2023 has already been way too busy for me. The coming weekend will probably be my first one this year without the chaos of work, home and everything else. I’ve got it all planned out— a full two days of self care! This includes sleeping in, comfort food, and yes, lots of time for journaling.
How does journaling for self-care work?
What does journaling have to do with self care? Well, it’s the best way to relax, reflect and recharge. When everything around you is mayhem, finding a few quiet moments to pick up a pen, break open that brand new notebook and write down everything that’s building up inside is a great way to lighten the mental load and find some clarity.
Research shows that journaling is excellent for your mental health. It's a powerful tool to relieve stress and anxiety. And it has myriad physical health benefits too – it improves sleep and memory, and reduces blood pressure.
But sometimes (okay, all the time) putting things into words doesn’t come easy. We’ve all experienced the layperson’s “writer’s block”— or the “blank page” conundrum. You have that crisp, plain sheet staring at you, waiting for you to put down the first word. But you're searching your mind and it's blank. Nothing comes up. So what do you do?
I’ve got one—no, 60 little cheat codes—for you today! Scroll below to find some thought-provoking self care journal prompts that are guaranteed to get you over the writing hump.
How to use these self care journal prompts
A word of caution—although there are no wrong answers, there are some recommended ways to use these prompts effectively.
- We've organized the journal prompts by mood. Identify which prompt best matches your mood right now – skim over them, and feel free to skip to that part!
- Read the description to understand what the prompt is asking of you. See what resonates!
- Feel free to add your flair and interpretation to the response. Use the journal prompts as starting points.
- Give yourself plenty of time to ponder before you start writing.
- Try to finish your journaling sessions without interruptions.
- Try to make this a daily habit! As with all things, consistency works wonders. Try to incorporate it into a morning or evening routine. Creating a daily routine cements the practice into your life.
Don't do this!
- Don't try to force yourself to write about something you don’t relate to. Choose what you're drawn to.
- Don't feel pressured to stick to a structure. Let the words flow as they may. Also, don't force yourself to write an essay or a passage. It can be a poem, a story, or stream of consciousness writing. Go with the flow.
- Don't limit yourself to strict responses to the prompts. These are prompts, not a school assignment! Use them as a doorway to get your foot in. Go where your mind leads you, even if it's taking you away from the strict confines of the prompt.
- Don't worry about what you're writing. The important thing is to be honest and truthful to yourself. Don't suppress or tone down your words – there's no judgement here. Who’s going to read it, anyway?
- Don't make piecemeal progress. 10 minutes today and 5 minutes next week doesn’t work. Make the practice a part of your daily life.
So, are you ready? Let’s go!
How are you feeling right now?
How did you answer this question? That’ll point to where you look below.
Journal Prompts for Self Love
When you’re feeling happy
1. What has brought you genuine joy?
You're feeling happy! Today’s been a good day! Was it a funny incident that made you smile, or a really good conversation with a friend? Write about what it meant to you.
2. How can you celebrate this time?
Whether you’ve achieved something or simply woken up on the right side of the bed, try to understand what will commit this happiness to memory.
3. Who do you want to share your happiness with?
Who are you thinking about the most right now? Your best friend? Or a family member? Some other ways to think about the relationships in your life – who has stood by you during tough times? What do they mean to you?
4. What’s your happy song?
Or movie, or series – basically anything that’ll take you from grumpy to happy in a minute. Or the go-to song that you turn to, for a moment of peace during stressful times. Think about what it is about the words, the music, or the vibe that makes you smile.
5. How can you create more such moments?
If you decided to try something new or do something differently and it worked, why not capture it to remind yourself of it?
6. What are you grateful for?
Gratitude journaling is a powerful tool to increase happiness in general, and to give your mood an instant lift. Write down your gratitude list – ten things (or more!) that you're grateful for.
When you’re feeling optimistic
1. What do you want to take a chance on?
If you couldn't fail, what would be the first thing you'd do? What would your dream life look like, if you could have anything?
2. What’s working in your favour right now?
Lady luck has been good to you – tell me (the page) more!
3. What good things can happen this month?
Get yourself excited about things to ramp up the positivity!
