The end of the year is naturally a time of reflection. The holidays provide a pause, a collective period of downtime — and a great moment to look back on the year that has been. Reflection is the first step in self-awareness and is valuable in helping us assess what went well and what didn’t. This reflective process can help us think about what we would like to call into our lives moving forward and help make new goals for the year ahead.
The best way to do this is via journaling — the act of putting your thoughts and emotions on paper. With journaling, you can write whatever you want without judgment or fear of what others might think. Often by journaling, we can discover deep-buried thoughts that we might not realize we have or join the dots and recognize patterns in our lives.
“I describe journal writing as the Marie Kondo method for our thoughts and feelings. First, we have to make time to get that complex mix of emotions, ideas, judgments, and to-do lists out in the open before figuring out what it means and what matters most. It’s an untangling and clarifying process, which leads to a sense of order, calm, and agency,” Moyra Mackie, a Journal Coach, explained.
The benefits of journaling are far-reaching. “Journaling has been shown to boost resilience, memory and communication skills as well as lead to better sleep, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence and higher IQ,” Mackie noted.
At the end of a calendar year, journaling can take on significant importance. This is because journaling helps give us valuable context. Our brains have a negativity bias, and we are more prone to dwell on the negatives than luxuriate in the positives. “Even if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, reflect on how hard you might find it to accept a glowing compliment or to spend more than a few seconds congratulating yourself on your successes. Then we factor in the fear, restrictions, and demands of the pandemic, and we have brains and bodies in survival mode. Journaling can provide a way of processing what has happened to us and to give us a safe place to express all of our feelings,” Mackie clarified.
After this period of processing, we can use journaling to help our New Year resolutions stick. “We know that change happens when we have a strong emotional impetus to do so. This is why journaling often leads to small but powerful commitments to change,” Mackie explained.
“Reflective end of year journaling will put your year into context, giving you a moment of clarity and calm that can free you up to make some wise decisions about what you want to carry into the new year and what you want to leave behind. An end-of-year journal session can act as your coach and cheerleader for what you want or need to face in 2022,” Mackie added.
An end of year journal session can act as your coach and cheerleader for what you want or need to face in 2022
To have a productive and thought-provoking end-of-year journal session, set aside some time where you can be alone and not interrupted. “Think of journaling as time for you — like having a warm bubble bath or a massage,” Mackie said. Let go of expectations and try not to put pressure on yourself. “Understand that there is no one “right” way to journal so that you give yourself permission to greet whatever arises on the page as a source of wisdom and guidance,” Mackie added.
End-of-year journal prompts
Remember, you don’t have to do all of this in one journal “session.” You could choose one step at a time or take a couple and then give yourself a break of a day or so before taking the next step. Each time you begin, take a moment to review what you wrote before and use that wisdom as a stepping stone.
- Can you think of six words — three positive and three negative — that sum up your year?
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and think back over the last year. Write down the first words that come to mind — don’t over-think this and accept that the words you choose may be contradictory!
2. Reflect a bit more on those six words.
Write each of the words you chose at the top of a separate page and spend a few minutes on each. What thoughts, emotions, and memories emerge when you sit with each word? Write down what comes up for you without filtering or judging.
3. If you were to write a thank you letter to yourself right now, what would you write?
Read through your notes about your six words, and then go ahead…write that letter. In addition to showing yourself gratitude, you may wish to include the lessons you’ve learned and perhaps some advice for handling the coming year. It’s up to you!
4. Who else helped get you through this year?
Write their names down, aiming for around six people. Go with the first names that pop into your head.
5. How exactly did they help you?
Write each of these names at the top of a separate page and spend some time considering each person. Be precise about what they did or said that helped you and how that made you feel.
6. Are you ready to move beyond feeling grateful to spreading gratitude?
When you have noted all you can about these people, handwrite them a note and tell them. It doesn’t have to be long, but the notes should capture the essence of what you wrote in step 5. When you’re done, post or give your gratitude letters (because that’s what they are) to each person, reflecting on how you feel before and after you do this.
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