Sunday, 15 May 2016

Being Reflective

I have been discussing with my hublings, as part of our focus on the Hobsonville Habit of being Reflective, the value of journalling. Each of them is starting up a journal, either online or in an old-school diary. We have looked at the reasons for keeping a completely private journal and what it means "looking back to look forward". We have also investigated apps and talked about our online presence, so that we are aware of the ramifications of putting our stuff online, and so looking for encryption and password protection as must-haves.

I already have a journal. I use it a lot. I have always done a certain amount of journalling, particularly as a teenager when I went on exchange, but a few years ago, after the Toads appeared, I got post-natal depression. One of the symptoms for me was the waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to sleep again because my mind was dealing with so many things all at the same time. This is when I started serious journalling.

Journalling is helpful for so many reasons. Simply the act of physically writing stuff down slows down your thinking, because your brain can only go as fast as your hand can write. In the middle of the night, thoughts chase themselves through your head so fast you hardly have time to catch onto them before they are gone again, which means they still aren't actually dealt with. Slowing down your thinking means that each thing that pops into your brain gets examined and dealt with before it is allowed to go away again. And the action of examining the thought will often, usually, either make it seem a lot less important or give you avenues of dealing with it.

Journalling also really helps with mindfulness. Mindfulness is, for me at least, being thoughtful and aware of what I am doing. Journalling helps with this because if I have written about something, I am more likely to keep it in mind over a period of time. Following the post-natal, one of the things that I need to be mindful of is my response to provocation. If I am stressed or tired, I am very likely to reflect behaviours of others in their interactions with me. And particularly if I am placed in what may be a very minor conflict situation, I am likely to get angry and aggressive far more quickly than the situation warrants. Journalling keeps me mindful of my state of mind, and allows me to plan my responses, which means I am not living in a constant fight or flight mentality.

The most important thing about journalling is that is a means to learn from mistakes. If you think about why whatever happened actually happened, it is less likely that the same thing will happen in the same way again. For me, this is still something that I need to deal with every now and then, because life is learning; but I think this is really valuable especially for my students. They are in the part of life where, as I explained to them, hormones are going to make them do dumb stuff. If they want to come out the other end of adolescence relatively unscathed, they need to think about the dumb stuff so that it doesn't go catastrophic. Journalling is a way of looking at that dumb stuff and processing it so that next time (and there will be a next time) it isn't so bad. Explaining this, especially to my year 10 boys, suddenly showed them the value of writing stuff down.

Being Reflective is a habit that has a lot of resonance for me. Hopefully, by sharing my own experiences, I can help others to see the value that Reflective practice can have in life. How are you Reflective? Why are you Reflective?

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