A new year signals a fresh start, and, for many, we forge ahead, making resolutions to change ourselves. However, statistics show only 9%-12% of us successfully keep our resolutions. There has to be a better way to usher in the new and release the old, right?
Undivided attention is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, and in this article we focus on how reflective therapeutic writing is a free tool we all have at our disposal.
Taking the time to pause and reflect on our past experiences helps us understand our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
What is Reflective Therapeutic Writing?
The University of North South Wales defines reflective therapeutic writing as a multifaceted tool to document your response to experiences, opinions, events, or new information and communicate your response to thoughts and feelings.
Concretely, reflective therapeutic writing improves our self-awareness and reveals insights about ourselves and the events we experience.
Benefits of Reflective Therapeutic Writing
Therapeutic reflection promotes a balanced mind free of mental clutter, fully present, moving in self-awareness toward our goals with self-criticism on low.
Simply put, reflective therapeutic writing increases mindfulness of the present. Self-reflection improves self-awareness of our thoughts, feelings, actions, values, beliefs, and goals. Furthermore, it strengthens our understanding of ourselves in the past, the present, and what we hope to be in the future. Finally, therapeutic reflection expands our ability to live in the present moment with self-compassion.
Sage tips for self-reflection
Schedule self-reflection time
If you struggle to find time for self-reflection, add an appointment to your daily or weekly calendar. Moreover, be vigilant and guard this time as a high priority. Most importantly, silence or remove all distractions.
Create a sacred space and ritual.
A pleasing environment, intentional action, and reward are three ways that support building a new practice, such as therapeutic reflection.
First, create ambiance by lighting a candle, making a cup of tea, or sitting in your favorite chair. Second, take a moment to center yourself by breathing slowly and deeply five times. Next, begin your reflective therapeutic writing session. Write continuously, without editing or judgment. If you struggle with how to start, use the phrase “I remember when” to recall a memory. Lastly, humans are more likely to repeat behaviors when rewarded immediately following a new task, so find a small, enjoyable treat that stimulates your reward center.
Utilize the Mind-mapping technique
Mind mapping is a powerful technique to help you visually develop and organize ideas and information. To begin, write a central idea, event, or topic in the center of the paper. Then, allow associative thoughts to flow. Each time a new supportive thought arises, draw a line from the center out in any direction and write the new idea at the end of the line. Repeat this process until you have explored the idea fully. .
Changing perspectives for 2023
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate rather than ignoring our pain or lashing ourselves with self-criticism. It is paramount to practice self-compassion during therapeutic reflection. Treating ourselves with compassion allows room for the inevitable folly called the human condition, helps to banish perfectionism, and encourages us to be mindful of our self-talk.
To learn more about the art of self-compassion, watch Dr. Kristin Neff’s TedTalk.
Emotional intelligence (EQ)
According to Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, “Emotional Intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others and use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.” Moreover, EQ can be cultivated. We can use EQ to create a safe space for self-reflection, coexistence, and collaboration with those around us.
Relational Intelligence (RQ)
Relational Intelligence (RQ) is the ability to be aware of and understand our own and others’ emotions, values, interests, and demands, to discriminate among them, to critically reflect on them, and to use this information to guide one’s actions and behavior with respect to people. Amidst moments of therapeutic reflection, RQ catalyzes curiosity about ourselves and others. Finally, RQ enables us to choose and grow lasting relationships while observing healthy relationship boundaries.
Through the regular use of therapeutic reflection, we validate our experiences emotionally, physically, and mentally. Additionally, we bolster our ability to live presently by shedding mental weight and acknowledging how our past has influenced our present and future. Equally important, by employing self-compassion and emotional and relational intelligence, we pave the way to building the life we desire. Today, we challenge you to schedule a reflective therapeutic writing session for your health and wellbeing and enjoy the journey.
Nurse Writer Dominique Fontaine, BSN, RN, HNB-BC, HWNC-BC is a double board certified holistic nurse, holistic medical content writer, and medical content reviewer for Sage Integrative Wellness, LLC, and various national and international wellness companies and media companies. Dominique offers holistic nurse consulting for businesses, media companies, and organizations in holistic medical content writing and medical content reviewing upon request. She’s a passionate neurodiverse nurse advocate striving to transform healthcare and culture through awareness, holistic education and research, and integrative nurse coaching.