Putting Pen to Paper: 10 Journal Prompts to Ponder
10 insightful journal prompts to help you dig deep, reflect, and tell your own story
As we approach the end of the year (can you believe it's October already?), it's easy to get caught up in your head about what you've accomplished and what’s still on your plate–so much so that it can be overwhelming. This is especially true during the holiday season when we all have so much to do it’s almost hard to get the laundry done. One thing that can help clear your head and get you more organized during the hectic holiday season (and any time) is journaling.
Journaling is proven to help with clarifying your thoughts and feelings, getting to know yourself better, reducing stress, solving problems more effectively, and resolving disagreements with others. And if you already keep a journal or you want to start, you're in the perfect place.
Grab a notebook and a pen! Here are our 10 best journal prompts to get you pondering:
1. What are you grateful for?
This is one of the best prompts for people who want to get started with journaling. You can write a few bullet points if you’re short on time, or something much longer if you want to dig deep. This is a great way to get more conscious of the positive things in your “here and now”, and lift your spirits during hard times.
Thoughtful Twist: Take extra time at an interval of your choosing (once a month, once a quarter, etc.) to review your gratitude entries and celebrate progress and positives. Life can be hard. but these tokens of gratitude can help you see your own accomplishments and help you appreciate positive things you’ve forgotten about.
2. Write a letter to your past self.
Imagine letters full of kindness, wisdom, and things you need to hear. That’s what this prompt is meant for. Sometimes you may write a pep talk, other times you might ask yourself a question and answer it. Give yourself the freedom to see what comes up for you, and what’s important to you. Try to let go of any judgement and keep your pen moving.
Thoughtful Twist: If you struggle with letters to your past self, try writing the letters to a close friend or a family member. You can even write to your child or children. By thinking of things you want to tell them, you may tap into things you didn’t even realize you were thinking about. You can keep these letters a secret, or share them at the right time if the mood strikes.
3. Write about where you will be in a year.
Think aspirational with this one. Are you looking for a new job? Love? A change in scenery? Write about anything and everything you can think up. This is meant to be a fun exercise, one that can help you figure out what you want and (hopefully) help you formulate a game plan so you can make these dreams reality.
Thoughtful Twist: Make your goal something measurable and be specific. The more specific you are about what you want and how you want to achieve your goals, the more likely you are to actually accomplish them. For example, if you want to live healthier ask yourself: what do I need to do to make this possible? When do I want to start? How will I keep myself on track?
4. What is something you should start doing?
A great way to take advantage of journaling is to use it for goal setting. Do you want to start working out? Do you want to figure out how to save more money? Writing ideas helps us commit to them, especially if you regularly review them (I’m looking at you, previous journal entry readers). Use your journal to your advantage to help you plan your next steps.
Thoughtful Twist: If you get to a point where you have accomplished a goal (or even a step towards a goal), celebrate! Use your entry to talk about how you feel about your accomplishment. That way, if you decide to read back through your entries, you can see that you’re capable of accomplishing great things.
5. What is something you should stop doing?
An inverse of our previous prompt, this idea is meant to help you figure out things you don’t need in your life. Use your journal to help figure out things that are pulling you off course, the things that are providing resistance towards the goals you set out for yourself. By writing these problems down, you can acknowledge them, confront them, and get back on track.
Thoughtful Twist: If you want to get in touch with The Secret, eliminate negatives from these journal entries. Focus on framing things in a positive light. For example, instead of saying “I don’t want to be negative and hurtful”, say “I want to be more positive and helpful”. If your journal entries end up more like prompt 4, you’re on the right track.
6. What is on your bucket list?
Have fun with this one! Talk about things you want to do, things you want to try, places you want to go, people you want to meet, etc. This is your chance to have fun and dream big. Don’t limit yourself. Nothing is too big (spending a year traveling the world), or too small (setting out 5 minutes a day to journal, wink wink nudge nudge).
Thoughtful Twist: If you struggle with making a bucket list for your whole life, break it down into something more manageable. What things do you want to get done before the end of the year? What things do you want to do before you turn a certain age? The sky is the limit with this prompt, so get writing!
7. Who is someone you admire? Why?
Another fun one (but also potentially aspirational), this prompt is a great chance to figure out things you admire about someone else and how to apply those things to your own life. Think of someone you know, or maybe someone you don’t (celebrities, aspirational speakers, a blogger you admire), and dig deep into why you admire them.
Thoughtful Twist: Avoid the “social media perfect” approach to this prompt and focus on non-superficial things. This can be anything from what they do for a living to charitable actions to aspects of their personality that you admire. By digging deeper, you can figure out bigger changes you want to apply to your life.
8. Write about a cherished memory.
This prompt is another one to help remind yourself of emotional, joyful, and/or happy times in your life. Your cherished memory can be something that happened today, last week, or even years ago. Don’t limit yourself. If it helps, listen to some feel-good music to jog your memory and get those memories flowing.
Thoughtful Twist: Remember what your English teacher used to say when you were a kid? Show, don’t tell. Use your five senses to help you with this prompt and build from there. The sight of someone’s smile, the sound of your partner’s laughter, the smell of a perfume or cologne, the touch of your favorite fabric, or the taste of something new you tried.
9. Describe what success looks like to you.
Another chance to dream big here. Use this prompt to help you figure out what success looks like, and be specific. What do you want to be doing? How much money do you want to make? Do you want to be able to travel more? Do you want to spend more time with family? Remember that success looks different for everyone, so focus on what you want.
Thoughtful Twist: Use some of the earlier prompts to help you build on your entry. What do you need to do to get where you want to go? When do you want to start accomplishing these goals? Review this entry as you start goal-setting, then document your successes as you start taking steps towards your goals.
10. Reflect on your favorite quote.
If you struggle with getting the creative juices flowing, use someone else’s words to help you get started. Write the quote into your notebook and talk about why it’s meaningful to you. Does it make you happy? Does it inspire you to keep going when times get tough? Does it remind you of something you want more of in your own life? Dig deep.
Thoughtful Twist: If you’re feeling extra creative, do some fancy lettering when you write your quote in. If you’re not as creative, see if you can find someone else’s lettering, print out the quote and paste it in. Give yourself something pretty to look at, especially if the quote is inspiring. It will make you more likely to reflect on it often and inspire yourself.
What are some of your favorite journal prompts that help get your pen moving? Share with us in the comments below!