Do you use end of year journalling?
Some people like to use end of year journalling as part of reflecting on the year as it draws to a close. Journalling can be helpful as part of reflecting on the year and see what’s gone well, what’s not been easy or challenging and what helped navigate these times, what’s been meaningful and other aspects too. Some people like to reflect on the year and journal and others don’t, either way is ok.
As we reflect it is important that we notice what has been helpful, supportive or ‘positive’ as well as the more tricky and challenging times. Our brains have a ‘negativity’ bias, this means that we will naturally remember the challenges and focus here if we don’t intentionally explore the ‘positives’ too.
This time of year is often a reflective time and when we align with nature seasons it’s a time for slowing down. Our society and the commercialisation around Christmas tends to make people busier which can take us away for our natural need to slow down, turn a little inward, to rest and restore.
Before we look at different types of journaling and some tips I feel that it’s important to mention a few things:
- We all struggle and suffer sometimes and these will be part of everyone’s years to varying degrees, this is part of being human. There will also be joy, connection, love, wonder and other nurturing emotions and feelings to varying degrees too
- There isn’t a right or wrong way to reflect or journal
- It can feel too much to reflect on the year, this is normal and it’s ok not to do it. We can reflect and journal if it feels ok to do so and like it might be helpful for us and if not we don’t have to do it.
Types of Journalling
There are many types of journalling I have listed some of them below along with examples of how they can be used as part of end of year reflections:
- Free flow journalling/stream of consciousness journalling – this basically means writing whatever comes into your head even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Instead of choosing one focus like gratitude or feelings as journal prompts free flow journalling doesn’t have a focus and it is writing without editing
- Gratitude journalling – this is basically noticing and focusing on what you are grateful for. For end of year journalling you could notice a few things that you are grateful for each month of the year as you explore the year that’s gone by and simply list them and/or use one, or a few of them as journalling prompts
- Art journalling – this type of journalling uses visual representations of things like your thoughts and feelings. You could draw or find illustrations/visuals that you feel reflect your year as you review it
- Nature journalling – this type of journalling relates to what you are noticing in nature. It can be combined with other types of journalling like art journaling. One way this can be used is to gather nature pictures that you have from throughout the year and then journal with what arises through connecting with the picture memories, this may also lead into other types of journalling like what you are grateful for within the year
- Yoga journalling – this type of journalling is where people write in their journal after a yoga practice. An example for end of year reflections could be to hold the intention to reflect and review the year, take this onto the yoga mat and then journal with any thoughts, feelings and insights that may have come up
- Strength based journalling – this journalling focuses on your strengths and exploring these through journalling. For example, see if you can notice something that has helped you to thrive and/or manage the challenges this year and journal about this
- Values based journalling – this uses your values as a prompt for your writing. One way to do this is to note down your core values and then journal with each value and how you brought it to life this year. If you’re unsure of your values do a values exploration exercise first, there are some in my book, linked at the end of this blog
- Bullet journalling – this can be any sort of bullet point list. For an end of year review you could list the things that you are grateful for, the values in your year, the strengths that helped you navigate challenges and helped you to thrive, and/or inspirational quotes that reflect your year.
There are many more types and you can blend different ones together and of course create your own journalling style
Questions for journalling:
Questions can be used as journal prompts, some examples for end of year reflections/journalling:
- What has gone well the last month/last few months/this year and why?
- What are 1-5 things that I am most proud of this year and why?
- What has been tricky or challenging & what have I learnt from this/what am I taking from it?
- What helped me navigate the challenges?
- What strengths helped me this year?
- What’s been supportive for me this year?
- What 1-5 things am I grateful for right now/over the last few months/this year?
- Did I set boundaries, did I stick to them and were they helpful?
- What’s created some balance, some ease, some stability this year?
- How have I related to myself most often this year? (For example, with self-criticism or self-compassion)
- Is my daily routine supportive of my wellbeing?
- What 1-2 things could I keep doing or start doing regularly that would make a difference to my wellbeing?
