Journaling for Self-Awareness: 6 Reasons to Journal

journaling for self-awareness dark

Learn what journaling for self-awareness looks like and why it’s so beneficial.

During a particularly depressed and tumultuous period in college, I turned to a notebook for comfort. I began to write my thoughts (and regrets) on the page. Soon I learned that when the words existed on the page, and not just in my mind, I felt better. The scribbled journaling helped me make sense of the racing thoughts in my head.

While it wasn’t necessarily a journaling practice, it did give me my first glimpse into the benefits of journaling for self-awareness. I could see how the act of writing helped my act of thinking.

I saw myself more clearly through the journal than I did from my own eyes.

If this sounds silly, I assure you – it’s not. It’s relatively common. And there is a lot of science that supports this journaling for self-awareness.

As I got older, journaling took up a larger role in my life. I went from sporadic, emotion-filled “mind dumps” to steady, everyday pondering. Not surprisingly, my self-awareness increased dramatically, as well.

Looking back now, I can see how much I lacked self-awareness in my younger years. I can also see how much journaling helped this change.


What is Self-Awareness? (And why can journaling help us become more self-aware?)

Most of us have heard of the term self-awareness. Yet, it’s more complicated than we initially give it credit for. Before we dive into journaling, let’s talk about self-awareness. What is self-awareness? Why is self-awareness so important?

Self-awareness is our ability to identify our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Being self-aware means that we know who we are and where we belong in the world. We can also understand how we impact the people around us.

benefits of self-awareness

Being self-aware is connected to all kinds of benefits. People who are more self-aware generally:

  • Are more successful
  • Are happier overall
  • Have stronger relationships
  • Are more productive
  • Make better decisions
  • Overcome negative emotions more quickly

These benefits of self-awareness should come as no surprise. After all, the more we understand ourselves, the more we can do things that help us rather than hurt us. And journaling for self-awareness will only expedite this process.


Unfortunately, self-awareness is incredibly difficult to achieve.

Our emotions get in the way of our thinking. Biases muck up our perspective. And – just for fun – our memory is extremely unreliable and, without meaning to, manipulative of our thoughts.

These obstacles to self-awareness aren’t our faults. They’re deeply wired into our evolutionary DNA, making them nearly impossible to overcome in our modern world. (Gee, thanks a lot, evolutionary roots. Couldn’t you get more cool, maybe like once?!)

obstacles to self-awareness

However, the biggest trick working against us is this. When we think about ourselves, we’re typically wrong. Our methods of introspection are flawed, because our egos and emotions feed us the wrong information.

Fortunately, this post will teach you all about the best habit to overcome these hurdles. Journaling for self-awareness can help us undertake introspection in a better way.

Want to see how self-aware you are? Take my free self-awareness test!


Why Journaling for Self-Awareness is So Important

reasons journaling will help self-awareness

  1. Journaling for self-awareness forces you to be in the physical moment

Right now, I want to consider what distractions are around you. Do you have five web pages open? Is your phone sitting nearby, with its notifications on? We live distracted lives. And they’ve become more distracted with every new invention and app. (Literally, billions of dollars are spent on keeping us distracted to make more money.)

It’s challenging to focus clearly when our brains are being pulled in a million different ways. We’re more reactive to our environments than we realize, which is damaging our focus and self-awareness.

When you journal (and ideally, journal by hand), you force yourself to be in the physical moment. Sure, the distractions don’t go away – but you can shift your primary focus to the page in front of you. This physical presence allows you the space you need to find more clarity. It also allows the “background” creative side of your brain to kick into gear.

  1. Journaling forces your mind to slow down

If you’re like me, you tend to get caught in a rumination cycle… a lot. Rumination is when we get stuck on a single thought or emotion. Then we can’t stop thinking about it over and over again. Anxiety is a primary culprit; anxious thoughts make us live in the future or the past, rarely touching down in the present.

When we get caught in these mental loops, we often think we’re making productive headway. (After all, we’re analyzing our lives, aren’t we?) In reality, rumination hurts our self-awareness because it prevents us from seeing the truth behind the racing thoughts.

