Episode #4 of the course A daily journal practice to become a better person every day by John Robin
“You cannot have a meaningful life without having self-reflection.” —Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, dubbed “Queen of All Media”
Welcome to Lesson 4, as our journey with daily journaling continues!
Yesterday, we talked about visualization, that important start-of-day aspect of your journal. Visualizing at the start of your day is important because it primes your subconscious with intentions in the day to come.
But each day will take you back to the same endpoint: home and bedtime. This is where the true power of your daily journal comes into play, as you put in seven to ten minutes of reflection and fill in the remaining parts of the page. Getting the most out of this reflection is what we’re going to talk about today.
Begin Your Day at the End
Your end-of-day reflection only takes seven to ten minutes. Though this isn’t a long time, it can be difficult to keep.
The best thing you can do is establish a wind-down routine at the end of every day and include this seven- to ten-minute journaling time at the end of that.
To figure out your wind-down routine, do the same as you did with the morning routine. Ideally, it’s good to do things that will make you sleep better or feel good in the morning. For example:
• cleaning the dishes/kitchen
• preparing meals for tomorrow
• reading before bed
• taking a hot shower
I personally like doing my journal after a hot shower. Then I clean the kitchen, brush my teeth, and read until sleepy.
What you are essentially doing is beginning your day at the end. Instead of going from a busy day to sleep to blaring alarm tomorrow to another busy day until sleep strikes again—and on and on—you are bookending your conscious experience of time and grounding yourself daily in a calm, repetitive set of activities that are always yours, where you can slip out of the day and see the next one waiting for you after a good night’s sleep.
Ideally, a wind-down routine should be what you do 40-60 minutes before sleep, and like your morning routine, it should be scalable. This means if you’ve had a late night out and are way past your bedtime, you can still run through the beats of your wind-down routine, but in 15-30 minutes. Include your seven- to ten-minute reflection as part of this.
Preparing for Reflection
In the beginning, you might have a few struggles, especially if you sit down to start and find that you’re agitated or your mind is elsewhere.
For best results with reflection, I recommend practicing a simple form of transcendental meditation. To do this, use a mantra, such as, “I am here now in this,” or, “I am here,” repeated again and again, slowly and evenly, as you breathe fully in and out.
If you meditate already, when you plan your wind-down routine, try a short 10-15-minute meditation before your end-of-day journal time. This will get you even more in the zone.
Being Kind to Yourself
As I outlined in Lesson 2, when you begin your reflection each day, the first thing you will do is mark your previous day’s intentions, as well as the beats of your start-of-day visualization:
• “✔” if you did it
• “x” if you didn’t
• “~” if you did something similar
Notice that I don’t use the word “fail” when I tell you to mark an “x” on something you didn’t do.
Instead, think of “✔” as “I did this like I intended” and “x” as “I didn’t do this.” I’ve introduced the “~” because it’s important to recognize that sometimes you might realize, “I didn’t do this like I intended, but I accomplished it in another way.”
There is no fail. There is only try and try again. Try until you don’t have to try anymore. That means either you’ve done it and internalized it, or you’ve decided it’s not as important as it seemed and you’ve moved on to better things.
You’ll notice that certain issues will repeat and echo across your entries. Mostly, you’ll find that small successes add up and seem more attainable.
Focus on those. Focus on what’s in your control and what you can do, because big change starts with small, attainable actions that can take effect immediately.
If you notice that you didn’t complete much of what you intended in yesterday’s journal or the morning’s visualization, simply notice that, and treat it as an opportunity to learn more about what you are able to accomplish.
As you fill in your journal for today, establish an end-of-day wind-down routine, and incorporate your end-of-day journal reflection into it.
Tomorrow, we’ll move onto the next part of the journal: a different approach to gratitude.
Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
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