Do you remember writing about your secret crushes in your diary as a teenager? Maybe not everyone did that, but you’ve probably seen it at least in a movie or on TV. Journals are similar to diaries but can incorporate many different types of writing. Sharing your thoughts doesn’t always mean documenting your secrets behind a little lock you can only open with a key!
Journaling is becoming a popular topic for many people as they consider the available options to improve their mindfulness and overall wellness. We are going to cover everything you need to know to get started, and if you’re already journaling, you can also take advantage of our list of journal prompts for adults below that will help you get your creative juices flowing.
Start a new habit today with a blank page and one of our journal writing prompts. You’ll start to notice the benefits right away!
What is Journaling?
Journaling is a form of writing that doesn’t have strict rules. There isn’t a specific format you must follow and it doesn’t get turned into anyone to read or grade. Journaling is a safe space for you to share thoughts, feelings, memories, ideas, stories, and anything else that you want to put a pen to paper to document.
It comes with many important benefits you can take advantage of and it’s one of the easiest (and most affordable) forms of self-care available. You need very little to get started so keep reading and start your journaling habit today.
Four Main Benefits of Journaling
There are many benefits to keeping a journal. It’s beneficial for your mental health for a variety of reasons including the few listed here.
1. Journaling provides a healthy outlet.
For anyone that is working through trauma or going through a tough time in life, keeping a journal can provide a great place to get out some of the emotions and thoughts. Many therapists will recommend this to patients because it’s a safe place where you can write down your thoughts and feelings without putting much thought into it. Even the Mayo Clinic has proven that it can help manage anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression.
Whenever you have to explain something to someone else, you end up understanding it at a deeper level. The same thing happens when you write down things in your journal, you’re able to gain a better grasp on how you’re feeling and what’s going through your own mind.
2. You can reflect on previous life moments.
No matter how you’re using your journal, it’s capturing moments of your life. Some people use it more than a diary and log the things that happen each day along with any thoughts they have. It’s helpful to be able to go back when you want to remember past events and you can see how you’ve grown and changed.
In order to get the most from your journal, it’s important to revisit it in the days, weeks, or months after you’ve written and do some self-reflection. You’ll be able to see personal growth happening as you see how you have changed your thoughts and opinions on things and experiences or learned to process emotional situations differently.
3. Keeping a journal improves mindfulness.
Journaling can have a lot of the same positive impacts as regular meditation. Being mindful of the details and focusing on one task helps calm your mind down. It’s hard for your mind to wander much while you are focusing on writing things down. And even if it does wander, you can capture it and embrace it. By documenting your feelings in the moment, you can have a huge positive impact on your self-awareness.
4. Creativity is boosted by journaling.
The last big benefit you’ll enjoy when making journaling a habit is that you will work your brain in a new way and boost your creativity. It’s a spot where you can explore alternative methods of expression. You can add doodles or photos to your journal. Use it to write poetry and explore new types of writing.
How to Start Journaling
If you’ve never had a journaling habit, it’s a simple thing to add to your morning routine (or any time of the day that works best for you.) There are just a few things to consider and do before diving in.
1. Pick up a notebook or journal.
A journal can be any paper that you want to write on. If you search journals on Amazon, you’ll see that there are hundreds of options to choose from. We recommend visiting your local bookstore or stationery shop if you want something with a hard cover. This way you can open them and see how the pages are structured—lined, dotted, or blank. But don’t let that fool you, any type of notebook will work just great. Many people prefer bullet journals that are blank and allow you some structure on the page and they hold up well.
It’s also a good idea to stock up on some pens that you love. You can get them in multiple colors or just one style. Just make sure that you keep them near your notebook or journal at all times so you are never spending time searching for a pen while you have moments set aside to write.
2. Gather a list of journal ideas to keep the words flowing.
However you plan to use your journal, some days, it’s going to be a little difficult to think about what to write. Consider keeping a printable list of prompts folded inside the cover of your journal or keep a journal jar where you pick out a new slip of paper with a topic on it.
Read on for some great journal prompts to help you get started. Once you get through this list, you can find all kinds of great free resources on the internet as well.