Journaling for self-awareness forces your mind to slow down. Because you can only write so quickly, your mind has to whittle down some of the racing thoughts. You’ll also find yourself writing a response to the thoughts – which you weren’t doing while stuck in a loop.

  1. Journaling gives you a place to outlet free of judgment

There’s a reason we often go to other people with our problems. They challenge us with new perspectives and insights. Furthermore, the process of releasing our feelings helps us to get our negative emotions out. Shame and fear grow in secrecy and solitude.

Unfortunately, many of us are afraid to speak about our problems with others. Or maybe we don’t have the right people to go to, or the opportunities to talk. Whatever the case, we’re left alone with our thoughts – even though we desperately need to share them.

Our journals provide a place for us to outlet our thoughts, free of judgment. Our notebook pages are open and ready to receive the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. Journaling helps you take an “outsider” perspective

If journaling provides a judgment-free outlet, how does this help improve our self-awareness? Well, if you remember that part about getting stuck in our heads, you know how critical it is to get “unstuck.” Journaling helps you take an “outsider” perspective to your own life.

Sure, the journal doesn’t talk to you with the wisdom of an elderly counsel. It does, however, let you step back and talk to yourself. Once you’ve written out your feelings, you can evaluate what you’ve journaled from a new lens.

Additionally, a good journaler will ask themselves good questions – and then answer them. While this “questioning voice” is still you, it’s an outside “you” that can be more curious than you might tend to be in your thoughts alone.

  1. Journaling will help you notice patterns

When we journal for self-awareness, we mustn’t get stuck in the “why” of our lives as much as the “what.” “What” questions force us to look at experiences, situations, and decisions from a practical standpoint (also referred to as expressive writing).

Journaling for self-awareness is similar to a scientific study. To do it well, you must draw conclusions based on the evidence at hand. When our journals display our lives, we will begin to notice patterns and cycles that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Noticing patterns is huge for self-awareness because it allows us to understand cause and effect. We can break negative cycles and promote positive ones.

  1. Journaling helps you realize what’s important

Lastly, journaling helps you realize what’s most important. How does it do this? Simple; you can only write so much for so long. Generally, what you’re left with in your journal is what’s most important to you in the present situation.

This logic isn’t foolproof (so don’t sue me for false promotion, please!). However, I would wager that you’ll journal your way to more self-awareness than you’d ever be able to think your way toward. While this might seem surprising, it relates to all those obstacles to self-awareness wired within us.

Our emotions and biases cloud our judgment from seeing the truth. Meanwhile, our journals wipe away the fog and show us the truth sitting there all along.

And this list doesn’t even cover all the other benefits that journaling has.


How to Start Journaling for Self-Awareness

If journaling is so beneficial, why doesn’t everyone do it? A great question – and one that also can be traced back to our human tendencies and biases.

It’s challenging for us to start a new habit because it requires a rewiring of our brain. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help jumpstart your journaling practice and redesign your environment.

  • Start small. Don’t expect yourself to write for an hour every day. Instead, start with a few minutes. Then, work your way up over time.
  • Stack habits. Try to add journaling to a habit that’s already established in your routine. That way, it’ll be more likely to stick.
  • Find what works for you. There are a lot of journaling methods out there. Don’t feel like there’s something you “should” do; instead, try them all and do what you like best.

Want some journaling inspiration? Check out, a brilliant website and community dedicated to help you Journal for the Health of It and jumpstart your journaling journey.

journaling for self-awareness


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Conclusion: Journaling For Self-Awareness

Self-awareness should be our most sought-after quality, yet many of us neglect it. That’s because we lack the self-awareness to realize we’re not self-aware. (And there are a lot of obstacles getting in our way.)

Fortunately, we all have access to an easy, practical habit that can improve our self-awareness and completely transform our lives.

Journaling will drastically benefit our self-awareness because:

  1. Journaling for self-awareness forces you to be in the physical moment
  2. Journaling forces your mind to slow down
  3. Journaling gives you a place to outlet free of judgment
  4. Journaling helps you take an “outsider” perspective
  5. Journaling will help you notice patterns
  6. Journaling helps you realize what’s important

Want to learn more about self-awareness? Check out my FREE Ebook below. Over 100 pages of quality information, questions, and activities to help you improve your self-awareness and transform your life.

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