Ah, journaling. Journaling has been one of the best and most difficult aspects of my self care practice for about the past year. When I first started, I found it super hard not to feel like I was writing in my diary at the age of 11. I would edit my words, be scared of making it look unneat, worry that I was writing the wrong thing. It took journal prompts to get me started (and lots of them!).
The good news is, I’m not 11 anymore and life isn’t that one handwriting class where the teaching assistant told me to write about flowers twice and the teacher told me off for repeating myself (can you see why I need this practice now?). Nobody is judging what’s in my journal. Nobody even SEES my journal, so I have nothing to fear.
As we roll into 2018 I want to start sharing this stuff with you too. If you find it difficult to get started, stuck for what to even write, or feel like you’re not so focused, I’m here to help. Here are 10 journal prompts to kickstart your 2018 practice!
The Journal Prompts
1. What didn’t go so well in 2017? What went really really well?
Further questioning: What did you learn? What were the takeaways? Who supported you through it? Who was around for the good stuff? Did they help? How did you achieve the better things? Be generous with crediting yourself.
The trick here is to start with the not so great, and spiral out into all the really good stuff that lights you up. It can be as big or small as you like, but be thorough.
By evaluating your previous year, you’ll have a clear view of what works and what doesn’t for you, which is essential when it comes to setting goals and looking forward to the new year.
When it comes to writing about negative situations, I like to spin them out a bit until I have a lesson to learn, a silver lining, a positive takeaway. It can be the tiniest of things, but it’s always good to switch your mindset around them.
2. With no time, money or experience limitations, what would you achieve this year?
Go deeper: Really don’t hold back here, regardless of how out there or unrealistic it may seem in its immediacy. Would you quit your job and run a farm sanctuary? Get your dream job as an air hostess? Live in a van and travel the world?
While this one is fun and largely based on fantasy, it’s a good one to point you in the right direction. If your wildest dreams are to live on the road and see the world, but you have a 9-5 office job, it’s a good way to identify what needs to start changing, which again is key to goal setting. If your wildest dreams have a theme which is pretty far out of your current life, you can start to set little steps in motion to get you there.
3. Write about 3 people who inspire you.
Go deeper: if you’re feeling a bit lost and directionless, or like you’re not sure what your next move should be, looking at who inspires you is a nice way to er… get inspired. This journal prompt is all about getting to know what they do and why it makes you feel that spark. Can you do more of it yourself? Is it something you aspire to? This can give some clues as to how you want your life to start looking.
4. Describe your ideal day from start to finish, in great detail.
Go deeper: hold nothing back here. From the moment you wake up, to the moment you close your eyes at night, include everything. How does each part of your day feel? How would you feel were you to be living that day?
While most of us, for most of our lives, have to work to keep life ticking over, the key here is to talk about exactly what that job would look like, and feel like. This would be your average day, a Monday in March or some other plain, non-exceptional day. What would you be doing?
5. What is one thing you really need to let go of in 2018? Write about it in full. Burn it, soak it, shred it. Breathe.
Go deeper: This prompt is perhaps a bit involved in comparison to the others but is so so worth it (please don’t start any house fires on my instruction!). If there’s a situation, person, conversation, passerby that you’ve been clinging to and silently obsessing over, there is no room for that shit this year.
It’s time to create some space. Write about whatever it is in full, gory detail. Get it all out. All the icky feelings, swear words, resentment, bitterness and gunk out of your system and onto the page. Breathe some. Write whatever else comes up with it.
Make a little ceremony out of letting go. You can use affirmations if you want, but if that’s feeling a bit woo-woo, there’s a lot of catharsis in simply shredding, burning, or otherwise destroying the page. Vow to let this be the end of the matter.
Repeat as necessary for however many situations you need to release.
6. Write out as many of your positive qualities as you can.
Go deeper: When I first started journaling, I found it really hard to write nicely about myself. List everything; your skills, your talents, your party tricks, all about your best physical attributes, your kindness, anything you can possibly come up with.
There’s no great agenda to this one, it’s just good to be kind to yourself sometimes.
7. What skills or hobbies do you want to learn this year?
Go deeper: Looking forward with the intention to learn is a great way to start a new year off right. Sometimes your goals or resolutions require you to learn something new: if you want to be a successful blogger, for example, there is a whole wealth of knowledge you need to keep your blog ticking over (or so my mum keeps aggressively texting me as she repeatedly fixes the back end of my site).
Otherwise, they can be totally unrelated. Maybe you’ve long wanted to be good at chess, skydiving, photography. Learning new things is a great way to meet new people and put yourself out there, so don’t hold back.
8. Write about a situation recently that has bothered you and flip it on its head.
Go deeper: this is a brilliant tool to keep in your journaling box. I now do this even for the smaller stuff. If there was something recent that bothered you, journal it out in detail.
Why did it bother you? Who was involved? What actually happened?
Then flip it. Did you play a part in this? What did you learn? Is there a silver lining? Is this something that you find happening a lot?
Learning to dissect things properly and turn them into a positive is a really genuinely fantastic tool for a) getting to know yourself and your patterns, and b) learning to stop it from bothering you for the next two months. If you find yourself latching onto small scenarios, silly conversations or little faux pas, this is a great one to repeat as necessary.
9. Set some achievable “Do Goals” for the immediate future.
Go deeper: “Do Goals” are small, very achievable steps in the right direction towards your greater goal. Ones that you pretty much can’t fail at.
For example, one of my goals this year in my yoga practice is to properly get into the splits. A “Do goal” that will get me there is to practice hip openers every day until I can land it. This is good because the only way I can fail at this is to simply not show up. If I carry out the action (which is realistic and doable), I am pretty much guaranteed to get my splits in future.
If your goal is to land your dream job, it may be that your do goal is to submit one super high-quality application per week or to seek a couple of days a month to get experience.
If your goal is to run a 10k, you might want to get into the habit of running shorter distances a couple of times a week to get the ball running.
If like me, you struggle with food, your goal could be to prep 3/4 healthy meals per week or get as many veggies into your breakfast as you can manage.
What happens the rest of the time is another do goal for another time. The only person that is going to make you fail with this is you.
10. Go on a gratitude rampage.
Go deeper: I do this most days when I feel stuck or like I’m in a bit of a mood. Gratitude is a great way to start changing up a troublesome mindset, a fantastic way to establish many reasons to be happy, and it’s an even better way to start paving the way to a more positive future.
The key to a gratitude rampage is to start writing “I am grateful for” until you literally can’t think of any other tiny thing. This one can take up pages. Breathe and feel it; the knack to a good gratitude practice isn’t just to write it down but feel what you’re writing!
I hope you’re off to a good start! You can find a printable version of this list for your journal here, to reference whenever you like. Let me know how you get along with it!