When you’re feeling inspired (or want to feel inspired!)
1. Who do you admire the most?
Everyone has heroes – who is yours? What is it about them that makes you look up to them?
2. What do you want to achieve?
List down what exactly you want to get out of it, for future reference!
3. What boosts your self confidence?
What gets you amped up and ready to go, instantly?
When you want to set goals
1. What are your current priorities?
What are you working on right now, and why is it important?
2. What are your good/bad habits?
Which do you want to keep, and which do you want to get rid of?
3. How do you want to change your routine?
Write down your morning and evening rituals, and whether they help you get through the day or slow you down. How would you change them?
4. What are you saying yes/no to?
Analyse how your choices impact your life. What have you agreed to in the past week, and what have you declined? Are these aligned with your goals, and who you want to be? Are you saying "yes" too much, or too little? And likewise, are you declining too many opportunities, or not being adventurous enough?
5. How are you working on personal growth right now?
What activities are you doing now that contribute to your personal growth? Are you reading books? Learning new things? Meeting people and taking classes? Making time for self care activities?
6. What beliefs no longer serve you?
All of us have limiting beliefs that we acquired somewhere in the past, that we're hanging on to, and that are actively sabotaging us as we try to move forward in life. What beliefs do you subscribe to that are holding you back? For example, did your younger self believe that you were "not good at math" and you are still letting it be part of your identity? The way to lose them is to first identify them – make a list of such limiting beliefs.
7. What is the end goal?
Where do you want to be in 10 years? What does a meaningful life mean to you?
Journal Prompts for Self-reflection
When you’re feeling sad
1. What's bringing you down?
Sometimes we don’t really understand what’s affecting our mood. Write down everything that is happening in your life right now, to see if any situation has a bigger impact than you realised.
2. What stresses you out?
Think of some stressful events that have occurred recently. Does a common thread run through them? Are there certain activities that invariably bring up negative thoughts? Ask yourself why you react this way.
3. How can you prevent or overcome this?
If you’ve made a mistake, write down your learning and remind yourself of the takeaway from time to time. This is not about feeling guilty -- it is about occasionally examining your decisions, so you can live intentionally.
4. What’s your go-to book/movie/meal for this mood?
When I’m upset, all I want is a big bowl of instant noodles and Friends reruns. You no doubt have your own pick-me-up and why it means something to you. Write about how it makes you feel.
5. What made you happy recently?
Something as small as seeing a cute puppy, getting a word of praise at school or work, or reconnecting with an old friend. If it made you feel good, remind yourself of that joy.
6. What’s the funniest book you've read or movie you've watched?
Can you recreate the fun by making time to re-read or re-watch it now?
7. How can you make tomorrow better?
Just the action of putting the sorrow to words can help, but don’t forget to think about how you want your mindset to be the next day.
8. How do you cope?
If you’ve lost someone or something that meant a lot to you, write about how you dealt with it or want to deal with it. Everyone goes through their own stages of grief – where are you right now?
When you’re feeling pessimistic
1. What’s the worst that could happen?
Figure out your least favourable outcomes and whether you’re holding back for good reason.
2. How can you encourage yourself to feel better?
No one knows what you need to hear more than you – so say it!
3. How do you shift your mindset?
If you've been focusing on the negatives, and it isn't working, how do you change track?
4. What can you do or say about yourself today that you couldn’t a year ago?
Remind yourself of everything you’ve achieved despite challenges, and how it’s brought you to the place you are right now.
When you’re feeling stressed/overwhelmed
1. How do you know when you’re nearing burnout?
There are always tell-tale signs when you’re reaching an unsustainable point. Identify them and think about whether any of them have surfaced in the past month.
2. What makes you feel calm and in control?
Find what will help you slow down and be present.
3. What makes you feel powerful?
What makes you feel like your favorite superhero, about to swoop in and save the day? What makes you feel confident and in charge?
4. What is your situational best?
If circumstances are grim, what is the best possible outcome you can hope for?
5. What choice can you make this week based on your needs?
Should you go left or right? Depends on where you need to go – so find a map.
