Journaling for an Evening Check-in

A useful companion to morning pages

This TFW is about the evening check-in. Click above for the YouTube video, or read the text below.

As soon as we wake up in the morning, we pick up our phone and start scrolling through social media, the news, twitter, immediately filling our mind with other people’s thoughts.

At the office we’ll sit in meetings. Spend the day trawling through emails that prevent us getting our work done. Eat lunch at our desk because there’s just so much to do.

We work from todo lists. Tasks. Shopping. Jobs around the home. We tick things off as we complete them. Sometimes on this hamster wheel of life, it’s easy for all the things we do to get washed away in the river of time.

What most of us don’t do is write a done list. And it’s the done list that helps us see the progress we’ve made. We don’t give our own thoughts any space, or take time to consider what we think or feel.

This is why the evening check-in can be so important.

Your evening check-in could be as simple as a done list for the day. But it’s also a few minutes to pause and reflect. And, perhaps most importantly of all, a little time during which we acknowledge one or two things we’re grateful for.

Hopefully you’ve had a good day. Perhaps you’ve had a nice conversation, or completed something important at work. Or maybe you’re looking forward to something: a social event, a hot date, a walk in the park.

But if you’ve had a frustrating time at work, this is also an opportunity to get things off your chest. And if you’re worried about something, you can write that down here too.

Maybe it’s been an ordinary day in which nothing memorable happened; that’s okay too – most days are like that, after all. But no two days are exactly the same, even though that’s how it can seem.

Translating your thoughts into written language, through an evening check-in, can help gain understanding of what’s going on in life, and give you a sense of the bigger picture.

This doesn’t have to take long. I usually write just a few lines.

Every day we wash and brush our teeth, taking care of our body. But when it comes to mental hygiene — that’s something we’re not very good at.

The fact is that writing such as this can increase hope, optimism, resilience and efficiency, as we gain awareness of what’s really important to us. It can help us find direction as we navigate life’s turbulent waters.

The evening check-in can also help us find answers to problems.

You might be at a tricky stage in a project, not sure what to do next. Write that down just before you go to sleep, in the form of question.

Your subconscious mind will work on this overnight, and you may well find that a solution or possible course of action develops.

The same is true if you’ve got a decision to make, but aren’t sure which way to go. Advising someone to “sleep on it” is rooted in fact.

The evening check-in will almost certainly be the last thing you write on any given day, so these may be the last thoughts you have before going to sleep. This means it’s a good idea to end on a positive note.

Expressing gratitude is a really good way to do this. Gratitude helps us focus on the positive things in life. And the things we’re thankful for don’t have to be anything major.

For example, the other day a blackbird came and had a bath in the big puddle outside my office. Because of the blinds on the windows he couldn’t see me, so I watched him splash and ruffle his feathers. He was having a lovely time.

Those few moments up close with wildlife were a very small part of my day — probably no more than a minute or so — but were something I was really grateful for — so I mentioned that in my evening check-in.

The important thing about this gratitude, is to make it something unique to the day you’ve just lived. Even if you’ve had a really tough day, you’ll usually be able to think of something: a song on the radio; something somebody said that made you laugh; a bird having a wash.

The more you do it, the easier it will be to spot these little things.

Expressive writing before going to bed helps us get to sleep more quickly. It also improves the quality of that sleep, and reduces the likelihood of insomnia.

Given the innumerable benefits of good sleep for both our mental and physical health, this few minutes’ writing may be some of the most important you do, boosting your health, well-being and creativity.

Like morning pages, no one else will read these words, so give yourself permission to write anything you want. All you’ve got to do is think, feel, and write.

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