Creative Daily Journaling Prompts
This article will first introduce you to the benefits of journaling, then provide you tips and a list of examples to begin.
To skip to the prompts, click here.
Why Bother Journaling?
Professionally, journaling is “a specific form of narrative activity… a distinct immediate expression of subjective personal experience unbound by any writing convention”.
That’s a lot of words. Let’s break it down into simpler terms.
Journaling is a mechanism that allows you to write down your thoughts, ideas, and feelings to help understand them more clearly – and is one of the best psychological wellness tools. Journaling provides a wide variety of personal benefits, from improving handwriting to easing stress to promoting self-development. According to recent studies, journaling is even proven to reduce depressive symptoms and feelings of anxiety.
In fact, journaling has a myriad of benefits, ranging from improving writing and communication skills to strengthening memory. The Journal of Experimental Psychology even notes in their research that “writing your thoughts down can reduce intrusive thoughts about negative events and improve working memory”.
So… What Exactly Should I Write About?
Below you will find some example journal prompts to begin writing with.
A commonly used but beneficial journal prompt is to simply write an affirmation a day.
An affirmation is a personal, positive statement that resonates with you. Affirmations can be statements that align with a goal you want to accomplish for the day, or simply just self-assuring. For example, a goal-oriented affirmation that a busy college student may repeat to themselves at the beginning of the day is “I am going to try my hardest to pay attention in class and take notes that interest me”. On the other hand, a self-assuring affirmation the student may repeat to themselves is “I am happy to attend class this morning.”
“If you write something down, it helps you commit it to memory. Use your journal to inspire your day, to put yourself up on a positive first step”, claims the creators at Oak Journal Method. By kicking off the day with journaling positive statements, the constructive mindset will last throughout the day. When repeated daily, this can improve overall mental health.
Performing simple daily acknowledgments of what you’re grateful for can improve general mindfulness and happiness.
There are no rules to a gratitude journal. Write however much or however little you feel thankful for. The things you list can be smaller-scale, such as the lunch you had, or larger-scale, such as an important family member or friend.
Make sure to be as specific as possible – that is the key to creating feelings of gratitude. For example, “I enjoyed the juicy berries and fluffiness of the pancakes I had for breakfast” rather than “I enjoyed my breakfast”.
Sentence a Day
A sentence a day is exactly what it sounds like – one phrase that encapsulates everything you’ve done for the day. It can be one long, sprawling run-on sentence, or just a simple phrase.
Doing so allows you to quickly process the events of the day, and allows for a sense of renewal when going into the next day.
How Do I Get Started?
When beginning to journal, you should have a specified time every day dedicated to your writing. Along with this specific time should be a hard set time allowance for journaling. For example, striving to journal for 10 minutes every day.
When you begin, you can note how long it takes you to journal a day’s events and adjust your time limits accordingly. From then on, continue using that time limit every day. Try to pick a time that is just right, not more than you need. Just like how a muscle needs to be exercised frequently to grow stronger, one needs to consistently keep journaling to improve the way they can recall and express information in their writing.
Plus, by limiting your journaling time, you will also learn to condense your thoughts in a concise manner rather than writing for multiple pages or perhaps condensing too much.
If you’re finding it difficult to take up the time limit you’ve set yourself, one strategy that college English classes often use is to ‘start and not stop’. Writers will be given an allocated time, then are expected to continue writing throughout that time, without picking up their pencil, until the time stops.
Creative Journaling Prompts
1. Work or Career
Regardless of if you have a full or part-time job, work is likely a significant part of your life. It consumes many of our waking hours. Having a job you enjoy can provide satisfaction and purpose in life – but on the other hand, having a job that is too demanding or doesn’t fit your skillset can be discouraging and very tiring.
Take a moment to evaluate what you may enjoy about your job or what places you feel need improvement. Some prompts to think about are:
- How do I use my skillset at work?
- Why/How does my work fulfill me?
- What part of the workday do I enjoy the most and why?
- Where do I hope to progress in my job, if at all?
- What have I learned from my work?
- Does my work overwhelm me? How can I mitigate this?
Friends and family are the ones we often turn to for advice, concerns, or simply to talk to someone. Studies show that having strong relationships can protect against depression and boosts mental resilience. Consider writing about these prompts:
- Who do you trust most and why?
- Who do you look up to and why?