6. How do you stay focused?
What’s distracting you, and how do you keep it at bay?
7. How can you ask for help or support?
This is a tough one–but you need to know when you want to raise your hand. Think about what form such help would take, and whom you can approach.
When you’re feeling disappointed
1. What went wrong?
Lift up that fog and gain some clarity! It’s the first step towards success.
2. Did your expectations meet your reality?
Time to get real with yourself and swallow the bitter truth pills.
3. Can this be turned into an opportunity?
Things didn’t go your way, but there's no use standing still. How can you turn this into an opportunity?
4. How can you forgive and forget?
We need to forgive, even if it is yourself – especially if it's yourself. Write an apology letter to yourself if you like, for being too hard on yourself. Let go of those negative feelings.
When you’re having self-doubt
1. What thought patterns are holding you back?
Is it a reminder of past mistakes, or anxiety about uncertainty?
2. What are you afraid of?
Lizards, the dark, failure, disappointment, grief – which of these are bringing you down?
3. What does success mean to you?
It can mean something different to you than it does to the rest of the world!
4. What have you done for yourself lately?
You can’t have self-care without self and care! Have you done anything kind for yourself recently? It can be as simple as a bubble bath or buying that book you've had an eye on. And if nothing comes to mind, make a plan to treat yourself this evening or this weekend.
5. What do you love about yourself?
What triumphs have you had? What difficult situations have you successfully navigated? What qualities are you proud of? Perhaps you're a good friend, or a supportive sibling? – Give yourself a pat on the back!
6. How can you accept yourself?
Show yourself you’re enough! Practice self acceptance by identifying the negative self-talk you do in your head every day. How can you quell these thoughts?
Journal Prompts to relax
When you’re feeling nostalgic
1. What are your childhood favourites?
Movies, series, games, books that trigger nostalgia. Take a walk down memory lane. What feelings did it evoke?
2. What incident will you never forget?
For good reasons or bad, it's etched in your memory. Now put it to paper. What happened? How did it make you feel?
3. Which place or time would you want to return to?
No, you can’t say the Jurassic era – because you weren’t there. But is there a place or time in your life you'd love to revisit? Maybe the holiday cottage you spent summers at? Or the ice-cream shop you used to hang out at?
4. What’s your sensory trigger?
That one song, the smell of rain, the taste of a particular food – where does it transport you? What feelings come up?
5. What is your happiest family memory?
Sunday lunch or a picnic perhaps? Relive that favorite memory by writing down what happened, how it made you feel and why it stands out to you.
When you're in the mood for self-discovery
1. Who are you?
Describe yourself. What are the personality traits that you like best about yourself? Who's your true self? – not the personality projected to the world, but the true you? Write a love letter to yourself if you like! You might gain insight into aspects of yourself you'd not realized existed!
2. Who do you want to be?
Describe the best possible version of yourself, how you want to spend your time, and how you want to take care of yourself
3. Are you putting the needs of others before those of your own right now?
In what ways are you de-prioritizing your own well being and your needs?
4. If you could do one nice thing for your future self, what could it be?
It could be as simple as making a tasty and nutritious breakfast for yourself for tomorrow, so you can sleep in an extra half hour, and don't have to skip breakfast in the morning rush! Or how about doing something that you really don't want to do, so Future You doesn't have to worry about it? Grab something from tomorrow's todo list and get it done today, and imagine how good you'll feel tomorrow! Self care isn't always about treating yourself – sometimes it's about doing what needs to be done!
When you just want to write
1. What’s happening right now?
Write down everything you can see, hear or feel at this present moment. Even “I am starting to write” will do!
2. Play the “what if” game.
If you were a superhero, or a time traveller, or invisible, or had unlimited money – basically, just what would you do in any and every situation?
Beat the blank page blues and make self care journaling your thing! Incorporate this into your self care routine, cement it into daily life, and keep at it! In a few months, you'll see massive changes in your mental health, self awareness and general well being.
More on writing in these articles, if you'd like to check them out!
- Get A Writing Accountability Partner And Beat Your Writer's Block
- Why You Should Time Box (Plus Time Box Templates!)