No reliable method exists for determining how many conscious or unconscious thoughts a person has in a day; estimates range from 12,000–70,000 daily thoughts for an average of 52 thoughts per minute. Journaling your thoughts and feelings is a way of becoming an interested observer of your thoughts.

What Research Tells Us

Researchers examining the benefits of reflective journaling found significant results showing that RNs who journaled experienced less compassion fatigue and trauma and more compassion satisfaction than RNs who did not journal. Three unique themes emerged:

  • “Journaling allowed me to unleash my innermost feelings.”
  • “Journaling helped me to articulate and understand my feelings concretely.”
  • “Journaling helped me make more reasonable decisions.”

One student nurse likened journaling to “releasing a pressure valve.” Another nurse noted the ability to put a name to her emotions, determine the root cause of the emotion, and effectively manage her feelings. Nurses also credited journaling with helping them to look at situations differently and to step away from the emotional content after describing it on paper.

Self-awareness and personal growth were noted in a 2009 study by Williams, Gerardi, Gill, and Soucy. Additional benefits included becoming aware of preconceived notions, competencies, and personal limitations.

How to Practice

Consistency is the key to forming a healthy journaling habit. Journaling can be done in a designated journal, a simple notebook—even a clean napkin will do.

Unfortunately, time is often cited as a reason people do not begin or sustain a journaling practice. The personal check in practice in Figure 1 can take less than five minutes. You may also want to use it to set the tone for longer journaling sessions.