What is a reflective journal (reflective journaling) or reflective writing? Some may consider it as, “keeping a diary”, but it’s a little more in-depth and structured than just writing thoughts or recording events.
Reflective journaling can be used as a problem-solving tool that can help with developing critical thinking skills. There can be many different types of reflective writing or reasons depending on need.
For example, students of different disciplines may use reflective writing to be general or specific to their course work. Athletes may use reflective writing to help zone in on skill improvement. Building contractors may keep “notes” on progress or need for changes.
My Experience with Reflective Journaling
As a nursing student, I remember such assignments using reflective journaling, or writing. It seemed difficult, too structured for me. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the outline was to help keep me focused, and there was no wrong or right way for writing my thoughts or my interpretations of events, just a means for change or improvement based on evaluation of facts as I saw them.
Even as a nursing instructor myself, I noticed some of my students struggling to complete the reflective writing assignments. They were striving for perfection of the assignment and losing touch with benefits of reflection to situations that can be changed or improved upon.
Reflective writing should not be a struggle, if it is, the writer may choose not to use this tool, thereby losing a potential valuable instrument for change and improvement.
Getting Down to Business with a Reflective Journal
For the purposes of this site, we can focus on reflective journaling for general self-improvement, self-care, healing, health and wellness, and changing habits. We can keep it simple, simple outlines. (I have provided links to download free PDF templates for some very basic/simple Reflective Journal outlines when you subscribe to our newsletters).
Basically, a reflective journal can include five areas of thought (more or less is okay).
This may be a simple outline for you to start with.
- Situation – The situation or event as you see it.
- Reaction – Your reactions, feeling, thoughts to the event.
- Analyze – As if from a different perspective, what do you think may have really been going on? What sense can you make of it?
- Conclusions – What insight have you gained? Could you have done anything differently?
- Action Plan – What will you do different next time? Write out a step by step plan.
Hopefully, you will find this helpful and even personalize it by adding to the outline to suit your needs. I think of this writing as creating art, molding and shaping until I have a finished product I can study and reflect on, that has meaning to me.