Ten Journal Prompts for Living a Happier Life

I am a huge fan of journaling. I would encourage anyone interested in self-growth and personal improvement to have a journaling practice of some kind. I’m not particularly picky about what type of journal you keep, I just strongly recommend you keep some sort of journal. Journaling encourages us to reflect on our daily lives and that reflection helps us focus on what really matters. Keeping a tracker or log in a journal is also a great way to keep track of a new habit to help us stay motivated as we make a change.

I keep a daily journal myself and I write in it every morning and evening. I’ve kept a daily diary or journal of some kind continuously since I was a kid. Journalling is an important part of my self-care toolkit and I have used different tools throughout the years – everything from daily diaries to minimalist bullet journals to digital journals and apps. For me, the practice of keeping up a daily journal is more important than the tools I use to do it. I will adapt my practice and system as needed to keep things fresh and support my journaling habit.

This week, I’ll share with you some of the journal prompts I have found to be very valuable throughout the years. I’m sure these will change in the future so today’s list is a snapshot in time for October 2020, I may revisit this list later with another post or an update to this one.

One of my (many) notebooks

Morning Journal Prompts

What is your mantra/affirmation for today? Write down a short phrase that you can remember throughout the day to stay motivated. This one is great for when you have a daily spread you’ll be revisiting several times a day. Having your daily affirmation at the top of the page helps to create a touch point.

Fears & Strengths. Take a few minutes to reflect on what’s causing you stress or anxiety today. Don’t let it be vague, get clear on what’s bothering you (Fears) and get them out in writing. From there, reflect on what strengths you have to bring to those fears and write those down as well. Yes, we all have fears and anxieties but we also have amazing strengths and talents to bring to bear. Remembering those strengths can help us get through the challenges of our day.

Top 3. What are the top three tasks you want to complete today? What three (and keep it to just three or less) things would make today feel successful for you? This prompt helps you focus on what is really important for the day ahead and helps combat that feeling of overwhelm that so many of us have these days. There is always more to do; focusing on the three key things for today helps you stay focused and on task. Finishing those three things also gives you that sense of accomplishment which builds motivation and positive momentum.

Evening Journal Prompts.

Daily Gratitude List. Keeping a gratitude list is always a good practice. It helps us focus on the positive and recognize all the good things we have in our lives, even through hard times. You can add a gratitude list to journal any time of the day but I like to put the it in the evening because it helps me end my day on a positive note. Also, knowing that I’ll be listing a few things that I’m grateful for at the end of the day helps me focus on the positive during the day.

What went well today? This prompt is slightly different from a daily gratitude list but it has a lot of the same benefits. By focusing on what went well during the day and taking a few minutes to write that down, you’re training your mind to focus on the positive, rather than on your missteps and mistakes.

Daily Reflection. Reflect on your day: write down what happened and how you felt about it. This is what most people think of when they think of keeping a diary or journal. It’s a tried and true practice that has stood the test of time – for good reason! Getting my feelings out onto the page helps clear my mind before winding down for bedtime. It’s a simple technique that can be powerful if you keep it up as a daily habit.

Retrospective Prompts

Those of us living that GTD lifestyle know the importance of regular reviews. Whether it’s a weekly review, a monthly review or an annual review, it is incredibly valuable to look back, reflect on how things went, look for lessons learned and prepare for the future. I use these prompts for my monthly review to help me reflect on the month gone by before setting my goals for the next month.

What challenges did you overcome? What did you achieve? I like to start my monthly review by reflecting on all the challenges I’ve overcome in the past month. I tend to finish a tough task and simply move forward to the next thing on the list. Starting with this prompt helps me pause and remember all that I have overcome and achieved over the course of the month.

Start/Stop/Continue. This is a tried and true retrospective prompt that is perfect for my monthly review. I actually tend to go through it in the reverse order: what worked well that I want to continue doing, what didn’t work that I want to stop doing and now what do I want to try and start doing? This prompt is a standard for retrospectives because it helps us focus on how things really went so that we can use that to prep for the future.

Long Form Prompts

These last two prompts are great for when you have a bit more time to write a longer form journal entry. I don’t use these on any regular cadence but they are great for when I find myself needing to gain a bit of clarity or perspective.

Five Perfect Days. This is a form of “future self” journaling in which you think of five possible future outcomes for yourself and describe the perfect day in that potential future life with as much detail as you can imagine. So – for example – say you finally publish that novel… what would a perfect day as a professional writer look like for you? When do you wake up and how? What do you do with your day? How does lunch go? Who do you eat dinner with? When do you go to bed? Imagine each possible future with as much detail as possible.

I use this journaling prompt when I find myself at a crossroads, unsure of what goals I want to pursue. I’m the type of person who struggles to answer the question “where do you see yourself in five/ten years?” – just imagining my life twelve months from now is overwhelming at times. So, taking the time to imagine a day in the life of a few potential future possibilities helps me clarify which one I actually want. Also – in full disclosure – I learned this as “five perfect days” but I often find that after journaling about 1 – 3 possible futures, what I want becomes more clear.

Stream of Consciousness. This last “prompt” is the most open ended. The idea is simple: set a timer for five (or even ten) minutes and then just write whatever comes to mind in a free-flow of thoughts and words. This is a great technique for writers when we find ourselves stuck but I also like to use this after meditation as a way to note down anything that came up while I was sitting. I often find that my subconscious mind has a lot to say once I hand it the pen and let it run free.

Fellow journal writers, what are some of your favorite prompts? Let me know!

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