3. Make it part of your routine.
If you think mornings are the best time to journal to empty your brain before you begin your day, set your alarm ten minutes earlier than usual and fit it into your morning routine. You can also incorporate journaling into a midday break each day or sit down at the end of your day and share some thoughts in your journal. Whenever you decide, try and stick with it for a few weeks. You can always adjust, but you are trying to form a habit and that takes some repetition.
4. Start writing, and stick with it!
Some days, you might just write a sentence that describes your feelings for the day. You might even just glue a picture into your notebook. To really start a habit, it’s important to at least contribute something each day until the habit sticks. Because there are no rules or requirements for your journal, you can just go with whatever is on your mind and you don’t need to worry about following a specific format.
Types of Journal Prompts for Adults
Journal prompts are simple sentences or questions to help you jump in and have a starting point for your journal. You do not need to use them, but prompts can be helpful if you are struggling to find a good place to start or you aren’t sure what to say.
Fun and Simple Journal Prompts to Get Started
This first group of prompts is easy and fun. They aren’t too deep and cover more surface-level things, but might be fun to answer each year and see how things have changed and progressed. Many of these are great, especially if you’re starting to build a habit of journaling with your family members. People at any age will usually have answers to these questions:
- What places are on your bucket list to travel to? Of these places, which is the most realistic for your next vacation?
- What is your favorite thing about the house you are currently living in? What did you love about your previous homes?
- List your favorite books. Do you remember how you found those books? What did you learn from them? Would you recommend them to your friends or family members?
- What are your favorite movies? Do you still love the movies you loved ten years ago?
- Which season is your favorite and why?
- Do you have any special holiday traditions? Are there any that you would like to start or stop doing?
- What are your favorite animals? Have you gotten the chance to see them in the wild or in a zoo?
- Describe a perfect day of food for you. What are you having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Are you eating dessert? Who is cooking for you?
- Put together a soundtrack for your year. Explain why you picked different songs and what moments they make you think of. (Go ahead and actually make the playlists too.)
Self-Discovery Journal Prompts for Adults
Once you’ve built up a habit a bit and you want to explore a little deeper, you can try some of the journaling ideas that are more focused on self-discovery. This just means doing more of a deep dive into your feelings and helping work out some of the “whys” in your choices and your reactions. These can help you start to really learn more about your mind and the way that it makes decisions and you can work to change things you don’t love.
- What are the personality traits in your best friend that you wish you had?
- If you could go back and change one thing about your life, what would you choose and why? Do you think it would have a ripple effect on other moments and memories?
- How do you define love?
- What is your earliest memory? Do you think you actually remember that moment or do you think pictures and stories from others have shaped that moment?
- Compare the first time and the last time (or most recent time) that you did something big, like took a big vacation, went on a first date with someone, or interviewed for a job. How have you grown? What have you learned?
- Describe your perfect day. Where would you be? Who would you be with? Is it possible to make this perfect day a reality?
- What does your relationship with social media look like? Could you give it up for a week? How much time would that give you back in your day and what would you do with it?
- What is your greatest hope for the future?
- Document what you know about your birth story. If you have kids, write down theirs as well.
- Write a letter to someone in your family that has passed and tell them all the things you wish you would have shared before they died.
- Think about the best decision you’ve ever made. Were you scared when faced with the choice? How long did it take to realize that your decision paid off?
Creative Writing Prompts for a Journal
If you want to push yourself creatively in your journal, you can include some creative writing prompts to help you get started. Doodles and drawings are encouraged if they are what your brain is producing that day. You can also try one of the ideas below to see if that sparks anything special.
These are popular with younger kids and improv groups. The idea is that you pick a random sentence and then see where your imagination takes you from there. There are great lists of creative and fun story starters for people of any age available online, but you can also open a book on your bookshelf, copy down the first line of the book and then start crafting your own narrative.
This is a fun exercise to see where your story develops versus one that is already done. Are you someone who thinks of wild and crazy science fiction or fantasy storylines or do you lean more towards experiences that you’ve personally had?
Creative Writing Prompts
In addition to writing a full story, you can try one of these prompts to let your imagination run wild a bit.
- Write a backstory for the next person you see go by your window. Where are they from? What do they like to do for fun? What struggles are they facing in life?
