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Journaling can do so much for our mental and physical health then we give it credit for. The act of putting our thoughts down on paper can decrease stress levels, provide a sense of contentment and can even boost work performance.
A study published by Cambridge University states that expressive writing can improve memory, athletic performance, boost students’ grade point average, improve psychological well-being, in addition to many other health and behavioural benefits.
The best part? It’s free. All it requires is your time.
Journaling can include reviewing how your day went, brainstorming ideas, releasing emotions, making sense of emotions or just transferring all your thoughts onto paper. If you’re an over-thinker, then journaling is a key habit to help you process your thoughts. Journaling clears your mind of anything that is taking away from what you should be focusing on. It can be therapeutic for processing through emotions and reactions to external events. It is extremely beneficial before bed to help you slow down your racing mind, allowing you to unwind.
Benjamin Franklin shared in his autobiography that each night he would reflect on the question “what good have I done today?” We can learn a lot from such a simple evening habit. Reflecting on what good you’ve done can provide meaning to your contributions, increase happiness and contentment, or if you’re short on doing good then it may inspire you to do more good the following day.
The Benefits of Journal Reflection
One study from 2012 demonstrated that positive reflection at the end of the day decreases stress and provides a sense of calm in the evening. All that is necessary is writing a list of positive events and providing meaning as to why those events were positive.
A different study from Harvard Business School showed that just 15 minutes of reflecting what went well at the end of the day increased work performance by 22.8%. According to Francesca Gino, one of the leading researchers of the study, reflection allows individuals to “feel more confident that they can achieve things. As a result, they put more effort into what they’re doing and what they learn.”
When it comes to setbacks or adversity at work, the benefit of reflection could be that employees see puzzles instead of problems, they get excited about figuring out the solution and the act of reflection allows time for creative solutions to emerge.
The benefits to your thoughts and personal emotions are similar. Simply reflecting on certain reactions to conversations or events can inspire improved decision-making. You can make meaning out of emotions and figure out a mature way to handle issues that may be occurring in your life. You can develop self-awareness and learn about yourself.
Evening Reflection Journal Prompts from High Achievers
You could keep it simple by following the prompts of The Five-Minute
Journal and reflect on three amazing things that happened that day, or you could take it a step further and adopt some of these journal prompts.
Below are reflection prompts from high achievers. All you need is blank paper, a writing utensil and let your thoughts flow.
– What good have I done today?”
– “What was great about today?”
– “What did I love about today?“
– “What did I learn today?”
– “How did I give today?”
– “How did I improve my life today?”
– “How did I add value to my life?”
– “How did I get closer to my goals?”
– “Moment appreciated today was…”
– “Situation handled well today was…”
– “Something I realized or learned that was impactful was…”
– “Something helped me feel more connected to other people was…”
– “I could have made the day even better if I…”
– “If I was my own coach, I would tell myself this statement about today…”
In his book, Awaken the Giant Within Tony Robbins expresses the importance of reflecting, he states that “if you really want to create a shift in your life, make this a part of your daily ritual for personal success. By consistently asking these questions, you’ll find that you access your mot empowering emotional states on a regular basis, and you’ll begin to create the highways to these emotions of happiness, excitement, pride, gratitude, joy, commitment and love.”1
Tony Robbins, Evening Power Questions:
1. “What have I given today?”
a. “In what ways have I been a giver today?”
2 “What did I learn today?”
3. “How has today added to the quality of my life or how can I use today as an investment in my future?”
He states he often asks the morning questions again in the evening.
Tony Robbins, Morning Power Questions
1. “What am I happy about in my life now?”
a. “What about that makes me happy? How does that make me feel?”
2. “What am I excited about in my life now?”
3. “What am I proud of in my life now?”
4. “What am I grateful in my life now?”
5. “What am I enjoying most in my life now?”
6. “What am I committed to in my life right now?”
7. “Who do I love? Who loves me?”
1. “At the end of the evening, review your day.”
2. “Were there moments you could have handled better? Think through those situations; identify what you can learn from them and do a mental replay with your desired response.”
3. “Take time to read your vision again, immersing yourself once more in what you wrote.”
4. “Write down your wins.”
5. “Take a moment to reflect on any recognition or compliments you received. Stack the positive. Absorb them. Ask yourself: Am I becoming who I most want to be?”
6. “End with gratitude.”
7. “Remember to set aside time weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly to review and change your goals and dreams and to see what you have accomplished and how you have developed.”2
David J. Schwartz:
In his book, The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz outlines an idea called Memory Banks, just as you would deposit money into a bank, he suggests depositing positive, optimistic thoughts into your ‘Memory Bank’.3 Practicing gratitude and appreciating all you have or reflecting on the good things that happened that day would be positive deposits. It’s an effective way to train your brain to seek positivity and increase happiness.
Ending your day and your final thoughts with gratitude is one of the most calming ways to prime your mind for sleep. One of the best journals for gratitude and for reviewing your day is the Five-Minute Journal, or you can get an empty lined journal and free flow.
Get it: Journal
Get it: The Five-Minute Journal
1 Robbins, A., 2013. Awaken the giant within: How to take immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical & financial destiny! New York: Simon & Schuster.
2 Rosenberg, J., 2019. 90 Seconds to a Life You Love. New York: Little Brown Spark.
3 Schwartz, D., 1987. The Magic of Thinking Big. New York: Simon & Schuster.