- What are my core values (3-5 values) and how have they been part of this year?
- What is most important to me & why?
- What do I want to take into the new year? What feels welcome to have more of? (This ties in with word of the year if you do this)
- What would I like to explore more of, what qualities do I want to embody next year?
- What could it be helpful to let go of?
Some people like to reflect prior to journalling and then deepen the reflection through journalling and other people prefer to journal first and then reflect more in some way, for example through a yoga or other somatic movement practice, and others prefer to do something like a yoga practice first and then journal. There isn’t a right or a wrong with journalling or reflecting, it is simply what feels ok for you and what’s helpful.
Before starting reflection and/or journalling I suggest people do a somatic (body) check-in and notice how they are. The way I guide a somatic check-in is by encouraging connection to the body with compassion and curiosity to notice what’s present, for example noticing sensations, energy levels, the breath (if it’s ok to notice this), what thoughts are present and how they show up in the body. I also encourage people to reflect and journal in a somatic way, this basically means noticing the bodies reactions, the body’s wisdom as you reflect, for example, what sensations do you notice, what’s your breath like, is there a temperature change, how are you feeling, what do you notice where in your body? Without doing this we are only reflecting on a head level and this means we are missing important information and the body’s wisdom. It is important to slow down and pause regularly, this can help us to notice what’s present in the body and increases our awareness and understanding
I encourage people to journal and reflect with compassion and curiosity, holding the intention to be curious and compassionate can be part of this. As well as holding this intention you can connect to your compassionate self to support with journalling in a compassionate way, there are various exercise available that can guide with this. There are a few in my book and there are some audios freely available like this one by Dr Shelley Kerr: https://on.soundcloud.com/kSyVQUZu923v9HYz7
It can also be helpful to use soothing rhythm breathing from compassionate mind training, this can be used as part of connecting to your compassionate self or simply to connect to your body, settle and slow down. I have an audio freely available for this here: https://on.soundcloud.com/kqJdxtjerKGMUHBq6 There are a number of other soothing rhythm breathing practices freely available, you can find a few of them here: https://www.compassionatemind.co.uk/resource/audio
If reflecting on the whole year feels overwhelming consider what feels ok, perhaps exploring the last month or last few months, or something else that feels better to you. If nothing feels ok and it feels too much don’t do it and perhaps reach out for some support instead.
One way you can reflect using end of year journalling is by reflecting back on the year by moving back through time from now and noticing what events/memories come to mind and what is present in your body, noting feelings or something else down in your journal. Once you have reviewed the whole year you could choose a common feeling to journal with, or use some things that you are grateful for that have come to mind. If journalling on the whole year feels too much you can split it into chunks, maybe quarters.
When you have finished your reflection one of the things you may wish to explore may be what would it be helpful to have more of in the following year, what would support you and what may you wish to let go of. You can journal with these as prompts as well. What you wish to have more of can be used as a word of the year (or words) for the following year, something I see as a kind of gentle guide.
- There are many types of journalling and you can blend different types together
- You don’t have to use a specific journalling type you can create your own approach
- You can review the whole year working backwards from now or split it into chunks, for example review each quarter
- Do a somatic check-in before beginning and during the journalling
- Slow down, this helps you to notice what’s present in the body
- Go at your own pace and take breaks as needed
- Use the body’s wisdom along with the minds understanding in your journalling
- Hold the intention to be curious and compassionate
- Connect to your compassionate self and use soothing rhythm breathing if these feel helpful for you
- Journalling can be combined with yoga and other somatic practices
- You could explore what it would be helpful to invite more of in the following year, what would build on your strengths & resources and support your wellbeing
- There isn’t a right or wrong way to journal or reflect.
In this blog I mentioned that there are some values exercises in my book you can find the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dancing-through-Life-Guide-Living/ dp/B08P1CFDNW/ref=mp_s_a_1_4? crid=3EHSYPASVND90&keywords=ann+parkinson+book&gid=1671047573&sprefix=ann+patkinson+ %2Caps%2C65&sr=8-4