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Prompts to help you start journaling

By Harleen Mundi, May 16 2023—

When I was in junior high, I romanticized the idea of keeping a diary. A blue hardcover book that would hold the hottest playground drama, places I wanted to travel to, impromptu poems and updated lists regarding all my favourite things. Yet, however hard I tried, I struggled with consistency. I would revisit the said journal every five to six months, feeling like a vastly different girl than the one writing months ago. My stories would have plot holes that I was too lazy to fill in and all in all — between homework on fractions and Disney channel shows — I didn’t have time to waste. 

Eventually, enough ripped-out pages and crossed-out thoughts led me to give up and throw the failed project into a memory box pile. Then, cut to the summer of 2020 and I had enough free time to try again. I picked out a dainty journal, a couple of trusty pens, and a chair on the porch to sit and focus on. I started new entries by placing more attention on manifestations, affirmations, and gratitude lists to ease my anxieties. Eventually, journalling stuck with me. My journals every year since then have naturally had distinct themes, this year’s increasingly being about my day-to-day happenings and using a self-therapy kind of approach to life. Ultimately, this omnipotent way of dissecting your own thoughts and feelings is helpful in identifying the root cause of most of our emotions or behaviors, tracking our journey and the particular stage of life that we are in and healing from things that we might not be able to talk about otherwise. 

If journaling is of interest to you, the following are a couple of prompts that I have created and found that might help you get started! 

  • Canceling Out the White Noise

We are each our worst critics. Identify thoughts from your inner critic and provide a rebuttal to them. For example, why do you think you are not cut out for a certain task or opportunity that has been awarded to you? Present evidence and invalidate the initial thought. 

  • My Body & Nature’s Equivalent

This prompt was inspired by a video by Nelly London (@_nelly_london) on Instagram who asked “what if our bodies are an integral part of nature?” She proceeds to compare stretch marks to the ocean’s waves and textured skin to the crates of the moon. Whether you have a good relationship with your body or not — hopefully the former — this exercise of finding similarities between your body and nature can boost confidence and self-compassion —  especially when you are struggling with a two-month-long eczema flare-up, speaking from experience. 

  • Note to Self

The golden R’s of journaling include both reminders and reassurances. By reminders, I don’t mean drafting —although you could — to-do lists or outlining academic deadlines but more so, writing about things that you need to reinforce in your mind. The trick is to try to pair one reminder with a subsequent reassurance. 

Reminder: I have no way of knowing what people actually think about me. Reassurance: Even if their beliefs about me are negative, I don’t need to prove myself to anyone.

  • I am not

We are used to telling ourselves or hearing others tell us who we are. But who are we not? This exercise, often best achieved in the form of a list, distances those ideas and fears from ourselves and thus, I like to think of it as wiping away all that which clouds our identity. As a result, even in our own minds, we begin to take control over the narrative surrounding ourselves. 

Example: I am not incapable. I am not any less than those around me.

  • Little Victories

As the name of this prompt suggests, identify the little to big victories that you have had over the course of a week or month. In doing so, you begin to fight the voice in your head that convinces you that you are not doing enough or are stagnant in life. Every accomplishment counts. Every accomplishment signifies growth. 

  • Energy Givers vs. Energy Drainers

Long ago, I saw an image on Pinterest that distinguished between things that can boost our energy versus things that will likely drain the same force. For instance, an energy giver is fresh air and being in nature but an energy drainer can be extensive amounts of screen time. I find that I feel most defeated mentally when I’m physically fatigued. So at the end of the day, when I separate my personal energy givers from my energy drainers, I feel better equipped on how to approach my days moving forward. 

Honourable Mentions:

  • Weekly Highs and Lows
  • Gratitude Lists
  • I will vs. I will not. (I will drink more water. I will not stay in bed for two hours after I wake up to daydream and scroll through TikTok.)

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