- What three traits do you value in a loved one?
- List five things you’d like to tell a close friend, partner, or family member.
3. An Old Memory
Nostalgia is a strong feeling that can bring back many past memories, feelings, and thoughts. Think of something that happened a long time ago and why it’s significant to you. Consider these prompts:
- Why is this memory significant to me?
- What things trigger this memory?
- Recount all the events leading up to the memory and those afterward.
- How long ago was this memory? What else happened at that time?
4. Outside the Window
This prompt is exactly what it sounds like. Wherever you’re sitting, simply look through the nearest window and note exactly what you see. If you are in public rather than indoors, simply write what you see happening right in front of or around you.
Taking a moment to note your surroundings will help you live in the moment and exercise patience when writing. Here are some prompts for this topic:
- Describe three specific objects you see around you. Not just their physical appearance, but what you think they’re used for, too.
- What is the weather like outside? Do you like it?
- Is there an object that you have a memory with? What is that memory?
- What sounds do you hear outside your window? Describe them.
5. Future Predictions
As mentioned earlier, journaling is a memory-strengthening tool that increases the likelihood of someone achieving their goals. Think about your current commitments, relationships, and interests. If they are important ones, then they must be something you’d want to improve over time or get better at. When writing about future predictions, consider these prompts:
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years in terms of your work, relationships, hobbies, etc.? In 10 years? 20 years?
- What do you most look forward to in the future?
- What factors in your life may facilitate or hinder your personal growth in the future?
- List one short-term goal and one long-term goal you want to achieve.
- Write a day in the life of yourself, but 5, 10, or 20 years into the future.
Quick, find the nearest dictionary and flip it open to a random page! Close your eyes and point somewhere on the page… got a word? Great. Write about what that word specifically means to you. While writing, think about these other prompts:
- Is there a story that comes to mind when you think about this word? Write about it.
- What shaped your definition of this word? How different is it from the actual definition?
7. Bucket List
Everyone has at least one thing they want to accomplish. Make your bucket list as crazy and wild or realistic as you want it to be. Maybe your bucket list for today is just a to-do list of errands. Either way, journaling it will help you internalize these goals and potentially increase the likelihood of you completing them in the future.
- To add on to this prompt, you could create a short list of steps for each item on your bucket list. For example, if an item on your bucket list was ‘get a new job’, your to-do list might contain ‘1. create a profile on online job listing sites, 2. search for at least 5 that I’m interested in, 3. submit an application by next Tuesday’.
- Creating these to-do lists helps your goal seem more digestible and attainable.
8. Pitch Yourself
Ever seen Shark Tank? Businesses have to pitch themselves or sell themselves in a limited amount of time to a team of investors. In this prompt, you will be selling yourself to… yourself! Write down everything you like about yourself; your strengths, best moments, and talents. This is an exercise to practice self-appreciation. Don’t be shy! If you get stuck, here are some prompts to get you started:
- Describe something kind you did for someone.
- What are you proud of yourself for?
- Why are you unique?
- How much have you grown and learned over the past month? 6 months? 1 year?
9. Perfect Day
Describe the most perfect, enjoyable, or relaxing day you could possibly have. Where will you go? What will you do? Who will you go with, if anyone? Try to write at least a page, making it as detailed as possible. Hopefully, sometime in the future, you can make this day come true!
10. Brain Dump
This final prompt exercises a ‘stream of consciousness’ writing style. Essentially, write exactly what’s happening in your mind. Don’t worry about grammar or sentence structure – simply just dump all your thoughts onto paper. This is similar to the ‘start and not stop’ tip mentioned earlier. Here are some questions to help facilitate this exercise:
- How do you feel right now? Why do you feel the way you’re feeling?
- What are you looking forward to today? Or what was the highlight and lowlight of your day?
- What have you been enjoying lately? Certain food, shows, books, etc.?
Want more prompts? You can find some below:
And there you have it! Hopefully, these tips and information helped you begin journaling or at least allow you to start thinking about journaling.
Journaling is so much more than just writing in a notebook. It’s a way to record your daily life, explore your creativity, and discover the writer within you. Undoubtedly it is one of the greatest and easiest tools to get to know yourself and your life better.
Whenever you feel stuck, or in a writer’s block, or can’t find the specific words to articulate your feelings, do not hesitate to use one of the journaling prompts above or consider some of the strategies listed.