talk about it.
  • If I'm depressed because of the bad weather, then it's again good to write about how the weather is not within my control anyway. Maybe I can influence other aspects of my life that will make it better despite the bad weather.

Writing about these things really helps you train your sense of self-awareness. Keep this up and before you know it, you'll use this self-awareness during the day when you can actually steer your life in a better direction!

Additional benefits of journaling besides self-awareness

In addition to helping you gain more self-awareness, journaling is good for other aspects of your mental health, and we have the scientific evidence to prove it.

For example, a 2013 study conducted at the University of Michigan showed that among people with major depression, expressive journaling for 20 minutes a day lowered their depression scores significantly.

According to another study, visual journaling can help decrease stress, anxiety, and negative affect levels in medical students, a demographic known for being more prone to stress and burnout.

Finally, journaling can also help with self-efficacy: according to a 2008 study, the self-efficacy of undergraduate college students was improved after weekly journal assignments. This one is especially related to self-awareness.

With improved self-efficacy results in more confidence and a better understanding of what you are capable of. These traits go hand in hand with self-awareness.

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Wrapping up

Journaling remains one of the best ways to grow self-awareness. This is supported by science, examples, and personal experience. By using your journal to reflect on your thoughts, actions, and emotions, you'll be better able to react positively to the world around you.

Now I want to hear from you! Have you incorporated some of these tips to improve self-awareness through journaling? Are you already keeping a self-awareness journal? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Hugo
Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

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