- If you were building your dream house, what rooms would you have? What would they look like? Describe it in detail and include any drawings or floor plans.
- Imagine that you’re stuck inside one of your favorite movies. How would your character impact the plot? Which characters would you connect with most?
- Write a full journal entry from the perspective of your pet. How did they feel about the day? What were their observations and thoughts on the events of the day?
- Imagine that today is your big break and you instantly become famous. What made you famous and how does your life change with money and fame?
- Think of a book you read recently and write a continuation of the story. What happens after the last page? Where are the characters now?
- Come up with a new Disney villain complete with their backstory. Are you basing it on someone you know in real life?
- Write the life journey of an object in your house. Think about what it is made out of and where those materials came from. What parts of the world has that object seen? What type of people do you think worked on it?
- Create a daily routine based on if you lived somewhere completely different than your current home. For example, if you love all the same things you currently do with a similar job or responsibilities, but you lived in a submarine or on a tropical island by yourself or in a treehouse in the woods.
Journal Prompts for Self-Care
Wellness and self-care are huge benefits of journaling, so how can you set up your journaling practice to ensure that you stay focused on those areas? Here are a few ideas and journal prompts that target mindfulness and wellness.
The idea of morning pages comes from an artist named Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. The idea is simple. You start every single day by writing three pages using a pen and paper. This should just be a stream of consciousness that hits the page and you don’t even need to put a lot of thought into it. Write down whatever pops into your head.
Some days will be easier than others to fill three pages, but it’s important to just stick with it to see the difference. It’s one healthy brain dump of things that are floating around in your head. You might write down errands you need to run or things you want to remember and follow it up with your recollection of your dreams from the previous day.
Daily Gratitude and Affirmations
Use your daily journal entry to document your affirmations for each day that you are repeating to yourself throughout the day. Affirmations are simple statements that you write down and say out loud during your daily routine as a way to manifest that to be reality. For example, you can repeat “I am successful or I am getting stronger every day.” There are hundreds to choose from and you can write it down in the morning and then reflect on how it served you throughout the day. Some people also choose to stick with the same affirmation for a whole week or month.
Gratitude is another popular way to utilize a journal. Keep a list of things that you are thankful for each day. This can be so beneficial to your well-being because it encourages you to take the time to focus on the positive things throughout your day. Your daily gratitude can be as simple as a flower blooming in your garden or you might have big things, like your child having a big moment at school.
Memories and Everyday Life
The final category of different prompts and ideas is just simply recording your daily life and daily routine. Similar to the diaries of teenage years mentioned above, many people use a journal to record things that happen each day as a memory log. This can lead to more in-depth journaling when big moments happen, plus it helps you get in the habit and gives you a reference guide if you ever want to remember what you were doing on any given day.
- Record all five senses for your day. What did you taste, smell, hear, feel, and see that might have been unique or new for that day?
- Write down the best part of your day or week. What small moment of happiness would you like to capture and remember?
- Document a challenge you faced. Even the smallest things can feel like big wins when you recall them after the fact. Did you deal with a stressful work event or a child’s meltdown? Document those moments too to celebrate your strength in getting through them.
- Utilize a pre-populated journal that has questions for each day. There are some popular ones for new moms where you document something special your child did that day or something they said. You can keep your daily entries short if you want and just stick to a common theme that makes you happy.
- Make a top 10 list for your week. Sometimes day to day happenings blend together, but you can do a weekly reflection to document the top ten things that happened that you want to remember.
- Combine your journal and planner into one. We mentioned bullet journals above, but you can utilize something like that to keep track of your daily responsibilities and activities. Plus, you can add a habit tracker if you are working on things like drinking more water or journaling every day. Then, you’ll have blank pages to add your thoughts whenever they pop into your brain throughout the day.
Use These Journal Prompts for Adults to Get Started Today
It’s never too late to start a new habit, especially one that is going to improve your clarity and allow you to reflect on yourself and the life you are living. If you are interested in getting your children involved, you can check out our journal prompts for kids for some additional ideas. Keep an eye on our Connect Blog for more journaling ideas!
Frequently Asked Questions
Journals and travel diaries are fun, especially when the whole family can participate. Use an option like Adventures from Scratch book to get activity ideas. It even includes space to write about the experiences!