5 journalling techniques to get to know yourself

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Mental Health

How well do you really know yourself?

Making space to raise self-awareness can help you to find your direction in life, and notice red flags when they come up. Not sure where to start? Try these journaling techniques, and get reacquainted with you.

1. Try the ‘words to describe you’ exercise

Sometimes there’s a disconnect between the way we view ourselves and the way others see us. Often, we have a more negative perception of ourselves and fail to see the positives that others do. Bringing the two together can be helpful and uncover qualities about yourself you’ve never considered before, and this is what this exercise can help with.

Start by writing a list of all the words you would use to describe yourself, and then ask a loved one (a partner, friend, or family member) to write a list of the words they would use to describe you. Take a look at both, and notice the similarities and differences. Is there anything here that surprises you?

2. Identify your core values

Our values are the things that are most important to us in life. They can act as signposts, helping us to stay on track and make decisions as we navigate the world. If you’ve never thought about your own personal values before, start by writing a long list of the life principles that mean most to you – such as kindness, creativity, joy, or equality.

Then, try to narrow this list down to your top three values, and journal about why these are important to you. Consider how you can bring them into your life more, too.

If you’ve identified your core values before, remember to check-in with them from time to time. As we grow and change, our values can too – nothing is set in stone.

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3. Write about a photograph

Using a visual prompt can help you tap-in to your subconscious, and reveal things about yourself you might not be aware of. There are several ways you can use imagery with journaling, but here are a couple of ideas to start with:

Try using an old photograph of yourself and write about what comes up for you. What are your memories of this time? How would you describe the mood of the photo versus the mood of the moment it was captured? Do you remember what was happening behind the scenes?

Next, choose an image you’re drawn to in a magazine or online, and write about how it makes you feel. Why were you drawn to this image in particular? What do you like about the image? What don’t you like?

4. Write letters to your past, present, and future selves

Writing letters can be incredibly therapeutic, and when we address them to ourselves, we create a subtle but helpful sense of distance. This offers a new perspective, which can be enlightening.

Start by writing a letter to your past self, what do you want them to know? Do you need to forgive them? Do they need comfort and reassurance?

Once you’ve done this, try writing to your future self. What hopes do you have for them? What do they need to know about present-you? Where do you hope they are in their life?

Finally, write a letter to your present self, from your future self. What have you achieved? What have you learnt about life? What do you want present-you to know about?

Keep these letters somewhere safe, and open them up from time to time as a reminder.

5. Complete self-awareness sentence stems

Sentence stems give us a starting point when it comes to journaling, and help to direct our practice. Try completing the following sentence stems which focus on self-awareness:

My perfect day would be…
I feel most like myself when…
I feel disconnected from
myself when…
I get excited about…
I worry about…
If I could make one change in the world it would be…
Someone who inspires me is… because…

We are wonderfully complex beings, who constantly shift and change over time; this means that our learning never stops. Experiment with different journaling techniques to find what feels good to you, and keep diving into the beautiful depths of you.


To learn more about exercises which can help with self-awareness, or connect with a counsellor, visit counselling-directory.org.uk

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